Save the date. The Minnesota Wild got an above average start from their goaltender. Actually, the Wild got a great performance from their backup netminder Alex Stalock. The usual number two was perfect for 56 minutes and 11 seconds. Although, it was too little too late for the struggling Buffalo Sabres, who entered the night only winning one game in the month of November.
That lone win for the Sabres would stay as lonely as Chuck Noland in Cast Away as the Wild took the lead in the first period and never lost it.
Zach Parise opened the scoring for the Wild on an odd-man rush. Just another thing that typically doesn’t go in the Wild’s favor, went in the Wild’s favor as Joel Eriksson Ek slid a backhanded pass to Parise who made no mistake in tucking it past a sliding Linus Ullmark. Parise started the play by forcing a turnover in the neutral zone and then capped it off with his seventh of the season.
GOAL. Zach Parise forces a turnover in the neutral zone, Joel Eriksson Ek picks up the loose puck and feeds Parise for the score. pic.twitter.com/pDXPd4yB55— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) November 20, 2019
That wasn’t the end to Parise finding the back of the net in Buffalo on Tuesday night. Rasmus Ristolainen was hauled off to the box by the men in stripes after tripping Wild forward Mats Zuccarello. On the ensuing powerplay — with just two seconds left in the period, I might add — the Wild doubled their lead on a simple shot from the point from Ryan Suter and a great tip by Parise parked right out front. Parked in his bread and butter spot out front, No. 11 scored his 8th of the season to push the lead to 2-0.
Kevin Fiala got a secondary assist on the late first period Parise goal. With the assist, Fiala now has seven points in his last eight games.
The scoring continued into the second for the Wild. A man who has averaged four goals a season over the past seven seasons finally put the biscuit in the basket for the first time this season after 21 games! Defenseman Jonas Brodin scored with a nifty forehand-to-backhand deke to beat Ullmark, increasing the Wild’s lead to three. With the goal, Brodin now has a three-game point streak. A quite unusual occurrence for the 26-year-old defenseman from Karlstad, Sweden.
GOAL. Jonas Brodin scores to give Minnesota the 3-0 lead. pic.twitter.com/T5JdWfvOCY— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) November 20, 2019
The story that will likely get swept under the rug was the play from goaltender Alex Stalock. He was phenomenal Tuesday night. There were points in the game the Sabres were getting chances and throwing everything they could at the net. Stalock came up big with save after big save. One moment in particular was key to his performance. During the last minute of the second period, Stalock got peppered with quality chances one after another, tip after tip. He brushed aside the Sabres chances in the final minute and, thanks to him, they headed into the third with a three-goal cushion.
Unfortunately, Stalock did not get his second shutout of season. With just under four minutes remaining, and an extra attacker on the ice, Jack Eichel threw a puck on net and Brandon Montour picked up the rebound and shot the puck into an open net to take the goose egg off the scoreboard for the Sabres.
That was the the final sniffle at an improbable comeback for Buffalo, as Jason Zucker put the final nail in the coffin, scoring an empty-net goal for his sixth of the season. The assists on the empty-netter came from Eric Staal and Mikko Koivu.
The loss came at a cost, though. Minnesota defenseman Matt Dumba did not play in the third period. There is no initial update on the severity of the injury following the game, although Micheal Russo of the Athletic hinted that it is not too serious.
No update on Dumba after the game, but he was in the locker room and is yucking it up with his agents right now, so perhaps all good signs #mnwild— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) November 20, 2019
Answers to our Burning Questions
1. Can the Wild contain Jack Eichel?
They did contain Jack Eichel! The team contained the superstar so well he even got frustrated at times. Going down 3-0 to the 31st team in the NHL, Eichel made it visible in the second that the Wild had gotten under his skin. In the middle frame, Eichel jumped Joel Eriksson Ek in “retaliation” to receiving a hit from Eriksson Ek along the glass.
Jack Eichel is clearly frustrated, as he should be...— ryan (@GuentzeI59) November 20, 2019
Buffalo has won just 1 of their last 11 games & are now losing 3-0 to the Minnesota Wild. pic.twitter.com/0ztXpBFB7r
Clearly still frustrated, he and Matt Dumba had a confrontation at the end of the second period. Both players left the ice barking at one another. The frustration continued into the third on the power play for No. 9 in navy. Eichel broke his stick after forcing a pass that led to a turnover on the power play.
Containing the Sabres’ captain was thought to be tough task for the Wild, but it turns out the 23-year-old doesn’t have the toughest skin under all those pads and his uber skill. Eichel was playing as good as anybody over the last week coming into Tuesday night’s contest. The former second overall pick had five goals in the two games prior, including a four-goal night against the Ottawa Senators. Besides a late assist with just under 4 minutes left, Eichel did not have much of a positive factor on Buffalo’s end.
2. Can Zach Parise continue his hot play of late?
Yes! If you thought he was hot coming into this game, well, Zach Parise is on fire now! The Wild forward continued his play of late right out of the gate, scoring the game’s first two goals during the first period Tuesday night. With the two goals against the Sabres it marks Parise’s 49th career multi-goal game. In the past three games, Parise has four goals, one assist, 11 shots and is a plus-3. He now leads the Wild with eight goals and is on pace for 31. The Wild forward hasn’t hit the 30-goal plateau since the 2014-2015 season when he potted 33.
First two-goal game of the season for Parise. pic.twitter.com/2iKldO5YSC— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) November 20, 2019
3. Will the Wild play with the lead?
Cannot believe the answer to this question; yes! The Wild can play with the lead. It felt a bit weird for the “comeback
kids 30-year-olds” to get out to a two-goal lead after the first period and then maintain it throughout the game. Tuesday night in Buffalo marked the first time since November 2 against the St. Louis Blues that the Wild had a lead after the second period. Hopefully this is a trend that continues for Minnesota in the games to come.
The Wild will be back in action on Thursday as the team heads back home to host the Colorado Avalanche in St. Paul.