After starting their road trip on a winning note in Edmonton Tuesday night, the Minnesota Wild continued their reign of dominance and extended their winning streak to eight games after defeating the San Jose Sharks, 5-2, last night at the SAP Center. The Sharks entered last night’s game in search of their third win in December, however a strong defensive effort by the Wild throughout the first two periods thwarted their attempt at an upset.
It was a defensive bout throughout the opening minutes of the first period, however the Wild would strike first after Jon Merrill and Brandon Duhaime set up a Kevin Fiala goal to break his seven-game scoring drought and it also gave the Wild a one-point lead with more than 13 minutes remaining in the period.
someone pinch us, it’s a kevin fiala goal! pic.twitter.com/lHNKcV43tf— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) December 10, 2021
After drawing a tripping penalty from Sharks defenseman Jacob Middleton, the Wild netted their second goal of the game after Joel Eriksson Ek chipped in a pass from Mats Zuccarello from close-range – marking his second consecutive game scoring on the man advantage.
JEEk on the power play only 15 seconds in! pic.twitter.com/JdshFlSUIs— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) December 10, 2021
The goal also extended Eriksson Ek’s team lead with six Power Play goals this season.
Later that period, the Wild forced San Jose into another Power Play opportunity and, once again, took advantage of it after Fiala found Jordan Greenway on a breakaway for his first of two goals on the night.
kevin fiala feeds greenway to give the wild the 3-0 lead! pic.twitter.com/NBDiX8friH— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) December 10, 2021
The Wild took a 3-0 lead into the final period, but San Jose showed signs of life after returning to the ice. After goalkeeper Adin Hill saved a pair of shots early in the period, center Jonathan Dahlen broke open the scoring column for the Sharks and trimmed the Wild’s lead to 3-1.
the ghost of erik karlsson scores (or maybe dahlen) to make the score 3-1 pic.twitter.com/6kPOoJmArW— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) December 10, 2021
According to NHL.com’s Chelena Goldman, Dahlen’s goal was his eighth, putting him just two away from the league lead in goals scored by rookies, which is currently held by Detroit’s Lucas Raymond (10).
The Wild found themselves with a one man disadvantage after defenseman Jonas Brodin was tagged for hooking left wing Alexander Barabanov, and the Sharks wasted no time in capitalizing on the Power Play opportunity. Dahnen took an initial shot that deflected off goalie Cam Talbot, but center Thomas Hertl landed the second chance opportunity and trimmed Minnesota’s lead to 3-2.
hertl scores the powerplay and makes this one 3-2. not a great trajectory for this game. pic.twitter.com/c5DNXMeIeU— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) December 10, 2021
The Wild would stop the bleeding during the final two minutes of play, however, after Greenway fended off defenseman Brent Burns and netted his second goal of the night on a Sharks’ empty net.
BIG RIG JORDAN GREENWAY, 4-2! pic.twitter.com/MsGeWbquhN— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) December 10, 2021
Kirill Kaprizov would add the final nail in the coffin with 1:17 left in the game after forcing Barabanov to turn the puck over in the Wild end of the ice. Kaprizov broke away and capped off the night’s scoring with an uncontested goal in an empty net.
kaprizov gets an empty netter of his own, after a strong defensive play. 5-2! pic.twitter.com/uhx2qO0RSh— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) December 10, 2021
With the win, the Wild move to 19-6-1 this season, putting them first in the NHL standings for the first time since December 2011. Goldman also noted that Kaprizov is one game away from tying the franchise record set by Jim Dowd in 2001-02, and that Eriksson Ek is on a three-game point streak with two goals and four assists.
Minnesota continues its road trip Saturday night as the Wild face the Los Angeles Kings, who sit third-to-last in the Pacific Division.
Will Spurgeon make an impact in his first game back, if he’s a go? And can the Wild defensive machine keep humming if he isn’t?
While he didn’t make a huge splash in his return to the ice, Spurgeon did have a decent night against San Jose. With more than 19 minutes played, he scored a +/- of 2 – which tied Ryan Hartman for best on the night – and tallied one takeaway.
All-in-all, it was a solid return for Spurgeon and he provided enough to help things can only get better for him in the coming games.
Has Tomas Hertl found his stride?
In KyleHattrick’s preview for this game, he mentioned that Hertl struggled in finding consistency this season. One thing that’s apparent, though, is that he’s quickly gaining traction on the ice.
After contributing an assist at even strength, followed by a Power Play goal that brought the Sharks within one, it’s clear that Hertl is finding his stride and could possibly be one of the more underrated players across the NHL. He now leads San Jose in goals (13) and is tied for first in Power Play scores this season (3). Granted, the Wild limited him to one goal that came late in the game, but considering he helped San Jose in more areas than raw scoring, it should be noted how hot Hertl has become.
What happened to Hartman?
Hartman failed to find the scoring column once again against the Sharks, but he did manage to get scoring opportunities and he finished with a point on the night.
His assist with Greenway’s second goal on the night, along with a +/- of 2, gave him a good foundation for a comeback. He just needs to take more opportunities when given them, as he only tallied one shot-on-goal throughout 17 minutes on the ice.
Hartman’s getting there, but he’ll need more time before we should start worrying about him.