Thanks to their remarkable 11-game point streak, the Minnesota Wild have seemingly managed to turn their season around after one of the worst starts in franchise history. Their point streak was snapped against the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday, but all good things must come to an end, right? In the third game of a road trip, against a very good, fast team like Carolina, a loss isn’t exactly unacceptable.
Unfortunately, the Wild lost their second straight game Tuesday — this time against the Anaheim Ducks on the same night as Mikko Koivu’s 1,000th game ceremony. The good news, though is that they did earn a point out of what was mostly a very poor performance. Time to embark on another 11-game point streak?
While the Wild had their fair share of issues in their tilt against Anaheim, their performance in the first period was particularly shoddy. Not only did they allow a pair of goals to Anaheim within the game’s first 11 minutes, but they failed to generate any semblance of quality scoring chances. In fact, through the game’s first 25 minutes and 17 seconds, the Wild managed exactly one (1) shot on goal, which is, um, not an ideal recipe for success!
Around the halfway point of the middle stanza, though, the Wild finally began to find their offensive groove. On Minnesota’s fourth shot of the game (remember, this is almost eight minutes into the second period), forward Ryan Hartman scored his fourth goal of the season to cut the Anaheim lead in half — probably a goal Ducks netminder John Gibson will get a lot of chirps for, but the Wild certainly weren’t complaining.
John Gibson won't be happy about this one. pic.twitter.com/ws2rXmkiZE— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) December 11, 2019
From that point on, the Wild suddenly looked like a team that was ready to play at an NHL level. They even managed to put together a solid effort on the power play late in the period, but ultimately failed to convert (a common theme recently).
Minnesota opened the third period about as well as one could hope for. Just two minutes in, Ryan Donato, who was filling in on the first line for an injured Eric Staal, scored off a perfect behind-the-net feed from Zach Parise to tie the game at two goals apiece. Credit to Parise for going hard on the forecheck and gaining possession on the play.
That's first-line center Ryan Donato to you, nerd. pic.twitter.com/baVUjsoEa2— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) December 11, 2019
Despite the strong start to the third, though, neither the Wild or Ducks could score again in regulation — music to Minnesota’s ears!
There may not be a worse team at 3-on-3 than the Wild, but they came out guns blazing during the five-minute overtime period. Just 20 seconds into OT, defenseman Jonas Brodin hit Ryan Donato with a stretch pass in the neutral zone to spring him for a glorious scoring chance. Donato couldn’t beat Gibson on the play, but that was largely due to Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf hauling him down as he attempted to bury the game-winner, which gave Minnesota a full two-minute 4-on-3 power play in OT.
Unfortunately, for the fifth time on the night, the Wild failed to convert on the man advantage — simply unacceptable against the 23rd-ranked Anaheim penalty kill.
After a few good looks later on in OT, the Wild still couldn’t get anything past John Gibson. For the second time in five games, the Wild were headed to the shootout — much to the chagrin of rookie netminder Kaapo Kahkonen, who was making his third-career start.
The Wild failed to score in the shootout, and Kahkonen allowed consecutive goals to Rickard Rakell and Max Comtois, leading to the 3-2 Anaheim victory.
Answers to our Burning Questions
1. Can Dumba and Suter bounceback from poor performances?
Not really! In fact, Matt Dumba put together one of his worst performances all season. After being on the ice for four goals against in Saturday’s game in Raleigh, Dumba went minus-1 and took not one, not two, but three penalties against the Ducks Tuesday night. Ryan Suter was also minus-1 and finished the night with a downright awful 22.86 CF% at 5-on-5. Together, the pairing of Dumba and Suter finished the game with a 5-on-5 CF% of 24.24 and allowed eight scoring chances.
Not good, folks.
2. Was last game just an aberration for Kevin Fiala?
Kevin Fiala wasn’t dominant against the Ducks, but he didn’t exactly struggle, either. He picked up a secondary assist on Donato’s goal and even made a pretty nice defensive play in the second period to deny what could have been a high-danger scoring chance for Anaheim. He also took a Hampus Lindholm slapper down low, which left him grimacing in pain. He did stay in the game, though.
Here's another look. pic.twitter.com/qCUSAVF30k— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) December 11, 2019
Overall, not a bad performance from the Swiss winger.
3. Who will get the start in goal and will they play well enough to give Minnesota a good chance to win?
Kaapo Kahkonen did end up getting the start and, frankly, he did give the Wild a very good chance of beating Anaheim. While he was unable to stop either of the Ducks’ shooters in the shootout, he made a number of timely saves throughout regulation. Overall, he finished the night stopping 31 of 33 shots, and the two goals he allowed weren’t exactly avoidable — the first came off the stick of an unguarded Rickard Rakell and the other was largely the result of an effective screen from Adam Henrique on the power play. Kahkonen played quite well for the most part, and he was not at all a contributing factor to his team’s loss, especially considering that the Wild were being outshot 19-1 at one point.
As mentioned earlier, Eric Staal left the game in the first period after a hard collision with the linesman.
No word on Staal’s condition at the moment. The injuries are piling up for Minnesota, and it is not a good time.