I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the Minnesota Wild did it. Again.
You don’t get to face the Los Angeles Kings, projected be a league bottom-feeder, every night. Due to the ‘series’-like structure of this season, the Wild got to face the Kings for the second time in three nights.
A rematch of the Wild’s thrilling 4-3 overtime win on Thursday night, the game started very differently this time around, with the Wild coming out with speed and aggressiveness in the offensive zone. That paid off very, very early with a goal by Matt Dumba, scored beneath the goal line, that may or may not have pinballed in (it definitely did).
well that was quick. Dumba scores by throwing the puck out front.— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) January 17, 2021
good guys 1 - bad guys 0 pic.twitter.com/2ucvuc9TuH
Two games into the season and we have an entry into what could be the Wild’s fastest goal of the year at just 21 seconds.
The strong, aggressive play continued until about halfway through the first period, when it really felt like the Wild just took their foot off the gas. Then the penalty parade commenced. I can’t say that it felt lop-sided for either team, just that there were a myriad of infractions handed out. Twelve penalties, evenly divided, with absolutely no offence for either team to show for it. I’m not saying that the powerplay units for both teams was putrid, but with only eight shots on the powerplay in total, the numbers speak for themselves. That or the penalty-kill units were operating at peak performance. In reality, it was a little bit of both.
the powerplay is really struggling with how aggressive the kings pk is playing pic.twitter.com/MrwOoFY8J9— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) January 17, 2021
Eventually, after the Kings set up in the Wild zone, they were able to capitalize on some bad rebound control and a mad scramble in front of the net. After a back and forth decision from the referees, they ultimately decided the goal was good. Tie game.
it was a wild scramble out front and it’s eventually deemed a goal by the officials.— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) January 17, 2021
Cam Talbot is many things. An NHL goalie. A reclamation project. Maybe even a bounce-back candidate. He is not however, superhuman. And no goalie really has a chance on a point shot with multiple deflections.
doughty with a blast from the point, looks like it hit a few things on the way in. talbot had no chance pic.twitter.com/9W7Nd0WaFH— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) January 17, 2021
The aggressive play of Minnesota really paid dividends for the Los Angeles. At the start of the game, the Wild were able to keep the Kings hemmed into their own zone. As the game progressed, that high pressure was leading to an increasing amount of odd-man rushes going the opposite way. And the Wild were paying for it.
kaprizov, who can do no wrong, does wrong. gives up the puck in the neutral zone and the kings score going the other way pic.twitter.com/WCmskgBanK— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) January 17, 2021
Talbot struggled with his rebound control for most of the game, but it was Jonathan Quick with the most egregious rebound of the game.
quick gives up a juuuuuuicy rebound, and eriksson-ek pounces on it!— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) January 17, 2021
3-2 kings pic.twitter.com/m6FymR2iM4
One step closer.
With over two minutes remaining, head coach Dean Evason made the smart decision by pulling Talbot and opting for the extra-attacker with the face-off in the Kings’ end. A tense, all-out attack followed.
39 seconds left.
Matt Roy nearly clinched the game for the Kings on a three-quarter ice heave, but miraculously, the puck clanked off the post.
the kings hit the post on an empty net, VERY close call pic.twitter.com/rAJMcCVYDN— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) January 17, 2021
The puck traveled back up the ice. The Wild continued their control of the game.
26 seconds left.
A weak backhand shot from Greenway, twenty feet out. The puck exited the zone.
10 seconds left.
The puck was dumped into the corner. Parise threw the puck out front of the net, and it bounced all the way out to the top of the zone.
1.6 seconds left.
Suter corraled the puck, throwing it on net, somehow finding the twine behind Quick.
SUTER TIES IT UP WITH ALMOST NO TIME ON THE CLOCK pic.twitter.com/KYdHIwlAf9— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) January 17, 2021
What a way to tie the game. This team is really showing it has no quit. That resiliency continued on into the OT period.
Overtime in the modern NHL is an environment of trading chances and it didn’t disappoint. Kaprizov, after a few glaring mistakes earlier in the game, was clearly out there to atone.
kaprizov almost does it again! he wants this bad pic.twitter.com/5jDyfI0LBQ— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) January 17, 2021
Ultimately, Kirill did with a beautiful feed to Marcus Johansson to end the game. 4-3. The Wild sweep this series against the Kings.
kaprizov feeds johansson, who finishes it! that’s game! pic.twitter.com/ZXXub5sRwA— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) January 17, 2021
In the recap of Thursday’s night game, Tom tried to not make it all about Kaprizov. But it’s hard not to. Much like the team, Kaprizov took his lumps in tonight’s game. In the most encouraging way, he was determined to overcome those mistakes and correct them.
1. Will Kaprizov play as well as he did on Thursday Night?
Short answer, no. But that isn’t to say it wasn’t a good game for our boy. Kaprizov was the victim of trying to do to much at times, leading to a couple bad turnovers and even an Kings goal. What was encouraging about his play tonight was that he seemed hell-bent on making up for those mistakes - which he did by setting up Johansson for the OT-winnner for his only point of the night.
It’s his first NHL season, there will be some growing pains. It’s important Kaprizov knows this and is willing to show that he will work through them.
2. Who is playing center?
Someone, anyone. The question of who will be the Wild’s first-line center certainly wasn’t answered tonight. Victor Rask saw the bulk of the time there and was fine. But the first line struggled as a whole, forcing Evason to try some different looks throughout the game. We briefly got a look at a Kaprizov/Bonino/Fiala unit. But the problems with the first line seemed to be magnified by the performance of the second and third lines. At times the Foligno/Eriksson-Ek/Greenway unit was the Wild’s best, at others it was Fiala/Bonino/Johansson who played the strongest. I can see why there is the hesitation to break up these units, but this team isn’t going to succeed this season if that first line can’t at least get rolling some of the time. Not every team is going to be the Kings.
3. Will Fiala cash in?
Fiala finished the game tied for the team lead in shots with six. He was hard on the puck and his line was dominant. But still nothing on the score sheet. As was noted in the game preview, he may just need a kick start by playing with some different linemates. An extended look with Kaprizov/Bonino may be the way. It might just take the dormant powerplay to figure it out, but I have no doubt that he will get there.
The Wild will travel just a few miles from the Staples Center to face the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night; puck drop is at 8:00 p.m. CT.