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Recap: Wild top Oilers in great goaltending display from Talbot

Minnesota started their road trip on the right foot, mostly due to an awesome night from Cam Talbot.

Minnesota Wild v Edmonton Oilers Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images

The first game of a road trip, especially heading West, is arguably the most important one. The Minnesota Wild were forced to start this trip against arguably the most talented two forwards in the NHL, with McDavid and Draisaitl both at the top of NHL scoring totals. Edmonton also came into the night with something to prove after getting dominated by Los Angeles on Sunday. If the Wild were going to win, they would need to shut down the Edmonton stars without sacrificing their lethal offense.

After three whistles in the first 18 seconds, Nico Sturm won a footrace in the offensive zone and was taken out by Evan Bouchard. The Wild found themselves on a power play only 33 seconds into the game. Before too long, Joel Eriksson Ek found the back of the net on a crafty finish of a Zuccarello assist.

Despite the lead, the Wild found themselves dominated for the next few shifts. Every shift one of the Edmonton Oilers’ top two lines had, the Wild spent at least a minute getting cycled on. Cam Talbot didn’t have to make any exceptional saves, but certainly was tested. Despite the onslaught, a great pass from Matt Dumba that continued his great start to the night found Foligno on the back door to make the lead 2-0.

Almost immediately after, Kulikov was whistled for hooking and a lethal power play unit was sent to the ice. They controlled the zone for most of the power play, but were unable to score. While Edmonton’s control of the play continued after the man advantage, Matt Dumba threw a check on Warren Foegele to try to steer the momentum Minnesota’s way.

Despite the Wild being up two, but the ice was completely slanted Edmonton’s way most of the period. Shortly after, Rem Pitlick was whistled for tripping and the Wild were forced to kill another Edmonton power play. Similar to the previous chance, Edmonton proved why they are a top unit in the league. However, they did so without putting the puck in the back of the net.

The remainder of the period saw the play even out a bit. Both teams saw chances, especially as Edmonton began to show their bottom six more ice time. Either way, the Wild entered the locker room content with not giving up any goals, but knowing that if they continued to get trapped in the zone, they will give up a goal eventually.

The second started out with even chances going both ways. It was clear that both teams had been lectured about the defensive zone, as there was much less space than the first. A little bit over three minutes into the period, Brodin’s stick found its way into an Oiler skate to send Edmonton to their third power play of the night. Once again, the kill came up huge and Edmonton was left disappointed.

Soon enough, Minnesota’s ability to shut down Edmonton’s stars ran out. It felt like it was only a matter of time when McDavid walked around the Edmonton offensive zone, dodging Wild players trying to block shots and passes left and right, and found an open Jesse Puljujärvi to cut the Wild lead to one. The Wild considered challenging for goaltender interference, but the possibility of losing and handing Edmonton their fourth power play proved to be too risky for Evanson’s staff.

For an Edmonton club that was just showing signs of discouragement before the goal, the timing could not have been worse. The chances began to swing Edmonton’s way and Minnesota struggled to have any offensive presence. Just over halfway through the period, the Wild found themselves being outshot 14-4 in the period. If their one goal lead was going to be salvaged, they were going to have to establish possession and limit the long shifts in their defensive zone.

Luckily for Minnesota, Evan Bouchard was assessed a very subtle tripping penalty to give the Wild their second man advantage of the night. The power play, falling in line with the rest of the period, proved to be a disaster. Edmonton brought pressure that surprised the power play unit, forcing turnover after turnover. Once the first group flamed out, a refreshed second unit that had a few face: Jordan Greenway. Unfortunately for the new addition, he fell in front of the Wild bench and sent Kailer Yamamoto off to the races. Marcus Foligno was forced to take an obstruction penalty, negating the remaining 30 seconds of the man advantage.

Once again, the Wild kill, particularly Cam Talbot, came up huge. Edmonton came into the evening with a power play that was more than 30% and first in the league. The Wild had now held them to 0/4.

Minnesota’s best chance of the period came within the final minute. Brandon Duhaime fired a snap shot, beat Koskinen, but unfortunately found the post instead of twine.

The Wild headed back to the locker room up one despite another period on the wrong end of a lopsided game. While the period was negative one for most of the forwards, Cam Talbot stood on his head. As a unit, the Wild defensive core had also limited Edmonton’s high end scoring chances by keeping them to the outside. Either way, Minnesota knew Edmonton would be clawing for the equalizer when both teams took the ice again and they would need to find another level if they wanted to hold on to their lead.

The third began with a few solid shifts from Minnesota. Whatever message there was, the intensity Minnesota brought seemed to imply that it resonated. After an amazing save by Talbot on an Edmonton 4 on 3, Minnesota was able to keep the lead to one.

About a minute later, the Wild found themselves in the same scenario. Unlike Edmonton, a great pass from Jonas Brodin gave Victor Rask an open net, putting the Wild up by two.

Just as they had the whole game, Edmonton was showing no signs of going away. After beating Zuccarello, Draisaitl found himself all alone. Another great save by Cam Talbot kept the lead at two.

A “Michigan” attempt by McDavid was followed by several fluke plays, including Dumba and McDavid being tied up, Jordan Greenway took a pointless slash to send Edmonton to the man advantage. However, once again, the Wild penalty kill came through.

Just as this team seems to have done all year, depth came up big when it was needed. Edmonton’s momentum had been slowly growing over the previous few shifts. Just when it seemed like the Wild were going to park the bus and try to not let Edmonton in close, they struck and found the back of the net. Dimitri Kulikov must have been inspired watching McDavid’s speed. He took off down the center of the ice, caught a great redirection from Kaprizov, and capitalized on a simple move to grow the lead to three.

Kulikov’s tally took all of the wind out of Edmonton’s sails. The remainder of the game saw much less intensity, allowing Minnesota to coast to the win.

For a team that wants to contend for a Stanley Cup, there are going to have to be ugly games where you find two points. Tonight, the first forty minutes matched this description almost perfectly. With one of the highest top ends of talent in the NHL, Edmonton was able to sustain pressure in the Minnesota zone for long periods of time, exhausting the Wild and limiting their possession and offense. To make matters worse, Minnesota went to the box five times against a power play that has been red hot (came into the night as the best in the NHL). Even though the Wild didn’t have their best performance as a team, Cam Talbot found a way to make every save that he had a chance to stop.

Burning Questions

Can Minnesota take advantage of Edmonton’s recent defensive struggles?

Although Edmonton controlled the puck for most of the game, Minnesota made their chances count. Edmonton could not say the same and that made all the difference. I didn’t think Edmonton’s defense looked terrible, but there were certainly lapses that created Minnesota’s goals.

Typically, Dimitri Kulikov scoring a breakaway goal is a bad sign.

Will Kaprizov continue his streak of dominance?

Kaprizov had a quiet first two periods but had a great third period. Edmonton is the only game of the year where Kaprizov is the second best 97 on the ice, but tonight he matched McDavid’s assist. His line struggled to gain much possession early in the game, but found space in the third to wear the Edmonton defense down. His redirection to Kulikov on the breakaway that earned his assist was beautiful.

Who could carry goaltending duties for Edmonton?

Koskinen got the start tonight for Edmonton. Faced with 26 shots, Koskinen allowed four goals.

Even though I think he should’ve stopped at least one of those, I don’t think his performance was the reason Edmonton failed to get a point tonight.