Should we just start copy and pasting any recap that has the Minnesota Wild down a single goal in the final minutes of regulation now? Because seriously, we might as well.
The Wild were battling back and forth with the Columbus Blue Jackets for the first 40 minutes of this game. It was evident that some scoring chances were just not going their way and Columbus netminder Elvis Merzlikins was making some massive saves to keep his team relatively in it. With the score 2-1 in the Blue Jackets’ favor, the Wild applied an unimaginable amount of pressure in the third period. Seriously.
In the final 17 minutes of 5-on-5 play, the Wild had an 18-6 advantage in shot attempts and registered a total of 11 scoring chances, compared to Columbus’ two. It was all Minnesota and of course, that led to head coach Dean Evason pulling the debutant Marc-Andre Fleury out of the net with two and a half minutes left and predictably, this happened.
With the goalie pulled, Kirill Kaprizov scores his 35th goal of the season from the half-boards through an excellent screen provided by Joel Eriksson Ek. It is almost cliché to have the Wild score a 6-on-5 goal at this point, as it is the 18th time Minnesota has been able to do such a thing, which leads the NHL.
During the forced overtime, both teams traded chances and Fleury was able to come up big, especially on a solid scoring chance from winger Patrik Laine. But the Wild are inevitable and captain Jared Spurgeon scored the game-winning goal with an excellent backhand shot after receiving a pass from Kevin Fiala.
jared spurgeon w the OT winner from kevin fiala pic.twitter.com/qXKqTUFJx3— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) March 27, 2022
This is certainly the most significant of Spurgeon’s six goals this season, earning his team the full two points in what just feels like an almost overstated path for the Wild to go down now. We don’t even need to get into the specifics of just how insane this is. It is just so common now for Minnesota to be down, score a goal with the extra skater, and then carry that momentum into overtime. This time, it’s a 3-2 win over Columbus that saw Kaprizov score two goals, Fiala earn two assists, and Fleury stop 23 of the 25 shots he faced. Not a bad start to this new mini era.
It all started with the Wild hot on Columbus’ tail. They were not letting Fleury even get a sneaky whiff of the puck, keeping it down in the offensive zone for the majority of the first half of the first period. That all led to a power play opportunity and the top unit was able to convert.
Kirill Kaprizov scores his 34th goal from a wicked angle after receiving a tidy pass below the goal line from Mats Zuccarello.
KIRILL FROM ZUCC ON THE POWERPLAY pic.twitter.com/RIpkJ3G6Tt— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) March 27, 2022
The Wild carried the 1-0 lead into the second period, despite Columbus finishing the first frame with a plus-8 shot attempt advantage at even strength.
That lead snapped as soon as the Blue Jackets caught a lucky break halfway into the second period and just somehow, the puck snuck past Fleury off of someone.
still have no clue how this ultimately went in but it did and it's a 1-1 game pic.twitter.com/7GKlyoqpBr— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) March 27, 2022
Throughout this whole game the two teams there was a theme of post-whistle action. Enough so that we saw multiple 4-on-4 opportunities after one player would go after another one, and then another one would go after another one. (Yeah, that makes sense.) There would be pushing and shoving after just about every whistle that called play dead and players from both teams looked a little banged up.
Everything kicked off when Jacob Middleton hit Zach Werenski a little too high.
oh no, this jacob middleton hit on zach werenski ends in an injury to werenski's face pic.twitter.com/BnaKzr8CYN— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) March 27, 2022
Werenski would not return to the game, but still, players would go at each other with no hesitation and there was just an edge that constantly evident. It made for an entertaining game but would also make you extremely nervous for a bad penalty and then the score to get out of hand.
Anyway, Jakub Voracek would score Columbus’ second goal of the game and it would be the only clean goal Fleury would give up in his debut.
We all know how it went from there.
Now with these two points, the Wild are three points up on the St. Louis Blues for second place in the Central Division and still with a game in-hand over them. They will get that extra game almost immediately as they face the NHL’s-best Colorado Avalanche on Sunday.
Please...can we get a good special teams performance?
Yes! All we were looking for is the one time to score a power play goal while also not giving up one against. The Wild did exactly that. Through all the penalties, the Wild had two man advantages and Kaprizov was able to open up the scoring utilizing the game situation, and the Blue Jackets went 0-for-2 on their power play.
Now will it stay like this? Only time will tell, but some players like Tyson Jost seemed to add a new dynamic to the struggling penalty kill and we saw Joel Eriksson Ek back on the top power play unit, as Evason opted to use four forwards. Maybe these small changes will matter in the long run.
Will we see some offense from the second line?
Fiala certainly got his share of points (two) but it was another pointless night from Matt Boldy and it is now five games that the rookie has gone without producing anything. There’s been chances and he looked incredible (again), but just nothing really finishes at even-strength for the second forward line.
Maybe a change is in the cards for them and Frederick Gaudreau isn’t really the guy you want to boost offense?
Anyway, with new additions there will always be the potential to experiment.