After a phenomenal homestand winning four in-a-row, the Minnesota Wild headed to the Honda Center to extend their win streak to six games. Expecting nothing less than a win the team looked to continue their dominance of their opponents, who as of late have been outclassed to say the least. Coming off of wins against Detroit, Chicago, and Ottawa the Anaheim Ducks haven’t been much better, and the Wild looked to start their California back-to-back on a positive note.
Finding themselves sitting in last place in their division entering the game, the Ducks have 21 points and a plus-minus of -59 which is good for last place in the entire NHL. That being said, they still have 20 guys who make money to play hockey. The Wild would still need to deal with the likes of young star Trevor Zegras to keep their perfection as of late against bottom of the barrel teams.
The first period was largely dominated by Minnesota in their white sweaters. Zuccarello was looking to extend his point streak to 11 games, a huge feat for the thirty-five year old winger. The Ducks were able to sneak a chance near halfway through the period, but found iron which the Wild were able to clear the chance and live to fight another day. The Wild found themselves on the power-play late in the first against an abysmal Anaheim unit. Operating at a lowly 67.77%, the Ducks kill sits at second to last in the league only besting Vancouver. Unfortunately, the top unit quarter-backed by Kirill Kaprizov decided to pass around the perimeter and didn’t muster any chances. The Ducks were able to survive the pressure and escape into the dressing room tied 0-0.
After the period defenseman, Matt Dumba made it clear that defensively it was most important to “make it hard on their skill guys.” He added that the best defense was to just have the puck. However, the question Wild fans were asking was is having the puck on the perimeter as much as they did good enough to beat a team with some opportunist youngsters? Only time would tell as the zambonis got the ice ready for the second in Anaheim.
The second started with the same energy as the first as the GREEF line of Jordan Greenway, Joel Eriksson Ek, and Marcus Foligno earned an early offensive zone face off. The Ducks were able to answer with a chance of their own finding Troy Terry in the slot who was bested by Marc-Andre Fleury.
At 5:04 in the second Foligno took a diving penalty, but was matched with an Adam Henrique trip sending the play to 4-on-4. Given the talent differential, the Ducks would want to be careful of the Likes of Kaprizov and Matts Zuccarello for the next two minutes. Kaprizov lost the puck in the neutral zone giving Mason Mactavish a breakaway. The 2021 3rd overall pick found Fleury’s five-hole giving the ducks the lead 1-0 at 5:48 in the second.
Following the goal the Ducks started to believe. Being a team who doesn’t find themselves in the lead very often, they took the opportunity picking up a good portion of offensive zone time of their own. With 6:15 left in the second, the Wild found themselves on yet another 4-on-4. In what felt like an episode of deja vu, the Ducks found themselves on another breakaway. This time, Fleury was up to the task and kept it a one score game.
After some great forechecking from Mason Shaw and Ryan Reaves, Connor Dewar spun around and threw one at the net that snuck past Lukas Dostal and found the back of the net. The tally would count for his fifth of the season and tie the game at one at 16:03 in the second.
The Wild seemed to find their legs as the fourth line stayed out and were able to draw a penalty and hope Kirill and company could give the Wild the lead. Although the power-play looked better than it had a period early, they found themselves earning the same result.
With just under a minute left in the period, Dylan Strome took an ill-advised offensive zone penalty giving the Wild one more opportunity before heading back to the dressing room. After some good pressure, the Ducks were saved by the bell and the two teams remained square at one heading into the second intermission.
The Wild came into the period with a minute left on their power play and looked to make it count getting a great chance right off the opening draw. Despite the new found energy, they couldn’t get the puck past Dostal and wasted their third power play opportunity of the night.
After surviving a short onslaught from the Ducks, the Wild were able to clear the zone and get fresh legs. After a Sam Steel induced turnover the puck popped right to Matt Boldy in the slot who made no mistake and gave the Wild the lead at 4:46 in the third. Counting for his twelfth of the year giving Boldy a total of 23 points on the campaign.
Sparked by the goal, former Wild team member Dmitry Kulikov took down Kaprizov on a trip putting the Wild back on the man advantage for the fourth time with an opportunity to end the Ducks’ hope for an upset. This time the top unit made the Ducks pay for the undisciplined play. Calen Addison received a pass off from the wall from Boldy and put it on net. Eriksson Ek got in front of Dostal and tipped it past to put the Wild up 3-1 with 8:54 in the third with Eriksson Ek’s 11th goal of the season.
Ryan Hartman, coming off of an injury was able to find the empty net with 1:48 left in the game to seal a 4-1 victory. Assist comin from Boldy to give him a casual three point night.
Although it wasn’t pretty, the Wild were able to muster a good enough third period and score three goals to best the Ducks in Anaheim. The team will look to continue their winning streak after going 6-0-0 and surrendering just six goals in that span. Leading the way has been the goal tending supported by an improved defensive zone led by Wild captain Jared Spurgeon. Despite playing some of the worst competition in the league, these points will prove to be important as the Wild continue to jockey for another strong seed heading into the playoffs.
Let’s not beat around the bush. Can Zuccy keep up the streak?
Despite the win, the Wild’s first line was relatively quiet tonight in Anaheim. Kirill and Zuccarello were only on the ice for the powerplay goal and neither received a point. As they say, all good things come to an end and Zuccarello will have to restart his point streak tomorrow night in San Jose.
Could Gustavsson push Fleury for the starting position?
Since the start of December, Filip Gustavsson has posted a 4-0-0 record with a .938 save percentage. Despite these outstanding figures, one of the NHL’s all-time greats holds the starting job. Fleury had to make some spectacular saves tonight and was up to the task aside from the Mactavish breakaway. I don’t think Gustavsson will ever out right steal the starting job from Fleury, but internal goaltender competition is never a bad problem to have.