Kevin Fiala wants to take the sole blame for the Minnesota Wild’s surprising loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night. And while he couldn’t have surely done it all by himself to prevent the 5-4 defeat that handed the Wild their seventh loss in the last nine games, there was a little bit of a stutter of a play to hand the Sabres a tying goal in the third period.
The Wild were controlling the play for the most part in the first two periods, but just the brief moments of collapse brought down this team and forced Minnesota to leave Buffalo pointless. And Fiala took the fall for those moments.
“We get the lead, and everything felt great. A couple turnovers from me, to be honest, bad plays from me and it cost us the game,” Fiala said. “Not good from me. ...We had everything under control, I felt like, and I did two mistakes there and it cost us the game. So it’s on me.”
Well, if you think of a totally normal giveaway in this sport, that results in a goal, it would look something like an opposing forward stripping the puck in the neutral zone and going in to score; or even an intercepted pass in your own zone for then an incoming forechecker to go and pot one in — but this was not normal.
After a defensive zone faceoff, the Wild attempted to clear it out, it got held at the line by a Sabres player, and then Fiala — standing right at the blue line — sort of fumbled it on to another stick of a Buffalo player, who then was able to send it off the stationary linesman, and right in front of Kaapo Kahkonen for Jeff Skinner to eventually score the equalizer.
Just a weird series of events.
Fiala’s questionable contribution aside, Skinner then, as fired up as ever having scored a goal for one of the worst teams in the league and an embarrassing organization, celebrated like it earned him a chance to leave Buffalo. And having had his pats and pounds from his teammates, he turns around at center ice and visably yells “that’s your fucking fault,” assumingly at Fiala or another Wild player.
Skinner is certainly having a renaissance season, now with 23 goals in 54 games this season after scoring a pair against the Wild; a vast improvement over his seven goals just last season. So maybe he just wants to notify other teams when they did something bad, because he’s taking advantage of it more often. Or he’s just a big prick.
Anyway, Wild head coach Dean Evason knows that the goals weren’t particularly any single player’s fault, as they took a lot of bounces.
“Just think of the last two goals,” Evason said. “We get a really bad bounce and then the guy fans on the shot. It’s hard to find that puck. It doesn’t get on the net, and then they find it and then the next one we block and it sits there. Obviously, their guy made a real good play on that last one, a skilled play. I think we’re doing the right things. It’s just on those particular goals those were a couple of really bad bounces.”
It is really rough seeing Skinner being able to whack on the puck in open ice so many times. It’s not like he’s the most agile player out there, so when he’s given just heaps and piles and heaps of ice to line up attempts on goal, it’s a five-man problem.
In the clip itself, you can see Kahkonen really trying to make himself as big as possible in hopes that Skinner will hit the young Finn.
“It’s just a desperation play after (it hit the linesman),” Kahkonen said. “It’s really, really unfortunate at that point in the game and then he fans on the first one, I’m just trying to get there and it lays just perfectly there for him.”
Yeah, it is funny that Skinner completely whiffed on it.