The Minnesota Wild held their own against a team full of talent (that is also off to a bad start to their season) but it ended up not being enough, as they suffer a 6-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins to start off their homestand.
For the home team, it was a game completely run by their third line featuring Joel Eriksson Ek (scored two goals), Brandon Duhaime (scored one goal), and Marcus Foligno (earned an assist). They splattered their names all over the stat sheet in the losing effort and the Wild were the much better team when they were on the ice. When that trio was out there, they earned over 62 percent of the shot attempts, 75 percent of the shots on goal, and 100 percent of the actual goals. They ran through Pittsburgh and defended well. Unfortunately, three other forward lines had to play tonight.
The Wild will not want to re-live that first period ever again. While there was still hope that a decent hockey game could stem from the first few minutes, because both teams did not even have a shot on goal through the first five or six, the Penguins quickly took advantage of some rocky ground.
Just over eight minutes into the first, Sidney Crosby got on the board with a long-distance shot after some confusion and puck-knocking in the neutral zone from both teams. Might just be chalked up to be lucky, but it’s a goal nevertheless.
Wild get caught in the neutral zone, Sidney Crosby then rifles a long-range shot and beats Gustavsson. 1-0 PIT. pic.twitter.com/LnZdgZuhQm— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) November 18, 2022
This was not solely Gustavsson’s fault, since the two Wild defenders decided to block his line of sight on the shooter and it was one of the best players in the world who just happened to shoot the puck over his shoulder. Going to just spread the blame over multiple players.
And despite getting the game’s first powerplay opportunity — which ended with a whimper — the Wild allowed another goal from the Penguins with three minutes left in the first and the lead was doubled heading into first intermission.
The second period was a different story. With all the doom and gloom and Oh, here we go after 20 minutes, the Wild decided to wash that all away with a single shift in the first half of the middle frame.
Minnesota pushed hard at the start of the second period, and four minutes and 31 seconds into the game, Brandon Duhaime took advantage of a loose puck swiped up by linemate Marcus Foligno and rocked the puck home on a pretty looking shot to open the scoring for the home team.
Duhaime makes ot 2-1 with a wrister! pic.twitter.com/EpctcFn32z— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) November 18, 2022
And on the very same shift, just 12 seconds later, the Wild grinded and pushed and sandpapered their way into tying the game with a very flukey (frankly, garbage) goal that went off the back of the Penguins netminder and suddenly, the game was tied.
ERIKSSON EK GRINDS OUT A TYING GOAL! 2-2. pic.twitter.com/HrFUcurExN— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) November 18, 2022
For the next 10 or so minutes, the two teams traded off scoring chances and the Wild started to nudge out an advantage in shot attempts, at one point having a plus-3 advantage in that category at even strength. But, of course, the magic wore off eventually and Minnesota could not complete its comeback.
The Wild were given a powerplay, but a minute into the man advantage, Joel Eriksson Ek was called for a penalty and a 4-on-4 ensued, and then some time later Connor Dewar took a penalty to give the Penguins a 5-on-3 chance for just under a minute. Kris Letang took full advantage of that opportunity and rifled his first goal of the season to give his team back the lead in the dying minutes of the second period.
It didn’t get much better in the third period. More penalty trouble and more punishment from Pittsburgh. Yet another Wild penalty was taken and yet another goal from Crosby in this game to give the visitors a 4-2 lead just under six minutes into the final frame.
Sidney Crosby stuffs home the gorgeous return pass from Guentzel for his second tally of the evening, 4-2 Pittsburgh!#LetsGoPens pic.twitter.com/yqRyaRk52S— Hockey Daily 365 l NHL Highlights (@HockeyDaily365) November 18, 2022
To follow up getting a two-goal lead, the Penguins just kept on firing off shots like they wanted to put this game to bed. Somehow, the Wild were leading in shots on goal for the first half of the game but with nine minutes left in the game, the Penguins had a 27-20 advantage in that category. Just tilting the tables and continuing the effort that caused them to bounce back and re-gain the lead.
That effort continued as they drew a penalty from the Wild, and even with the momentum going the other way, Minnesota notched a shorthanded goal to cut the lead to one.
JOEL ERIKSSON EK SHORTY. pic.twitter.com/xiTGX7VomZ— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) November 18, 2022
A beautiful sequence from Jonas Brodin and Frederick Gaudreau to support Eriksson Ek’s second goal of the game.
Unfortunately, that one single sliver of hope was thrown almost immediately into the garbage. Brock McGinn made it 5-3 for Pittsburgh three minutes later, and then Jake Guentzel capped off their win with an empty-net goal.
But wait, Matt Dumba wants to just add in a little bit of flourish and make the score line not look so terrible, as he scores with 7.6 seconds left in regulation to make the 6-4 loss complete. It’s still a loss, but at least some goals were scored.
Up next it is the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday, an even better team with a much better record. We wonder how that will go!
This might be getting old, but does the new lineup work?
Well one new line certainly worked for scoring goals, and the second line with Matt Boldy partnering up with the Dewar and Shaw combo had solid underlying numbers that saw them control the majority of the shot attempts and expected goals over the Penguins, but yet again, the experiment with Marco Rossi and some other bums barely getting any minutes on the fourth line, did not.
So, who knows if it worked? They certainly scored more goals.
Can the Wild just not take as many penalties?
Hell no! This is the 2022-23 Minnesota Wild we are talking about here. Penalties are necessary.
For real, the Wild are taking way too many damn penalties and it directly correlated with this loss. The sequence that led to Letang’s 5-on-3 goal for the Penguins to regain the lead, and then sprinkling in powerplay opportunities for the visitors through the third period; just completely killed all hope of the Wild coming back in this one and earning at least a point. It was already a problem but now it is obvious. Giving up five power plays is not a way to win hockey games.