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Recap: Wild escape disaster, win 3-1 over Islanders

It all came together at the end.

Minnesota Wild v New York Islanders Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Minnesota Wild were grinding and grinding and pushing and shoving all night long against the New York Islanders, and thanks to a handful of forwards they were able to avoid what would have been a demoralizing loss.

Our guys ended up earning the 3-1 victory, but how they got there is a story of two miserable periods and one where their efforts were finally rewarded.

Trying to write about this game chronologically does it a disservice. Instead of some periods of action sprinkled throughout the first two periods — maybe some nice little back-and-forth scoring chances — we were treated to a slog of frustrating play and the Wild just not being able to get any clear-cut scoring chances.

Some were able to get close to the net, so they registered as high-danger, according to the location of the attempt, but none of them felt like they were meant to go in. It would be painful to try and give all the details of the first 40 minutes of this game, but it was just a prolongated period of mind-numbing hockey being played. If you came here to catch up on a game you were not able to watch, we apologize, but also we do not mean it because we’re glad you did not watch this game.

Anyway, the Islanders scored the only goal of the first two periods and it was ugly.

Nothing pretty or special about it. Nasty stuff.

Maybe it was the Wild earning four power plays and the Islanders earning two themselves — sometimes overlapping — that caused this game to be stuttering through play, and neither team being settled offensively. Because the special teams were heavily used and it might have just prevented the teams getting used to each other and the whole rhythm of the game.

The first two periods combined to be just a blurry mess where the Wild had a 23-13 advantage in shot attempts, but the Islanders were firing off attempts just as much.

Thankfully, it started to pick up a little bit in the final frame.

With the home team holding the 1-0 lead and nothing going in for the Wild, things appeared to be desperate. Minnesota just finished their fifth power play opportunity of the game and they managed to get one entire shot on goal during those man advantages. Just nothing was working at 5-on-5 or on the power play, so Frederick Gaudreau just had to go and tie things up shorthanded.

It wasn’t ruled a goal at first, but Gaudreau eventually got his 10th goal of the game after Joel Eriksson Ek sprung loose on the penalty kill, sauced it over to Gaudreau, who then forced Sorokin to make an acrobatic save. At least we initially thought it was some miraculous save made by the young netminder, but after the officials called for a review of the save, it appeared that Sorokin’s glove ended up a little twisted and the puck crossed the goal line.

This game just needed some weird fluke goal after an incredible defensive effort to break wide open. Ninety-three seconds later, Sam Steel got on the end of a wonderful play made by Mats Zuccarello and gave the Wild the lead with minutes remaining.

I was worried that this game would eventually just decay and we would be left with an awkward 1-0 loss to a stupid Islanders team. Now, the offensive spark caught fire and the Wild pushed to make sure that this game was over as soon as Steel put the puck in the back of the net.

New York was caught on its back foot, trying to withstand the incredible effort the Wild put in all three zones. At one point in this game, the Islanders had seven more shot attempts than the Wild at 5-on-5; with less than five minutes remaining, Minnesota had 10 more than their opponents. An incredible overstretching effort that was the reason why the Islanders finally broke.

Thankfully, Kaprizov put this one to bed by scoring an empty net goal and handing the Wild the 3-1 lead to break the losing streak.

With these two points the Wild remain comfortably in third in the Central division. They are five points below the Winnipeg Jets, but five points above the St. Louis Blues. Just hanging out in the middle. Next, they get to hopefully narrow that distance between them and the Jets by facing the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday.

Burning Questions

Can the Wild limit Mat Barzal?

Hell yes they did. It’s not like the Islanders were offensive dynamos tonight, but their main man in Barzal was held to zero points, just five shot attempts, and two shots on goal; and none of that was in a high-danger area of the ice. And when he was on the ice, the Wild were the better team, with more attempts and scoring chances. So, it’s safe to say that Barzal was limited.

Will Sam Steel tie his career-high in points tonight?

So close! It didn’t appear that any Wild players were going to earn a point tonight but Steel ended up being the hero with the game-winning goal. He didn’t add an assist so he is now just one single point away from equaling his career-high. And thankfully the Wild are hosting the Coyotes next.