Minnesota and Vancouver came into their Thursday matchup both desperate for points, but for two different reasons. The Minnesota Wild has found themselves engaged in a battle for home ice with a red hot St. Louis Blues club, while the Vancouver Canucks has found themselves in contention (albeit barely) for the final Wild Card in the Western Conference.
With desperation being a common theme, the matchup was primed to be a good one. With Cam Talbot in between the pipes for Minnesota and Thatcher Demko in the crease for Vancouver, the puck was dropped and the game got underway.
Minnesota seemed the hungrier team in the first several minutes of gameplay, absolutely dominating in Vancouver’s defensive zone. Demko was forced to make some great saves, with Minnesota registering six of the first eight shots. After the first commercial break, the ice completely tilted and Vancouver was able to have a few great offensive shifts. Soon enough, Minnesota held off the push and the ice returned to an even balance. One Minnesota line that struggled was the top line, continually finding themselves pinned in their own zone by Vancouver’s top line. With a minute left in the period, Minnesota went to the powerplay after Kaprizov was taken down in the neutral zone. Just three seconds later, Kaprizov took a double minor for high sticking and negated the Wild powerplay.
yikes. right off the draw Kaprizov high-sticks Richardson and he is leaking all over the ice. brutal. pic.twitter.com/cvWnH4FPEz— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) April 22, 2022
As the period came to a close, a great start by Minnesota seemed to be negated by an impressive Vancouver surge in the second half of the period. With a long penalty kill right around the corner, Minnesota would need to come out for the second ready to play.
Minnesota came out for the second and was able to kill the remainder of the Vancouver penalty, despite some good chances. Just under five minutes into the second, the tie was broken. A great play by Fiala at the blue line got the puck to Gaudreau, who was then able to get the puck back to Fiala. With a yawning net, Fiala continued his incredible streak and put the Wild up 1-0.
FIALA! Gaudreau and Kevin stay hot to open the scoring. 1-0 MIN. pic.twitter.com/BmV4UqL5In— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) April 22, 2022
Less than a minute later, Vancouver responded. Elias Pettersson snuck into the slot, found the puck on his stick, and put the puck between the legs of Talbot. Cam Talbot’s shutout streak came to an end with the goal.
ah, well, Pettersson gets on the end of a feed and ties it. 1-1. pic.twitter.com/Yi3M3Id5Bg— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) April 22, 2022
Minnesota was clearly upset and uncovered their own answer. After ending up at the point on a cycle, Duhaime found Spurgeon on the other point. Spurgeon was then able to put the puck through traffic and beat Demko, returning the Wild lead.
A ROCKET FROM OUR CAPTAIN. 2-1 MIN. pic.twitter.com/Aw0sLsQy0C— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) April 22, 2022
The second period chaos wasn’t over. Just about 10 minutes into the period, Highmore found himself behind Spurgeon and was able to beat Talbot on a shortened breakaway. The game was once again tied.
In the final four minutes of the second, Vancouver claimed their first lead of the night after Pettersson found a loose rebound after shaking Kulikov. After getting physical with Kaprizov, Schenn found himself on the wrong end of some Deslauriers fists.
A couple of minutes later, Kaprizov decided to repay Deslauriers by running a great 2-on-2 with Zuccarello and returning the game to a tie.
As the period came to a close, the Minnesota top line almost returned the lead to the home team. Despite six goals being scored, the teams ended just where they started: tied.
Three minutes into the third, Minnesota earned a powerplay after Vancouver had too many men on the ice. Minnesota was unable to convert and a Jared Spurgeon slapshot caught J.T. Miller in a painful spot.
JT Miller just ate a Spurgeon bomb to the inside of the knee. God that looked awful pic.twitter.com/lvLst5TKHQ— Spoked Z (@SpokedZ) April 22, 2022
Minnesota would soon return to the powerplay after Myers caught Fiala with a stick up high. Once again, Minnesota was unable to convert. The game remained even. Quickly after, Hartman and Ekman-Larsson found themselves in the box after a front of the net scrum.
Just as he’s done lately, Kevin Fiala took over. After circling the Vancouver zone, Fiala decided he wanted to score and did just that. 4-3 Minnesota. What a player.
Incredible stuff from Fiala on the edges and the goal pic.twitter.com/tHMxH3y4PR— CJ Fogler AKA Perc70 #BlackLivesMatter (@cjzero) April 22, 2022
With Vancouver in full-blown desperation mode, Minnesota found themselves chasing the puck in the defensive zone. However, they were doing so in a very controlled way, limiting high quality chances. After a great shift by the third line that killed a great deal of clock, Minnesota’s top line came onto the ice and grew the Wild lead. With his 44th of the year, Kaprizov effectively put the dagger in the Vancouver season’s heart.
Immediately after, Ryan Hartman added an empty netter. With the 6-3 win, Minnesota improved to 11-0-1 in last 13 home games.
Minnesota was tested by a team that truly needed the points. While the defense had some lapses, it was a much better game than their last outing. While St. Louis’ streak is the talk of the NHL, Minnesota looks just as eager to get home ice as they do. While the St. Louis matchup, from the outside, looks pretty grim, there does seem to be something special about this team.
please watch Nic Deslauriers. need an iso cam on him at all times on the bench pic.twitter.com/bSX2NrHpg1— Spoked Z (@SpokedZ) April 22, 2022
Will Kevin Fiala ever stop?
Once again, Fiala was a true star on the ice. After scoring earlier in the game, he completely hit the takeover button in the third and eventually scored the game winning goal. By limiting his mistakes and consistently providing top notch hustle, Fiala has transformed his inconsistent game into a game that many teams are going to be lining up to write checks for.
Can the Wild’s penalty kill be enough?
The Wild kill had a good night. Nothing super notable here, but any night that you don’t give up a powerplay goal is a tough one to complain about.
Inspired by Ryan Hartman’s generosity, feel free to donate to Children’s Minnesota as they continue their effort and support, especially during this time as they continue their effort to support trans kids through their Gender Health Program. Feel free to donate here.