I have no notes.
Filip Gustavsson was impenetrable in the win, as the Wild looked to be the better team for all 60 minutes tonight.
One of the bigger stories heading into this one was the NHL debut of Iowa Wild superstar Sammy Walker, who’s currently the AHL’s rookie scoring leader. The Minnesota native and former Gophers captain was called up just before puck drop on Friday night, and got on a plane to Vancouver for his first NHL game. Walker ended up having an involvement in the Wild’s first goal by drawing the penalty that lead to Matt Boldy’s opening goal, which stood as the game winner. Dewar and Steel had the other goals, and Filip Gustavsson stopped all 35 shots to shut out the Canucks’ top-heavy offense.
Let’s find out how we got there!
The game nearly got off to a perfect start as Jordan Greenway found himself in alone on Spencer Martin in the game’s opening minutes, but the rookie netminder turned aside Greenway’s effort. But Minnesota was definitely the dominant side early on, getting plenty of shots on Martin and not allowing Vancouver any prolonged offensive zone time.
The reinvigorated fourth line got an excellent chance, with Ryan Reaves feeding Connor Dewar in front, but Dewar couldn’t bury it.
After Brock Boeser couldn’t get the puck to settle down on what would have otherwise been an incredible chance, the Canucks took a Too Much Man penalty to give the Wild the first man advantage of the game. Marcus Foligno had the best chance of the power play, but Martin made a great kick save to keep the score level.
Late in the frame, Sammy Walker drove to the net after picking off a pass, and managed to draw a penalty with his elusiveness to send the Wild back to the power play. This time, the power play was immediately effective, with Zucarello firing a shot that forced Martin to give up a juicy rebound. Matt Boldy, who’s loked excellent on the powerplay lately, buried the rebound to break his scoring drought and give Minnesota the lead.
It was at this point that I noticed that the Wild were massively outshooting the Canucks, 13 to 3 at the time of Boldy’s goal. It didn’t necessarily feel like that dominant of a period, but the Canucks were basically unable to get anything going at all in the offensive end in the opening frame. Each team managed to get one more shot on goal before the horn sounded, but the Wild went to the locker room with a 1-0 lead and a massive momentum advantage.
Jordan Greenway took an elbow from Riley Stillman near the end of period one that went uncalled. Marcus Foligno took that personally, dropping the gloves with Stillman to open the second frame and absolutetly feeding him his lunch in one of the most lopsided fights I’ve seen this year. Foligno hit him so hard, he had to head to the locker room to get his hand looked at.
Other than the result of the fight, it was all Canucks to start the second. After the Wild outshot the Canucks 14-4 in the first, Vancouver put 10 shots on the board in the first five minutes of the second period to even the shot count. Luckily for the Wild, none of those shots were real quality chances, and the game evened out after the Canucks’ opening volley.
Jon Merrill took a pretty bad penalty at the exact halfway point of the second, cross-checking Nils Åman and sending him careening into the boards. However, the best chance of the power play went to Minnesota, as Joel Eriksson Ek had a shot on the breakaway that was turned aside by Martin. J.T. Miller had a partial break of his own that was stifled by Filip Gustavsson. Less than a minute after Merrill stepped back on the ice, the referee’s arm went up once again and Sam Steel got the gate for tripping Vancouver’s Conor Garland. The second kill wasn’t nearly as eventful for Minnesota, but they went right back to the PK /again/, just seconds after returning to even strength /again/. This time, it was a bench minor for Too Much Man, the second of the game. (I actually can’t remember the last time I saw too many men called twice in a game.)
This time, something actually happened. Luckily for the Wild, it was a shorthanded goal. Connor Dewar broke up a cross-ice pass and found himself with a partial brea and wound up for a clapper that looked ripped straight out of an early ‘90s Rock ‘Em Sock’ Em tape, beating Martin to double the Wild’s lead.
The remainder of the period was once again uneventful, with yet another late-frame special teams goals making up the difference for Minnesota. The Canucks definitely had the lion’s share of offense in the second frame, but entered the intermission with nothing to show for it.
The Canucks had a few good chances in the first half of the final frame, but all of them were thwarted by Gustavsson. Sammy Walker had a partial break of his own, but Martin turned it away. Then, an extended volley of offense from the Wild culminated in an impeccable water-bottle-bursting backhander that Sam Steel roofed past Spencer Martin to extend the Minnesota lead to 3-0.
A 3-0 deficit is far from insurmountable for this Canucks team, but they’ve got a lot less time to do it here than they had against the Canadiens. Gustavsson made a phenomenal save on Ilya Mikheyev to preserve the goose egg, in what looked like one of Vancouver’s best chances to score on the night.
It turned out to be the last good opportunity for Vancouver. The Wild didn’t allow any more scary chances and the rest of the game passed without incident as the Canucks fell to Minnesota 3-0.
The Wild return home from their road trip to face a familiar foe on Monday, hosting the Edmonton Oilers.
The Boldy Question, The Kaprizov Question: A Tale of Two Players
Hello, Matt Boldy! After a frustrating December so far for the sophomore, he got the monkey off his back with a power play marker late in the first period. He’s looked excellent on the power play in recent games, so it only makes sense that his duck-breaking December goal came on the man advantage.
Goodbye, Kirill Kaprizov. His franchise-record scoring streak came to an end in this one, but it was a great accomplishment regardless, and I have no doubt he’ll continue to light up the league this season.
How does Sammy Walker’s debut go?
He didn’t appear on the scoresheet and many might forget his performance tonight, but his play in the first period led to the power play marker that ended up being the game winner. He also had a great breakaway opportunity that was stifled by Martin, but I was definitely impresed by Walker in his debut. Definitely worth an extended look in my opinion.
Is the fourth line rolling?
Dewar had a shorthanded goal, but the rest of the fourth line didn’t appear on the scoresheet tonight. Despite the lack of scoring (and shooting), I thought they played well. This fourth line works for me, brother. I was no defender of Ryan Reaves after he was acquired, but he’s managed to provide some sort of offense, which is more than I ever thought he’d bring to the team.