Another win, another step back from the edge.
It isn't often that a 3-1 win, sealed only by an empty-netter in the dying seconds of the game, would be called a comfortable win, but from start to finish, the Wild felt in control of the match.
It started just six minutes into the first, with Joel Eriksson Ek showing off his hand-eye coordination by batting in a puck off a neat and tidy 2-on-1 with him and Brandon Duhaime.
Joel Eriksson Ek with some slick mitts and it's 1-0 pic.twitter.com/HUdfsCknqE— Spoked Z (@SpokedZ) October 25, 2022
The puck luck has been missing for the Wild through the first few games of the season, and while it isn't the reason for the slow start, it's always nice to have the Hockey Gods looking out for you and helping you nab a win. The Wild have the league's second-worst PDO, a stat that combines save percentage and shooting percentage and does a pretty good job of illuminating which teams have been "unlucky." Only the New Jersey Devils have a worse PDO than the Wild's 941. For reference, the Buffalo Sabres have been the "luckiest" team this season and glancing at their roster and 4-1-0 record, that seems about right.
While a goal from a tiny firecracker, Cole Caufield, drew the Canadiens even with the Wild, the swagger seemed to be back. Starting with Marc-André Fleury — who was stellar in a 26-save performance — and growing out like whatever the positive version of infection is.
After scoring a goal in the OT loss to the Boston Bruins and assisting on the Eriksson Ek goal, Brandon Duhaime continued his upward trend by finishing a superb pass from Frederick Gaudreau.
beauty feed from gaudreau and duhaime finishes, 2-1 wild!! pic.twitter.com/zuaAyjU7BV— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) October 26, 2022
They were plenty of bad penalties committed by the Wild in the game, and strong penalty kill efforts —especially from Marcus Foligno— helped them from breaking the Wild's otherwise excellent play.
The one-goal lead never seemed precarious, and if it weren't for a penalty shot attempt by Habs' forward Mike Hoffman, the Wild would likely have coasted to an easy victory.
hoffman tries to snipe one on his attempt but fleury shuts the door pic.twitter.com/bQRaZBGkpV— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) October 26, 2022
Not to demean Fleury's save —which was huge— but this is an all-time terrible penalty shot attempt.
With the Canadiens in desperation mode, who else but Eriksson Ek gets the most Eriksson-Ek-like empty netter and seals the deal for the Wild. They inch one step closer to a respectable record.
joel eriksson ek with the hard fought dagger into the empty net. 3-1 pic.twitter.com/RDoI50ILqq— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) October 26, 2022
It may not have been an elite opponent, but the Canadiens have been playing well to start the season and road wins are always tough to come by.
The swagger of a 53-win team is slowly returning.
Playful punches all around.
Dean Evason playfully abusing Darby to celebrate a win has returned pic.twitter.com/kpdZEPQF2y— CJ Fogler AKA Perc70 #BlackLivesMatter (@cjzero) October 26, 2022
Marco Rossi Watch is back. Does he get a point?
Rossi was held off the scoresheet again, but it wasn't due to a lack of effort or chances. He had a great sequence during the second period on the powerplay, where he really controlled the puck and got a couple of quality shots on the net.
marco rossi looks hellbent on scoring pic.twitter.com/IAWMEgw2k7— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) October 26, 2022
He had seven shot attempts at five on five and three shots on net. He looked good between Matt Boldy and Marcus Foligno. If they continue to play him, it'll happen.
Can the Minnesota Wild hold a lead for any significant length of time?
They did! They led for over half the game and felt like they were in control for most of it as well. It was a top to bottom good performance; the defense didn't implode every time the Canadiens entered the zone, both special teams' units performed well, and the offense continued to generate.
It may not have been a dominant performance by most standards, but it did feel like a giant leap forward for the Wild with their start.