Well, that was fun, wasn't it?
An up-and-down game, last night’s match that really encompassed all the Minnesota Wild have to offer. The good and the bad; as they succumbed to a 5-4 overtime loss against the Vegas Golden Knights.
We were welcomed into the game with an uncharacteristically slow start for the Wild. While they currently sport a league-best goal differential in the first period, plus-12, neither team managed to get a puck in the net in the first frame.
The shots ended up 12-11 in favor of the Golden Knights, after 20 minutes, they also held a 26-14 Corsi advantage. We know that the Wild are okay with letting low-quality shots from the outside happen, but that may be too many when you take so few on the other end.
At the end of 20, an Ian Cole hit on Alex Pietrangelo was perhaps the only highlight.
Ian Cole steps up and plants Pietrangelo #mnwild pic.twitter.com/JAfFkbE2vJ— Spoked Z (@SpokedZ) March 2, 2021
Maybe it’s because they were all distracted by those shiny domes.
i’ve seen a lot of people complain that the vegas gold helmets are distracting and i don’t see it tbh pic.twitter.com/RgHRksMKxQ— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) March 2, 2021
Whatever lack of offense there was in the first, both teams made up for in the second.
Vegas struck first with a powerplay goal from Cody Glass. But the Wild bounced back with a goal of their own from Jordan Greenway, who had a monster of a game.
greenway follows the shot and gets the rebound!— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) March 2, 2021
After that goal, the floodgates opened, and the Wild were flying.
Marcus Foligno was up next, with a less-than-skilled goal for the stalwart defensive forward.
that energy pays off and the puck is in the net again! this time off foligno!— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) March 2, 2021
2-1 good guys! pic.twitter.com/AOEGpAPPnf
All that energy and momentum was sapped away by another Knights powerplay goal, this time from Max Pacioretty.
But the back and forth affair continued, with Nick Bonino scoring off a Nico Sturm wrap-around attempt.
bonino scores on the rebound off the sturm wraparound!— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) March 2, 2021
Nineteen seconds later, offensive powerhouse Marcus Foligno scored his second of the night with this rocket of a wrist shot.
ELITE SNIPER MARCUS FOLIGNO— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) March 2, 2021
End of the frame, the Wild were up 4-2 in what was a barnburner. Six goals total scored in the second. But that was really the storm before the calm.
For the first 11 minutes of the third period, the Vegas Golden Knights did not record a single shot on net. Not a one. As far as defensive shells go, this was a tour de force. But I really think this was a huge misstep.
If you allow a team as talented as Vegas Golden Knights space and room to figure out their offense, which had largely been ineffective at 5-on-5 up until this point, they will figure it out. The Wild were all over the Knights at full-strength in the second, to the tune of a 78 xGF%. And they just decided to stop with the play that got them this 4-2 lead. After only being able to score on the powerplay in the first two frames, the Knights offense started to click at about the third's half-way point.
First, a goal from Nic Hague off a one-timer from the point. That safe 4-2 lead disappeared quickly.
With Marc-Andre Fleury on the bench for the extra-attacker, Alex Tuch scored to make it 4-4, and off to OT we go.
[redacted] scores. tie game. stone with his fourth assist. pic.twitter.com/tjJNbbeAPG— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) March 2, 2021
It didn’t take long for the game to end in heartbreak, as Mark Stone — who had five(!) assists tonight — set up Max Pacioretty for the game-winning goal.
Every time a winning streak ends, a points streak begins. Wild now have points in their last
Many people cried foul about missed calls from the referees or soft penalties called against the Wild tonight. In the end, only three penalties were called all night — all against Minnesota — and one was a bench minor for too many men. There weren't any egregious missed calls. In the end, the Wild had a 4-2 lead and looked well in control of the game. But they voluntarily let the foot off the gas, and it cost them the game. Let’s hope they can learn and build from this.
Mandatory Kirill Kaprizov Highlight
He just does whatever he wants.
kaprizov routinely does silly things that not even the broadcast picks up on pic.twitter.com/K2fOdxai45— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) March 2, 2021
The Magic Number is 3. Can the Wild score 3 goals?
They can! And they did! For two teams that are so strong defensively — Wild are third in xGA/60 while the Knights are seventh — a barn burner of a second period with six goals isn’t what we expected. But while the Wild did flex their defensive muscles in the first half of the third, the decision to shift too far away from offense into defense ultimately cost them the game.
Will Zach Parise Score?
It was a bit of a disappointing game offensively for Parise. He did register the primary assist on the second Marcus Foligno goal but was also limited to only one shot in 13:44 of ice time. He’s averaging around three minutes of powerplay time a game. With no powerplay opportunities for the Wild, a lot of his offensive opportunities are going to be taken away, even if the Wild powerplay is disappointing as a whole.
Are the Wild serious contenders?
It may be difficult to see after a loss and be so critical of the playstyle that got them this loss, but there is a recipe for success in last night’s performance. The offensive outburst in the second wasn't fluky. The defensive clampdown in the third was impressive. Cam Talbot, while allowing five goals on the night, looked good.
The Wild took what many believe as one of the three or four Stanley Cup favorites to OT last night. They managed to do it without any offensive output from the major players, as none of Kevin Fiala, Kaprizov, or Zuccarello found the score sheet. If the team can find the sweet spot between defensive clampdown and just letting the other team pin you down in your own zone, they can be the best team on the ice for long stretches.
They’re sticking around Vegas and facing the Golden Knights on Wednesday at 9:00 p.m. CT. See you there for more Minnesota Wild Elite.