Coming off two losses and facing a dynamic team on a five-game winning streak, the Minnesota Wild needed a strong, bounceback game against the Edmonton Oilers to start their four-game Canadian road trip on the right foot.
Luckily for them, the elite-looking Wild showed up tonight, drubbing the Connor McDavid-led Oilers in a 7-3 rout. The Wild’s second line of Kevin Fiala, Matt Boldy and Freddy Gaudreau stole the show, teaming up for three goals and six assists, with Fiala earning two goals in the first and nearly completing the hat trick a number of times. Boldy and Mats Zuccarello each finished with a goal and an assist, and 10 of the Wild’s 12 forwards finished with at least a point. Kaapo Kahkonen had a strong night in net, stopping 30 of 33 Edmonton shots. Zach Hyman led the Oilers with a goal and an assist.
From the drop of the puck, the Wild showed they came to play. Nick Bjugstad, in his first game back from injury, finished off a strong shift by the Wild’s fourth line by finding Brandon Duhaime in the slot just over two-and-a-half minutes in, who buried a snipe past Mike Smith for the first goal of the game.
Bjugstad, in his first game back, feeds Duhaime for a 1-0 Wild lead pic.twitter.com/8A19YxysQR— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) February 21, 2022
About two minutes later, Kailer Yamamoto tripped up Kirill Kaprizov, earning the Wild a power play. Minnesota quickly converted with the extra attacker, as Joel Eriksson Ek was left all alone in front of the net and extended the Wild’s lead to 2-0.
Eriksson Ek on the power play gives the Wild a 2-0 lead pic.twitter.com/jAKpkIWIxJ— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) February 21, 2022
Under a minute later, Fiala made it 3-0 on an absolute beauty of a toe drag, and the Wild were back to the dominant team that they’ve been in January and the early start of February.
Fiala with a beauty, Wild up 3-0 pic.twitter.com/0onnl1OVZ7— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) February 21, 2022
Fiala wasn’t done, as Boldy intercepted the play in the neutral zone and sent a nice little touch pass in for a streaking Fiala, who finished the night of Edmonton Oilers’ netminder Mike Smith and put the Wild up 4-0.
Boldy intercepts the play and leaves a sweet little touch pass for Fiala, who chases Mike Smith. Wild dominating, 4-0 pic.twitter.com/11tx3ZMKq2— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) February 21, 2022
All four lines were rolling early for the Wild, showing off the #depth that Wild fans know and love. Bjugstad looked especially impressive in his first game back, and everyone from Kaprizov on down kept up the pressure in the first period.
The only thing that put a damper on the Wild’s point parade was Bjugstad’s tripping call, which lead to Evander Kane’s third goal in four games, which is a gross thing to have to write. Nonetheless, Kane tapped home a nice feed from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and the Oilers managed to stop the bleeding.
The Wild owned most of the offense in the first period despite a couple careless moments with the puck and a bunch of rebounds off the pads of Kahkonen. In the second period, the Wild retreated into the hockey equivalent of a prevent defense, letting the Oilers own the offensive zone as Minnesota struggled a bit with turnovers and finishing checks. The result was Edmonton enjoying an 9-0 shot lead in the middle frame, with the Wild not getting a shot until nearly the 9 minute mark of the second, a Bjugstad shot that Mikko Koskinen easily absorbed.
Right off the ensuing faceoff, Dmitry Kulikov found Connor Dewar, who skated the blue line and took a seeing-eye shot that rang the pipe past Koskinen, but bounced back and off the Oilers netminder and trickled past the goal line, giving the Wild back a four-goal lead despite only earning their second shot of the second period.
Dewar gets a shot through traffic to hit the post and deflect off of Smith. Wild up 5-1 pic.twitter.com/CCFqvt2NCC— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) February 21, 2022
Edmonton earned another power play and had some great chances to answer back, but the Wild defense did a great job limited the opportunities. That, combined with some missed nets by Leon Draisaitl, and the Wild were able to maintain their lead.
Then, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins tries the toe drag but the Wild defense has the answer pic.twitter.com/pKcqFAm9VQ— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) February 21, 2022
Later in the second, Freddy Gaudreau found Boldy entering the zone, and the young Wild talent did his best Fiala impression and toedragged another Oilers defenseman to set up a shot, earning his eighth goal of the season and gave the Wild a 6-1 lead.
Boldy. Damn. Wild 6-1. pic.twitter.com/jJW3yUeYnt— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) February 21, 2022
Tyler Benson managed to score his first career goal for the Oilers about a minute and a half later, but the Wild finished the second with a bigger lead than they started, all despite getting outshot 14-6 in the middle frame.
In the third, it was more of the same, as Zuccarello muscled up to break up a play at his defensive blueline, and Ryan Hartman sent in Lizard on a breakaway. Zuccarello sniped Koskinen below the crossbar, extending the Wild lead to 7-2.
Zuccarello on the breakaway to put the Wild up 7-2 pic.twitter.com/9x9ZJB1ZnS— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) February 21, 2022
The shots were a bit more even in the third, but it still felt like it was Minnesota that was earning more of the good chances, especially when the Fiala/Boldy/Gaudreau line was on the ice. Boldy looked especially good throughout the game, and nearly set up Jared Spurgeon with an easy goal after splitting the defense on the power play, but his pass was just out of Tank’s reach. Fiala also nearly earned his hatty on the delayed call that led to the aforementioned power play, nearly redirecting a shot past Koskinen.
But despite a late, nearly shorthanded goal by Zach Hyman (his 2-on-1 goal crossed the line just after Draisaitl’s interference minor for his late hit on Calen Addison elapsed), the Wild’s 7-3 victory was just what they needed to get the road trip off on the right foot, and hopefully what disillusioned Wild fans needed to rest easier after a couple rough games against Winnipeg and Florida.
Next up on the docket is the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night as the Wild continue their Canadian swing.
Answers to our Burning Questions
Can the Wild stave off a third loss in a row?
Yessir. For a moment, the Wild finally look down the standings at the St. Louis Blues, who were idle and now sit behind Minnesota by a single point in the standings. Both teams are back in action on Tuesday.
Can the defense hold?
For the most part, yes. Draisaitl and McDavid were held to 3 shots each at 5-on-5, and for the most part were kept limited and frustrated. Spurgeon and Brodin did most of the heavy lifting, but Kulikov and Alex Goligoski also had more than 20 minutes on ice and looked pretty good. Most importantly, Calen Addison and Jon Merrill didn’t look awful, and against a loaded Oilers offense, you can’t really ask for more.
Can the Wild stay out of the box?
Minnesota did take two penalties and Edmonton managed to score on one of them, but by that point, the rout was already on. The game was overall pretty clean until the third, especially when Draisaitl decided to take out his frustrations on Addison in a game that was already well out of hand.