The Oscars are on right now, but the final period of tonight’s Wild game was peak entertainment. It was a movie.
I seriously do not know what to tell you anymore. Just last night, I was reflecting on yet another Minnesota Wild victory that featured a late equalizing goal and then a game-winner in overtime. It was Joel Eriksson Ek against the Columbus Blue Jackets, and then the team and Kevin Fiala just did the exact same thing against the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday night.
KEVIN FIALA GAME WINNER IN OVERTIME!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/mTsiWvTXBL— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) March 28, 2022
With the 4-on-3 man advantage in overtime due to a late-game penalty taken by the Avalanche, the Wild scored just 15 seconds in after a beautiful play that saw all four forwards touch the puck and play like the Colorado defenders weren’t even there. It was perfect and a goal that meant much more than just two points. It was a statement win, even if it doesn’t mean much in the standings — Minnesota is still 14 points behind Colorado and is four points up on the Nashville Predators with two games in-hand — it shows the whole entire league that this Wild team is not joking around and will take the NHL’s top team down to the wire, even if they are playing their second hockey game in 24 hours.
And it came together because head coach Dean Evason decided to pull a progressive tactic and have four forwards and zero defensemen start the 4-on-3 overtime, right away going all-in on offense and hoping to catch the Avalanche flat-footed. Well, it worked and it is notable that Joel Eriksson Ek was one of the forwards after not even seeing any powerplay time for multiple games before this weekend.
All game long it felt that the Wild were walking a tight rope, allowing plenty of shots on goal (from long range though) and a loss would have been slightly palatable, but they edged closer and closer down just a single goal until Ryan Hartman was able to score the equalizer at 14:33 of the third period.
RYAN HARTMAN!!! TIE GAME!!! pic.twitter.com/KuoWJBk2YN— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) March 28, 2022
While not as last-minute as Kaprizov’s second goal against Columbus, Hartman was still able to score his 27th(!) goal of his season in a very timely manner.
Leading up to this, there was a scoreless first period that had a fairly even underlying feel, but a second period that just ran completely in the Avalanche’s favor. Colorado finished with a 23-10 advantage in 5-on-5 shot attempts in the middle frame and it honestly felt like it should have been more than that.
But, still, Kaprizov opened the scoring even if the shots were going Colorado’s way with his 36th of the season.
KIRILL SCORES ON THE POWER PLAY. 36TH OF THE SEASON. 1-0 MIN. pic.twitter.com/VaTR20AHj9— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) March 27, 2022
The Avalanche would answer with two straight goals in the first half of the third period, coming from Nazem Kadri and Mikko Rantanen. It felt inevitable. A team that was getting enough chances on net would eventually beat the opposing goaltender and they ended up doing just that. Well, thank god for Ryan Hartman.
Mats Zuccarello earned three assists, and Hartman got an assist to add to his goal.
There is another story in between the pipes. Cam Talbot was simply sensational as he continues his winning streak and stretches it to seven games as he made 40 saves tonight.
And some of them were incredible efforts.
While the addition of Marc-Andre Fleury at the trade deadline added just more to the tandem, it does feel good to have the goaltender that you kept in the picture suddenly stopping boatloads of pucks. Fleury will most likely be the starter down the stretch, but Talbot is certainly giving him a run for his money as he has kept his save percentage north of .920 in his last four games.
There is a little bit more comfort in the standings, as mentioned earlier, so this win just feels a little bit better. Next up, the team will be hosting the terrible Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday. With the team playing like this and the Flyers playing like they are (badly) it might get ugly.
Will Talbot give the Wild a winning chance in net?
More than a winning chance, but he was certainly one of the major reasons why they earned the two points tonight. Now the goaltending situation might get more fuzzy in the future, but at least we can be comfortable no matter who is in net.
Can Jost pull out a fairytale first Wild goal tonight?
Unfortunately no, but Jost at least looked capable of netting a goal. The offensive dynamism that we hoped for when he was traded straight up for Nico Sturm, has been on display the last couple of games and tonight against his old team he managed to get three shot attempts that combined to be worth 0.21 xG according to Natural Stat Trick, which was fourth-highest among all Wild skaters.
He’s getting there and maybe he will eventually earn an opportunity higher up the lineup, but Dean Evason won’t change anything if it is working.