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Recap: Wild sunk by Oilers’ power play, lose 5-2

The Wild got plenty of shots on net on Friday night, but two power play goals gave Edmonton the win.

Minnesota Wild v Edmonton Oilers Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

Being disciplined will only get you so far when you can’t kill a penalty.

The Minnesota Wild played well against the Edmonton Oilers, getting plenty of shots and zone time, but were let down by their penalty kill going 1-for-3 against the fearsome McDavid-Draisaitl power play in a 5-2 loss. Dean Evason likely emphasized taking fewer bad penalties after Wednesday’s loss in Calgary, and while they managed to take just three penalties, they only killed one.

Kirill Kaprizov managed to extend his franchise-record point streak in the loss, but it’s a small consolation as the Wild threw away yet another winnable game in Alberta. The Wild outshot and outchanced the Edmonton Oilers, bolstered primarily by the GREEF line, who looked excellent in this one and scored Minnesota’s other goal. Stuart Skinner was impressive in goal for Edmonton, stopping 42 of 44 shots.

Marc-Andre Fleury played okay, stopping 33 of 37, with a few impressive saves in there. Most of the goals were ones he couldn’t do anything about — you’d like him to have better rebound control on the first one, but the other three would have required miraculous stops.

Let’s take a trip through an extremely frustrating game of hockey.

Last game, the Wild jumped out to a quick lead on the road, but it was the home team that got the early goal in this one, with Derek Ryan scoring his second goal in two games. Ryan hadn’t scored since Nov. 1 and 3, where he also scored in back-to-back games.

The Oilers kept the pressure on after the opening goal, but Marc-Andre Fleury turned away some good chances from the Edmonton attack. Then we got a scary moment involving a Wild trainer getting struck by a puck, but the individual looked to be okay afterwards. Not long after, Joel Eriksson Ek got the gate for a hook, sending the terrifying Edmonton Oilers power play to work.

Much of the pre-game narrative on Canada’s Sportsnet broadcast surrounded Kirill Kaprizov’s franchise record point, assist and goal streaks, but Connor McDavid equalled Kaprizov’s seven-game goal streak on the power play here, off of a beautiful cross-ice feed from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

The Wild are in a 2-0 hole early. Not great! But, as we saw a few days ago, an early two-goal lead is far from insurmountable.

Moments after the McDavid goal, the Wild had a golden chance to equalize as Zucarello’s shot nailed the post. The puck trickled through Stuart Skinner, but he looked to have been just barely able to keep the puck from crossing the line. However, we returned from commercial break to find the officials reviewing the play, and it turns out that the puck did in fact cross the line just before the somewhat late whistle! After review, it’s a good goal!

Wait, maybe not. After agonizing minutes of video review to determine whether the puck had crossed the line, Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft decided to challenge for goalie interference, sending the officials right back to the all-seeing iPad. And then, they decided that Kaprizov had in fact pushed the goalie’s pad in with his stick, meaning there wasn’t a goal after all.

Did Kaprizov push the pad? Probably, yeah, a little bit. But this review system sucks, man. If the referees were already looking at the iPad to determine if the puck crossed, couldn’t they make a judgment on the interference as well? Why do we need two separate video reviews? And why does it have to take this long?

Anyways, TLDR, no goal, the Oilers still have a two-goal lead and I’m mad about it.

But there’s no time to be mad, because Darnell Nurse just made an atrocious pass and gifted Joel Eriksson Ek the puck behind the Oilers goal with absolutely no one around to stop him from pulling off this filthy little manoeuvre to cut the lead in half. No calling this one back, iPad boys.

Granted, Nurse has had a bit of a rough start to the season, but I would have never expected something like that out of him, or really from anyone who plays defense at the NHL level. But it happens, and we’ll take it! 2-1.

The Wild got a power play opportunity of their own late in the opening period, but couldn’t really get set up, and the teams headed to their locker rooms with Edmonton holding a 2-1 lead.

Minnesota found themselves hemmed in their own end for a couple minutes to open the second frame, but managed to get the puck out and got a few great chances of their own that were stifled by Skinner and the Oilers defense. While trying to exit the zone, though, Brett Kulak high-sticked Kaprizov to send the Oilers to their second power play, and just a few seconds into the man advantage, Kaprizov drew another penalty, this time on Mattias Janmark.

With a 96-second 5-on-3, the Wild had to take advantage of this chance to equalize. Kaprizov rang one off the iron, and Zucarello’s stick exploded on a one-timer attempt, but the Wild weren’t able to score before Kulak returned to the ice. But seconds after Kulak stepped back on, Fleury made a great heads-up play to jump-start the Minnesota rush and catch the Oilers off guard. Kaprizov set up Zucarello in the slot, who wired one top-shelf on Skinner to tie the game at two apiece.

With the assist, Kaprizov extended that career-best, franchise-record point streak to 14 games.

After an extended period of Wild attacking play, Fleury robbed Draisaitl on a rebound chance to preserve the tie, but moments later, Nurse’s point shot was beautifully redirected by Kailer Yamamoto to restore the Edmonton lead.

Apparently this was Yamamoto’s first of the year, in 15 games. He posted a 20-goal season last year, so that’s a bit surprising.

After a stoppage in which Fleury lost his blocker, Draisaitl pushed the goalie’s equipment farther up the ice, leading to a bit of a scrum between Fleury, Draisaitl and Kaprizov. Shout out to Oilers arena ops for playing “Dragula” by Rob Zombie here.

The rest of the period was largely uneventful, but with less than five seconds to play in the frame, the Wild drew yet another power play, and nearly tied the game in the remaining handful of seconds as a rebounding puck was just out of the reach of Kaprizov.

Unfortunately, power plays truncated by an intermission rarely end with a goal, and that was the case with this one, although the Wild’s top unit had a few excellent chances that were turned aside by Skinner.

A few minutes later, the Wild took their second penalty of the game, and once again, the elite McDavid-Draisaitl power play struck quickly, with another cross-ice pass from Nugent-Hopkins finding a shooter to Fleury’s left. This time, it was Leon Draisatl who had a wide-open cage to shoot at, extending Edmonton’s lead back to two goals.

With a two-goal deficit and 15 minutes left to overcome it, the Wild kicked into gear, getting sustained periods of offensive zone time and a few good chances. With half the period gone, the Wild drew their fifth penalty of the game and went to work on the power play, but couldn’t get anything going. After the power play, the Oilers had a few great chances that Fleury parried away. Then, with five minutes left to play, Sam Steel tripped up Yamamoto and sent him tumbling hard into the boards. Yamamoto got up unassisted and looked okay, but shaken up by the play, and the Wild headed to the penalty kill down two goals with minutes left on the clock.

The Wild vacated their net with three minutes remaining after killing off the Steel minor, but didn’t have much time left to get anything done, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins iced the game with the net empty to seal a 5-2 win for the Oilers.

The Wild will try to salvage something from this Western Canada road trip tomorrow night, when they visit the Vancouver Canucks.

Burning Answers

Can the Wild keep the Oilers to under 25 shots on goal?

The Oilers had 29 shots after two periods, so this one is a big no. That was the sort of game it was, though. The Wild didn’t necessarily play bad defensively, it was just a very open, high-event game. Keeping a team under 25 shots is extremely impressive in today’s offense-first NHL, especially against a high-powered offense like Edmonton’s, so I’m not necessarily disappointed by their failure to do it again.

Please, all we ask for is for them to take minimal penalties.

They did alright with this! Two penalties was the threshold we set for “minimal”, and they managed to take three. It looked like they were about to escape with just two before Sam Steel’s frustrating tripping call with five minutes remaining, eating into the time the Wild had left to try and make a comeback. The other two penalties both turned into goals, as a bottom-five penalty kill came up against a top-five power play. So while they didn’t take nearly as many penalties as they did on Wednesday, all three of them hurt badly.

For the umpteenth time in a row, can we get the old Matt Boldy?

Boldy looked good on the power play but wasn’t very noticeable at even strength, and was held off the scoresheet tonight. It’s just not working with these linemates, and Matt Boldy isn’t being given much of an opportunity to show off what we all know he can do. With that being said, elite gamebreaking players make do with bad linemates, and Boldy hasn’t really managed to do that so far this season.