The 14th annual Hockey Day Minnesota was another fine display of the sport from all levels in the State of Hockey. In the first game Saturday morning, Warroad defeated Minneapolis 5-1. The second game was a great back-and-forth matchup between Blake and Blaine, with Blake holding on to a 3-2 victory. The final outdoor game of the day over at Parade Stadium featured the Gopher women taking on Ohio State in a game of WCHA rivals. After the Buckeyes won 4-1 Friday night, the Gophers won on Hockey Day 2-1 to earn a series split. Appropriately, the game-winning goal came from Edina native Emily Oden.
The conclusion to Hockey Day 2020 was a classic matchup of Minnesota’s current NHL team against its former team, the fourth time the two have met on Hockey Day. The game get off to a relatively slow start. The Minnesota Wild had a couple of decent scoring chances and both teams took simultaneous minor penalties, but nothing found the back of the net through the first half of the first period. But then, right at the 10-minute mark, there was a huge sequence of events that led to the Wild taking the lead. First, a blocked Matt Dumba shot led to a breakaway for Denis Gurianov of the Dallas Stars, and Alex Stalock came up with a fantastic save to keep the game scoreless:
Then just seconds later, an excellent Jared Spurgeon shot from above the face-off circle beat Anton Khudobin:
For much of the first period, the Wild did a solid job of not allowing the Stars to generate scoring chances. They were not able to get prolonged zone time, and the Stars’ offense never got going during the first period as a result. Later in the first period, Jason Zucker made a perfect play to intercept a Dallas pass and then he set up Carson Soucy to make it 2-0:
The Stars took an early penalty once the second period was underway, which gave the Wild a chance to add to their lead right off the bat. Minnesota spent the first minute of the power play barely maintaining possession of the puck, but luck did turn in their favor as Jason Zucker made it 3-0.
It appears that Zucker was actually trying to send it across ice, but the stick of a Dallas player put the puck right through Khudobin’s five-hole. Just 33 seconds later, Ryan Donato made it 4-0. Some fancy stick work by Donato was enough to beat Khudobin, and just like that, the Wild had two more goals before the Stars had their second shot of the period.
That would be it for Khudobin, and Ben Bishop came in to take over in net for the Stars. Much of the remainder of the period was relatively uneventful. The Stars calmed things down significantly, and they arguably outplayed the Wild for most of the period after going down 4-0. Despite picking up their play, the Stars were unable to get anything past Stalock. The Wild successfully killed off a Jordan Greenway tripping penalty, thanks in part to some good saves from Stalock, and that appeared to provide some spark in the offense. The Wild got their first good chance in several minutes, and Mats Zuccarello was able to put a rebound from a shot by Zucker in the net.
It was a perfect turn of events for the Wild. After the Stars had really settled things down, the Wild were able to end the second period with a 5-0 lead and all of the momentum in their favor.
The Wild spent most of the third period playing as one might expect a team ahead 5-0 to play — they played fairly conservatively and worked to defend Alex Stalock’s shutout. Most of the action in the third period came later on. With about seven minutes to go, the Wild had their second power play opportunity of the night, and a deflection by Zach Parise off a shot by Ryan Suter from the blue line made the Wild 2-for-2 on those power plays.
The Stars’ frustrations boiled over just two minutes after the Parise goal. Corey Perry skated through Alex Stalock’s crease after Stalock had frozen the puck, and eventually everyone on the ice was involved in the skirmish. Both Perry and Luke Kunin received game misconducts. Ryan Hartman scored on the resulting power play to make in 7-0 and 3-for-3 on the power play.
The score remained 7-0, and the Minnesota native Alex Stalock picked up a shutout on Hockey Day Minnesota 2020.
Answers To Our Burning Questions
Well... it appears that the good ol’ Internet ate our game preview today. So instead, how about a few observations?
1. Wild continue to dominate on Hockey Day
The Wild entered today with a 10-2-1 all-time record on Hockey Day Minnesota, and picked up their 11th win in the 14 Hockey Days. It was their third Hockey Day win against the Stars in four games.
In addition to the team continuing to play well on Hockey Day, Wild players with Minnesota ties were once again a big part of Minnesota’s victory. The first goal of the night came off of a sequence that was started by an excellent save from South St. Paul native Alex Stalock to deny a breakaway chance by the Stars. The second goal came from former Duluth Bulldog Carson Soucy, and the final goal came from Minneapolis-native Zach Parise. But obviously, the biggest performance by a Minnesotan was Stalock’s 27-save shutout.
2. Special teams were really, really good
The Wild’s first power play struggled to get going, as they could barely maintain possession of the puck for the first minute. By the end of the game, though, no one was dwelling on that. The Wild converted on all three power play opportunities, and successfully killed off the only Dallas man-advantage of the night. If the Wild are going to have this win streak continue past two games, they are going to need this style of play to continue. The Wild have struggled mightily on special teams recently, but turning that around could be a huge step towards winning more games.
3. The Wild spread the scoring around
After losing four games in a row, the Wild have now won two straight. If they want to continue to win games and climb their way back into a playoff spot, they are going to need contributions from everyone. They got that tonight against the Stars — seven goals from seven different goal scorers and 13 different players registered at least one point. The Wild are not going to put together multiple wins in a row relying on just a few players to provide the offense, so seeing that many players involved in the scoring tonight is a promising sign.
The Florida Panthers come to St. Paul Monday night for the next home game as the Wild will look to build some momentum off tonight’s win. Puck drop on Monday will be at 7 p.m. CT.