When the Minnesota Wild unveiled their lineup for their Saturday night match against the Washington Capitals, it would have taken the most optimistic person in the entire world, to picture them earning two points in their return to The X.
Well, they did exactly that so maybe we should be more positive.
With basically every top Wild regular but Mats Zuccarello, Matt Dumba, Marcus Foligno, and Kevin Fiala, out of the lineup, it was lineup full of inexperienced rookies or simple role players. Hell, it even included Victor Rask, who cleared waivers earlier this week.
To start this one off, the Wild looked to be caught on the back foot and they never really caught up to the Capitals’ speed until they were already up 2-0 halfway through the game.
The first 20 minutes was boring, so let’s not even talk about that. It was the second period, where all their mistakes and problems truly caused some pain. The Wild took penalty after penalty, never really getting any semblance of solid 5-on-5 hockey. Within that, Fiala took three consecutive penalties in just 4:27. Something that seems impossible, but because of that, the offensive winger was benched later in the game, but that’s enough about that problem that was quickly fixed in the third period.
Down by two, it seemed like this was just the floodgates beginning to open for Washington and the shorthanded Wild team was about to get a taste of the offensive firepower on the opposition’s roster. But then Carl Hagelin decided to score on his own net to cut the lead to one.
On a delayed penalty, the Caps score on their own goal lmao. pic.twitter.com/WRLBzS0osl— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) January 9, 2022
With a delayed Hartman penalty and the net empty, Hagelin send the puck spiraling down the ice and gave the Wild their first goal of the game. Just something insane that rarely ever happens. Marcus Foligno was given the goal, since he touched it last for the Wild, and it counts as his 14th goal of the season, in a game where he didn’t get a shot on goal.
Now with an actual goal on the board, Minnesota appeared to get an extra pep in their step. They didn’t take as many penalties as they did previously — the Caps had a total of five power play opportunities — and they were able to get some solid offensive chances while trying to stay defensively sound. Matt Dumba did the heavy lifting on the blue line for both sides of the ice, and he certainly deserves some sort of credit for what this team was able to pull off later.
As hockey teams tend to do, the goalie was pulled in the final minutes with just a one-goal deficit to overcome. Minnesota had the extra attacker, and then Mats Zuccarello was able to force overtime.
TIE GAME!! MATS ZUCCARELLO!!! pic.twitter.com/nTQjB5klis— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) January 9, 2022
It’s so Minnesota Wild for them to earn even just one point with a depleted roster, and have it be earned via a late-game comeback from a multi-goal deficit. Fiala and Dumba earned the assists on the goal.
With an hour of hockey not being able to settle it between these two clubs, overtime was headed their way and it proved an opportunity to make some highlights.
Fucale just makes the Save of the Year to rob Hartman in OT. pic.twitter.com/c8Lz8nYZSi— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) January 9, 2022
Almost immediately, just seconds into the extra frame, Zach Fucale was able to pull off an incredible save to stave off the eventual loss for a little bit longer.
An overtime goal didn’t come to fruition, so the two clubs needed a shootout to decide this. Zuccarello and Kuznetsov were unable to score, but Fiala and Frederick Gaudreau got the goals for the Wild and that was enough to take the two points.
MINNESOTA WILD WIN. WASHINGTON CAPITALS LOSE. pic.twitter.com/9FpBol3al0— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) January 9, 2022
With this crazy win in their pocket of comebacks, they are off the ice until next Friday against the Anaheim Ducks. And according to head coach Dean Evason, Joel Eriksson Ek should be back by then. So this lineup will get its only moment of glory, tonight against Washington. Thank goodness.
Can the Wild stay healthy?
Yes! There were moments that players seemed to be banged up, like Zuccarello colliding knee-on-knee with Kuznetsov, and Hartman getting a little banged and bruised; but overall there were no injury reports to comb through.
There’s already nine Wild regulars out, so we don’t need anymore. Please and thank you.
Can Kahkonen carry the team?
Kaapo Kahkonen proved something tonight. Without the safety net of Cam Talbot, he took the reins and controlled the game, and even stole the show at points.
KAAPO KAHKONEN WHAT A SAVE pic.twitter.com/qVq1HL7B9w— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) January 9, 2022
Kahkonen finished with saving 29 of 31 shots he faced, boosting his save percentage a little bit higher on the season. He certainly showed a little bit of his former projected starter status tonight.