It had to be dramatic. This is the Minnesota Wild we’re talking about, and they’re playing the Toronto Maple Leafs on a Saturday night.
A game that had us riding high for the first half, and then we were all dealt with the crushing realization that sometimes hockey is truly, like that—ended in a shootout and the Wild were crowned the victors...eventually.
Joel Eriksson Ek led the scoring with two assists to his name, while a handful of others were able to notch a point. It was truly wild.
The first period was treated with caution at first—some timid plays were certainly the result of not trying to be too aggressive in the offensive zone for Toronto to then spring on their consistent counterattack. But that all got thrown out the window as the Wild just kept on piling on the chances. The Leafs certainly had some of their own high-danger attempts, but Minnesota were able to get theirs as a result of sustained offensive pressure and slipping through the open holes left by the disconnect between the Leafs’ forwards and blue line.
Through the first half of the game, it was the Wild that were able to continue just piling on the chances and get those timely goals. First, with an incredible shift from Brandon Duhaime to get Jordan Greenway the easy tap-in for his second of the season.
BIG! RIG! What a strong shift from Duhaime and Dumba to put Greenway in a place to score. 1-0 MIN. pic.twitter.com/rE2qJULFde— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) December 5, 2021
With a well-earned one-goal leading heading into the second period, Minnesota kept on the pressure and was able to just will their way to score two more goals in fast enough succession to catch the Leafs off-guard.
Although, the Wild were certainly able to get those lucky bounces. I will always believe that this goal from Mats Zuccarello was totally on-purpose, so don’t you dare say it was a fluke or I will keep on posting about it until the day I am a half-rotten corpse.
Zuccarello with the 300 IQ goal. pic.twitter.com/kIbtzMuY3o— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) December 5, 2021
Zuccarello got his, and then Marcus Foligno was able to score a very emotional goal to give them enough of a cushion (maybe, oops) to feel confident about the rest of the game. (That was a mistake.)
MARCUS FOLIGNO FOREVER. 3-0 WILD. pic.twitter.com/fAnELY0p5n— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) December 5, 2021
I would always assume that teams usually bow out of games with such a large deficit, but we should also know that as watchers of this Wild team, that no lead is truly safe from any opponent and Toronto was able to will their way back into this one—scoring three goals in the final nine minutes of the second period.
For the first, the Leafs got their own lucky bounces to get on the board.
Spezza gets the Leafs on the board with a really weird one. Bunch o' bounces and it's 3-1 MIN. pic.twitter.com/0kUWL6RGTM— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) December 5, 2021
After that, it was a simple series of errors that we have grown way too accustomed to from this team. The Wild essentially spoon-fed the Leafs some well-timed periods on the man advantage to waltz their way back into a tie game through the easiest series of hockey plays they have ever witnessed. It’s frustrating when a team comes back against your favorite—it’s tenfold when it was done so by stupid penalties taken at stupid times and the end result is a couple goals from a stupid team.
The Wild didn’t even need to make the eventual win that dramatic. It was all their fault that it was even really close, and the Leafs were playing into their the other team’s faults. Just going “okay, I guess we’ll take this goal from the power play that we created from a few years of tanking.” But kudos to the Wild, because they took that equalizing goal in stride and came back strong in the third.
With approximately 60 percent of the shot attempts at 5-on-5, Minnesota was able to lead the charge not afraid of getting scored on for the fourth time in a row. Keeping everything calm, cool and collected through a 5-on-3 chance that earned them some momentum that eventually carried them into winning that eventual shootout, led by their two premier offensive talents.
what a move from Zucc pic.twitter.com/52TfsGnT0k— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) December 5, 2021
Kirill just making it look EASY pic.twitter.com/7PVlCvDqad— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) December 5, 2021
Of course it was Kaprizov and Zuccarello that was able to earn the Wild their sixth-straight win and a gut-clenching end that made it all feel worth it. My jaw hurts from grinding my teeth through the tense moments, but now the Wild have two points out of this clash of superpowers and I am just dealing with a sore jaw.
Next up, the Wild are heading up a little north to face the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday.
What happens when two previously mediocre teams face off while on hot streaks?
Well, it ends up being a battle that went back and forth like a playground see-saw. Domination from either end in massive chunks through the game that had to just lead into a shootout. Both teams were just too hot to handle at times, coming together like one of those scenes in Dragon Ball Z with the two energy beams colliding into each other in dramatic fashion.
Can they stop the Tavares-Matthews-Nylander line?
Well, that line only saw 2:05 of the ice tonight, since Keefe only needed to load up his lineup at the top for a little bit. During that time, they did have an on-ice shot attempt advantage, winning that battle 6-2...but they also got a goal scored against them, so it was all for nothing.
All three of those players looked dangerous individually at times throughout this one, but nothing really combined to make the top-heavy effort worth it.
Will they be able to get enough goals past Campbell to win?
They won, but Campbell did make some smart enough saves, making 37 saves on 40 shots. Wowza. That amount of pucks thrown on net is the fourth-most this season and is just four less than the top effort.
In the end, they got three in quick succession but the current Vezina candidate was able to shut the door enough for the last half of this one.