After suffering a crushing loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night, Minnesota returned home with the hopes of turning the ship around. After being one of the top teams in the league at the midway point of the year, the Minnesota Wild have dropped seven of their last nine (outscored 43-29 in that stretch) and have seen glaring issues emerge in their play every night. With Matt Dumba returning to the lineup, Wild fans are begging one of the issues, defensive depth, to be resolved.
Getting a win against the Dallas Stars in most of the season has not been too difficult of an affair. As of late, the opposite is true, with the Stars winning their last three games and seeming to figure some things out in their lineup. Besides the obvious connection to Minnesota, Dallas would be sending two Minnesota household names, Jake Oettinger and Riley Tufte, onto the ice in their home state.
With new forward and defensive lines and Kahkonen in the net, Minnesota entered a game that did not lack emotion or storylines.
#mnwild lines— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) March 6, 2022
Minnesota took control right away and found several great chances, including a shot from the slot by Hartman that was denied by Oettinger. Another chance, almost right after, stemmed from a turnover by Suter to Bjugstad. Before the first four minutes expired, the Wild already had a 6-0 advantage in shots.
ryan suter just misses the boys yknow— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) March 6, 2022
also kaprizov's slicc pass to hartman for a wide open chance in the slot pic.twitter.com/eeub0YjCGI
Quickly, Dallas returned fire. Great shifts by the the Stars’ top two lines shifted the momentum the other way, forcing Kahkonen to make some great saves. The first penalties of the night soon followed, with coincidental minors for Foligno and Tufte after the Stars forward blocked Foligno’s progress and Foligno heavily retaliated. The Wild were very lucky for the penalties to be coincidental.
these were called coincidental minors hahahahahahah pic.twitter.com/ikEeR0d6Zk— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) March 6, 2022
The ensuing 4-on-4 was all Stars, but as it expired Kulikov drew an interference minor on Robertson. After the second unit struggled, the first unit struggled to gain any traction until the very end of the minor penalty. The red hot Stars kill continued its dominance as of late.
lizard man goes for a skate around the zone and finds boldy who makes a nice one touch pass to the captain who just kinda misses it. shoulda been 1-0!!! pic.twitter.com/qCqaP88IlY— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) March 6, 2022
The Wild did not let their powerplay woes get them down. The following shift by the fourth line saw Nico Sturm breat Oettinger on a short breakaway. Breaking his 12 game drought and the seemingly eternal Wild streak of giving up the first goal, the magnitude of this well-placed backhander cannot be understated.
nico sturm shows off some nice footwork and scores on the backhander on a breakaway before crushing the ref and not even looking back to see if he's okay. king shit pic.twitter.com/gP0ErHEYa4— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) March 6, 2022
Dallas was not ready to go away quiet, once again forcing some great saves out of Kahkonen. The Xcel Energy Center was just as engaged as the players on the ice and could be heard erupting throughout the game, especially in a moment that saw Suter take down Eriksson Ek and get blown up by Foligno afterwords. At the conclusion of the period, Duhaime chipped a puck over to the glass, sending Dallas to the powerplay with just over a minute to play in the period. After the Wild controlled the beginning of the kill, Seguin collided with Gaudreau and Kahkonen, knocking the latter down. With Kahkonen down, a puck found the back of the net to tie the game with less than a second left in the period. After a Minnesota challenge, the goal was upheld and Minnesota was sent to the penalty kill again to start the second period. The Wild’s horrible penalty kill stretch continued.
the stars tie it in the dying seconds but the wild have challenged for goaltender interference. i think they may lose this challenge pic.twitter.com/ClP0PR6Vd1— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) March 6, 2022
After a period where it felt like the Wild of the past (before the All-Star game) showed up, the final seconds seemed to take it all away. Based on the looks of it, Dean felt the same.
The second period began with 1:58 remaining on the Stars powerplay. With the Wild kill allowing 12 goals on its last 28 attempts, to say that the unit’s confidence needed a boost would be a putting it lightly. They were unable to get it. A point shot from Klingberg was bobbled by Kahkonen and ended right up on a loose Jason Robertson’s stick for a tap in goal.
u guys wont believe this but the wild gave up another powerplay goal pic.twitter.com/JU9c6PQna8— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) March 6, 2022
Just two minutes later, Riley Tufte scored his first NHL goal after outmuscling Mats Zuccarello on a rebound that Kahkonen couldn’t contain. A Wild 1-0 lead had quickly turned into a 3-1 deficit. A once energized squad quickly looked defeated.
the hometown kid riley tufte gets his first nhl goal and suddenly it's 3-1 stars pic.twitter.com/TnmBXM7et7— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) March 6, 2022
Just as it seemed like the game was getting out of hand, a great shift by the top line drew a penalty to slow the bleeding. Once again, the Wild found themselves on the wrong side of the special teams battle. The Wild were only able to muster a single shot.
The Stars did not wait long to make them pay. Robertson found his second of the night on a very soft shot. That put him at six goals in his last three games. With that, Kahkonen’s game came a conclusion.
jason robertson scores his second of the night and fifth in his last two games to make it 4-1 stars. bit of a weak one from kahkonen pic.twitter.com/au9BA36eCS— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) March 6, 2022
With just over three minutes left, Minnesota got another chance on the man advantage after Kaprizov was cross checked into the boards. Less than five seconds into the penalty, it was negated by an Eriksson Ek interference call. The nightmare afternoon for the Wild continued. With just under a minute left, the top line was denied by several great saves by Oettinger.
As the second period ended, it felt like the Wild team that was one of the favorites for the Stanley Cup at the halfway point of the season was long gone.
Minnesota came out for the third with some pep in their step, finding a way to generate a few decent chances. An odd moment in an otherwise gloomy game occurred when Kaprizov was hip checked by a referee.
After a newly (Dean mixed up the lines in between periods) formed Eriksson-Ek line had a great shift, Klingberg took a minor roughing penalty after the whistle. The suffering Wild powerplay would once again get a chance. Once again, both units’ attempts to pass the puck into the net failed.
With just under nine minutes left, Dean pulled Talbot for a sixth skater. Somehow, this was not the earliest this has happened this season (9:20 is the latest). With the extra attacker, Jake Oettinger continued to stand on his head. Despite the Wild passing up an inexcusable number of them, the ones that got to Oettinger were taken care of. Either way, it seemed the Wild’s offense began to work again. A goal seemed to be on the horizon.
Sure enough, with 3:41, the Wild returned fans to the edge of their seats. A great pass by Zuccarello turned into a 2-1 with Fiala and Kaprizov. A patient move by Kaprizov cut the Stars lead to two.
Under two minutes later, they did it again. After Robertson broke his stick, the Wild were able to capitalize on the 6 on 4 and a half that resulted. Kaprizov tallied his second of the night. Dallas seemed to have missed at least six chances at the empty net.
kirill from zucc made it 4-3, but as i type this jamie benn finds the empty net to make it 5-3 stars pic.twitter.com/pJD4F6DwME— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) March 6, 2022
However, with a minute left, Dallas decided they were done playing with their food. Jamie Benn fired one from below the goal line to end the Wild’s hopes of a comeback.
Just to be sure, Robertson got his third with 30 seconds left. Back to back hat tricks... not bad. To make matters worse, Freddy Gaudreau was injured on the play.
jason robertson has two straight hat tricks pic.twitter.com/lKXz01QC0j— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) March 7, 2022
Despite outshooting and out-chancing Dallas, the Wild once again found themselves without a point. The wheels really seem to be falling off this team. With 3 seconds left in the first, a game that seemed like it was going to be a simple win turned into a 4-1 deficit. Dean Evason’s challenge, while seeming reasonable in the moment, undeniably swung the momentum and opportunity Dallas’ way. To make matters worse, the penalty kill continued its abysmal streak.
9.5% of Minnesota's goals this season have come with their goalie pulled lol what on earth— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) March 6, 2022
While Bill Guerin appeared level headed in his TV appearance during the third period, there are no doubts that the Wild’s front office is having to ask some very serious questions about the status of this team, especially with the trade deadline looming.
Please, can we see some offensive depth?
Well... sort of. Nico Sturm broke his 12 game scoring drought, but other than that, it was the usual suspect: Kaprizov.
While the lack of depth has been an issue, the root of the Wild’s problems is undeniably coming from the other end of the ice. In addition to subpar defense and goaltending, losing 39/65 draws did not help their chances, especially while trying to mount a comeback at the end of the game.
Does it matter who the goaltender is?
If you asked me this question at the beginning of the game, I would have definitely responded yes. As of late, I believe Kahkonen has been miles better than Talbot in between the pipes. However, tonight showed flashes of the Kahkonen last year that plummeted from initial success. While the final Robertson goal was soft, the rebounds that caused a few of the first goals are more concerning. If those, as well as the goaltending problem in general, do not get cleaned up, this Wild team has much less season left than they believe they do.