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4 Things: Takeaways from Wild’s tiresome loss to Panthers

It was a drag, but there’s still some things to look at.

Minnesota Wild v Florida Panthers Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images

The Minnesota Wild succumbed to a 5-4 loss at the hands of the Florida Panthers on Saturday night. Here are the 4 Things from that game:

1 — It’s never not dramatic with this team.

If I were to tell you that the Wild staged a third-period attempted comeback when they were once down by multiple goals, would you be surprised? Well, against the Panthers they did exactly that, but it felt only real for a small glimpse of time.

Just a couple minutes into the final frame, Kirill Kaprizov pulled off some magic and cuts the lead to just one single goal as the home team was up 3-2. And then of course everyone’s favorite player founded by geeks across the continent, Carter Verhaeghe, moves the difference up back to two goals, scoring a wonderous individual goal. After a shorthanded Panthers goal was called back for being offside, the Wild do their best impression of themselves and essentially forcefully push the puck behind the goal line to give themselves an opportunity to tie it with just 45 seconds left.

And again, all hopes died once Sam Bennett scored the empty-net goal that didn’t really need to happen (more on that later), and we were rejuvenated when Ryan Hartman (of course) deflects the puck into the back of the net to make it 5-4 with just 8.6 seconds left.

The likelihood of the Wild scoring a goal with those seconds is miniscule, but it is certainly not impossible—Kevin Fiala even had a final shot on goal after a little programmed faceoff play—but as this team always does, they appear to fall asleep for a solid half hour, to only bounce back and take advantage of a team that believes they have the two points well in their own pocket.

At least we can acknowledge that by tuning into any Wild game this season, you’re going to get your time’s worth until the very end. Maybe a period off here or there, but the team for sure knows how to takeover a game when they’re down by multiple goals. If only they weren’t down by multiple goals in the first place.

2 — Kevin Fiala is not getting any favors from Evason.

If there was a doghouse within the doghouse, that’s where Kevin Fiala would be for coach Dean Evason. After some games with just no conversion on his scoring chances, Fiala has been taken off the power play units and was benched for almost the entire third period against the Dallas Stars on Thursday. It’s not a good look when one of your top offensive options is being treated like this, but maybe it’s just a little bit of a wake up call for him.

But on the other hand, Fiala is shooting just 3.7 percent in all situations and leads the team in individual expected goals with 5.96 (which is the 38th-highest among all NHL skaters by the way); so it’s not like he’s getting the chances, they’re just not going in. We will eventually see the percentages go the other way and some multi-goal games or a hot streak is certainly coming—but right now Evason wants to make Fiala know that what he’s doing, just isn’t working for him. But the fact is that the Wild are simply the better team when he’s on the ice.

Of course his teammates and game situation matters, but at 5-on-5, Fiala has an on-ice shot attempt share of 57.38, and an expected goal share of 60.51. There are only six forwards in the whole NHL that have played more than 200 minutes at 5-on-5, that has a higher expected goals share than Fiala, and one of them is his once-linemate Frederick Gaudreau. He’s just too good to be getting this kind of crap from a coach (he doesn’t even lead the team in giveaways or anything, oops) so it’s frustrating when the writing is on the wall that he won’t be a member of this team for much longer.

Contractual situation aside, Fiala could just explode offensively out of nowhere and if he does that for another team after they trade him away for some two-way center that might be slightly better than Gaudreau or something, it would be upsetting.

3 — The empty-net goal that shouldn’t have been, ended up being the game-winning goal in a couple crazy final minutes.

As mentioned earlier, Bennett scored an empty-netter to make it 5-3 with under a minute remaining. On that play, it was after a whistle called the play dead but even after the faceoff, the Wild didn’t have strong possession of the puck. It was a weak hold and after Talbot was called to the bench, the Panthers almost immediately scored because of this attempt at getting the extra skater on for as much time as possible.

Looking back, it is way too farfetched to call this a mistake other than it just being unfortunate timing. Sure, in the hypothetical world, since the Wild scored later, they could have potentially forced overtime if that empty-netter wasn’t scored and we could be sitting here glorifying another comeback win by this team. So many actions and decisions were made in between those two goals, so there cannot be a straight line drawn in between them, but I just hope that this might cause some new consideration for the coaching staff and the timeliness of when they pull their goalie; making sure they have possession deep in the offensive zone before they do.

4 — Blue line given real test with no Spurgeon, and comes up a big blob of a mess.

Jared Spurgeon left after playing just over three minutes in the first period. The Wild lost their captain early in this one and the rest of the blue line simply had to step up their minutes—with the thought that they’re playing the Tampa Bay Lightning less than 24 hours after. Matt Dumba logged 26:37 TOI and the other very good defenseman in Jonas Brodin, was on the ice for 24:34. Those are some Ryan Suter/Duncan Keith minutes and they certainly aren’t used to it.

It was a rough one for them, as Dumba was on the ice for the team-worst shot attempt differential, as the Wild were only attempting 27.31 percent of the shots when he was on the ice. Just getting completely shelled in and trucked over and any other attempt at a metaphor that describes that performance.

Calen Addison is supposed to be on his way, but might not even reach Florida in time to play against the Lightning, so we might be seeing Jordie Benn suit up. There might even be a lower percentage of shot attempts tonight if Benn gets any significant time.

Even with this loss of defenseman and loss of game, the Wild are still technically on top of the Central division with a 11-6-0 record. We’re trying to stay positive here.