A very different looking Minnesota Wild took the ice thursday night to take on the expansion Seattle Kraken for the first time in their short history. And while the Wild got off to a strong start and an early lead, Minnesota looked lost while Seattle absolutely dominated for a thirty minute span in the first and second periods, as the Kraken pulled away late in a 4-1 victory over the visiting Wild. Hayden Fleury scored the two goals that Seattle would need, as Minnesota wasted a strong effort by Cam Talbot, who stopped 34 of 36 shots. Ryan Hartman scored the lone goal for the Wild, and while Kirill Kaprizov did earn an assist, he failed to score in his seventh straight game.
The Wild lineup had quite the shuffle in the 24 hours prior to puck drop, as Minnesota lost leading scorer Mats Zuccarello and new acquisiton Rem Pitlick to the COVID protocol and learned after pre-game practice that Dmitry Kulikov and Alex Goligoski would miss the contest with lower and upper body injuries, respectively.
On Seattle’s side, Carson Soucy was once again listed as a healthy scratch, so Wild fans would have to settle for Ryan Donato in terms of former Minnesota players to keep an eye on for the Kraken.
Minnesota’s forecheck limited the Kraken early, as the Wild owned the majority of the chances in the opening half of the first period, and it was the forecheck that paid the first dividends. Kirill Kaprizov made a nice forecheck and backhand pass, finding Hartman on a one-timer, giving the Wild the first goal of the game for the second game in a row.
GOAL! HARTMAN! A great backhand pass from Kaprizov along the boards finds the man in front. 1-0 MIN. pic.twitter.com/U33A9YaqDt— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) October 29, 2021
Just seconds later, Marcus Foligno appeared to push the lead to two, but the stripes immediately waved off the goal saying Moose kicked the puck into the net. They reviewed the play, and the call was upheld.
No goal on this one, kicking motion apparently. still 1-0 MIN. pic.twitter.com/UpGMLyViqI— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) October 29, 2021
Donato had a good chance to even the score, skating the puck out of the corner and drove the net to the left of Talbot, but the Wild netminder was up to the task. Nathan Bastian crashed the net and got some help into Talbot from Wild defenseman Jon Lizotte, but the refs only saw the contact and assessed Bastian for goaltender interference.
Eberle off for goaltender interference. Wild PP. how DARE you jordan. pic.twitter.com/hbpMfwXtYl— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) October 29, 2021
The Wild couldn’t manage a shot on the power play. Matt Dumba had the best chance with the extra man, but was hooked on his way to the net and couldn’t get the shot off, though this time the officials looked the other way.
The Kraken began to tilt the ice in their direction in the middle of the first, and evened things up when Fleury took advantage of a deflection off the active boards of Climate Pledge Arena, one-timing a shot past Talbot to tie the game at one.
ah, tie game after Fleury gets off a shot from the point. just too much movement for the Wild coverage to handle. 1-1. pic.twitter.com/Xrlc72i6Mq— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) October 29, 2021
The dominant effort from the Wild in the first ten minutes completely evaporated in the second half of the first, as the Kraken turned a 8-2 shot deficit into a 13-10 shot lead. Not only that, the Wild’s already thin defensive core saw Jordie Benn head down the tunnel leave the bench with an undisclosed ailment (though he would later return). And to insult to injury, Foligno tried to lift the stick of Joonas Donskoi and instead clipped his face, drawing blood and a four-minute stint in the penalty box with just five seconds left in the period, putting the Wild behind the eight ball as the middle frame began.
The Wild’s 27th ranked penalty kill would have a chance to prove itself, and though there were some nail-biting moments (including a bad clear by Jordan Greenway), the Wild were able to hold off the onslaught. In fact, one of the best chances by either team came when Hartman picked Vince Dunn’s pocket and found Kevin Fiala on a short-handed chance, but Grubauer poke-checked the puck away harmlessly.
But even after the successful kill, Seattle remained on the attack, and despite some big saves by Talbot, Seattle earned the lead by taking advantage of some bad play by the Wild defenders. Fleury drove the net and got Jon Merrill to drop, took a short-angle shot, gathered the rebound and wrapped the puck around the net into a yawning goal. And like that, Seattle had their first lead over the Wild in team history.
Fleury with his second of the night after a very bad defensive read. 2-1 SEA. Brutal. pic.twitter.com/XZry5ScpzD— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) October 29, 2021
As the scoring chances kept piling up for Seattle (14-4 in the second period), Talbot stayed strong despite the piecemeal defensive roster and uncharacteristic mistakes by Wild stars Fiala and Kaprizov - who found themselves seperated from their first-line pairings.
Kaprizov nearly redeemed himself after the Wild killed off their second penalty of the game, pokechecking a netural zone puck away from Yanni Gourde and heading in on the breakway, though Grubauer was up to the task, and maintained Seattle’s one goal lead heading into the third.
Kaprizov with the takeaway and breakaway, but comes up short. pic.twitter.com/Fpus82wqIF— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) October 29, 2021
Starting the third, the Wild got back on the horse and back on the forecheck, earning some decent zone time and a couple good chances. The pressure ended when Lizotte, who had been having a less than auspicious Wild debut as it was, blasted Morgan Geekie face-first into the boards, though the Wild would kill off the two-minute boarding call. Meanwhile, Talbot continued to stand tall, making a big save on Brandon Tanev who came in on the breakaway after Lizotte lost his stick.
The Wild would get another chance on the power play, and Joel Eriksson Ek had two unbelieveable chances that just wouldn’t go. First, Ekkers corralled a rebound from a Fiala shot, but ushered a soft shot that floated just along the goal line before hitting the post and bouncing away. Seconds later, Eriksson Ek took chested another rebound to his stick, but Grubauer had a better angle and Eriksson Ek’s shot rang off the short post.
joel just cannot buy a goal pic.twitter.com/5zksdvkFhv— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) October 29, 2021
The Wild did manage to turn the failed power play into the best flurry of action they’d had since the first period, but Grubauer and the Kraken defense locked the door.
In the waning minutes and Talbot off for the extra attacker, Tanev had a first chance to ice the game, but Dumba kept the Wild hopes alive with a diving block. But a second trip into the zone gave Tanev another look at the empty net, and this time he converted to put the game out of reach. Mark Giordano added another long-distance empty netter to give Seattle the 4-1 win.
Illness and injury didn’t help, but an uneven effort and a forgettable second period killed the Wild’s chances of pulling out the win in the two teams first ever matchup. Minnesota will have a chance to salvage a winning record on the three-game roadie in Colorado on Saturday night. Hopefully Kaprizov will shake his now seven-game goal-scoring drought, though he did manage six shots and earned an assist on the Wild’s lone goal.
How critical will the missing pieces prove to be?
Much of the focus over the last couple days focused on the COVID-infected players Zuccarello and Pitlick, but the last-minute injuries to defensemen Goligoski and Kulikov played a much bigger role in the Wild’s inability to slow down the offensive attack of Seattle for much of the game. Jordie Benn was a times rusty and missed some minutes due to injury, but the forgetable first-time outing for Jon Lizzote definitely contributed to the Wild’s poor effort in the middle period, as the Grand Forks native finished with a team-worst 22.73 CF% at five-on-five.
Dewar and Rask, who filled in for Lizard and Pitlick, weren’t too noticable and were amongst the team leaders in Corsi for percentage, so the fact that their play didn’t stand out was about the best you could expect.
Can the penalty kill go a game without giving up a goal?
Surprisingly, with how poor the Wild kill has been to start the season, Minnesota went a perfect 4-for-4, including Foligno’s double minor for high-sticking. But though the Wild didn’t allow a power play goal to the Kraken, the penalties did seem to kill any amount of momentum the Wild were able to generate in the late first and all of the second period. And while shutting down the league’s 24th ranked power play is not much to hang your helmet on, still, it’s a good sign to see the Wild getting things together in that regard.
Will we see any new faces in the lineup?
The playing roster will say that, yes, three players made their Wild debut on the season. We talked about Lizotte’s dismal debut already. In the game preview, Brock mentioned he wanted to see something from Dewar after being a late training camp cut, but the best you can say is that he didn’t stand out as being as bad as Lizotte was. Dewar’s Corsi for percentage at even strength was sub-50 at 46.67%, but on a night where much of the Wild roster had a period and a half worth forgetting, his possession analytics were tied for fifth-best on the team. He also generated two shots in 7:31 of ice time, though he did spend two minutes in the box for tripping.
As for Jordie Benn, yeah he looked rusty in his first action with the Wild this year, but he did block three shots and had the second best CF% of the Wild defensemen behind Jared Spurgeon.