Wild Avoid Complete Collapse, Beat Stars in Shootout

The Minnesota Wild started out great against the Dallas Stars in another matinee game on Sunday afternoon in the first of a four-game road trip. They got the first goal of the game on the power play after a number of strong chances and held the lead throughout the rest of the period. The second period opened with the Stars scoring an early goal but the Wild went on a three-goal rampage to end the period up 4-1.

Things continued to look promising at the start of the third as the Wild added a fifth goal to take a commanding four-goal lead. However, that didn’t put a stop to the Stars who came up with a goal-scoring spree of their own with four unanswered goals to force overtime. Despite a number of chances during the extra frame, neither team could come up with a goal, and a shootout was needed to determine the winner.

The Wild’s Marc-André Fleury struggled to stop the first two shooters for the Stars but thankfully all three of the Wild’s shooters scored and took the win. The Wild clearly have some issues to fix after giving up a four-goal lead but luckily they still found a way to get the extra point and the victory.

Wild’s Best Second Period

While the Wild started the game with a goal in the first period, they showed their true scoring power in the second after the Stars tied it up at one. They looked to be in potential trouble after taking a penalty and giving the Stars even more momentum after they just tied it up. Luckily for them, Connor Dewar was able to convert for the second day in a row, but this time on a shorthanded breakaway, to take the lead. That goal was the Wild’s fifth of the season while a man down and they now lead the league with the most shorthanded goals this season.

Connor Dewar Minnesota Wild
Connor Dewar, Minnesota Wild (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

That gave the Wild the lift they needed to score back-to-back goals within 15 seconds of each other and put the Stars on their heels. For most of the season, they have struggled when it came to the first and third periods. They either start the game behind, or drop their lead in the third, but the second period has been a bright spot and it continued to be in their win over the Stars. In fact, their three goals tied with the best performances in the middle frame they’ve had so far this season.

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The Wild need to figure out what causes them to change their play for the better when they’re in the second period and apply it to the first and third periods. After their problematic third against the Stars, they need to fix it and fast before they play their next game later this week.

Wild’s Defensive Collapse

The most glaring problem the Wild had against the Stars was the total defensive collapse that allowed them to climb back into the game. All three of the Stars’ goals in the final period were due to defensive breakdowns among all the Wild’s defensive pairings and even a couple of forwards.

Every defenseman from Jon Merrill, Calen Addison, Alex Goligoski, Matt Dumba, Jared Spurgeon, and Jacob Middleton all were out of position which led to each goal. It wasn’t just the defense’s fault either, Kirill Kaprizov’s line and Joel Eriksson Ek’s line both failed to play strong enough defense to prevent the Stars’ goals.

Matt Dumba Minnesota Wild
Matt Dumba, Minnesota Wild (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Wild’s defensive pairs need to communicate more and make sure one of them is always in front of the net or covering an open player. The same can be said about their forwards as well, they have to hustle and backcheck, and they can’t allow the opposing team to beat them in their defensive zone. It takes everyone to put forth a defensive effort and normally the Wild are better at defense than this, but the Stars clearly outplayed them in the third.

Wild’s Bright Spot

The first half of the game was full of great things for the Wild including their special teams. They didn’t allow any goals scored while on the penalty kill out of a possible four opportunities. Their penalty kill has been good in streaks but their power play has been their strongest area most of the season and it was against the Stars as well.

The Wild scored one goal on the man advantage and it was scored by their top points producer, Kirill Kaprizov. It was his 16th goal and 32nd point of the season, but it was also his 16th point on the power play. With that goal, he extended his streak to 12 straight games with a point and tied his career-high from last season. He got things going against the Stars with the first goal and helped end it in the shootout. Hopefully, he can set a new career-high in consecutive games with a point when they take on the Calgary Flames on Wednesday, Dec. 7.

Wild Face Flames

While the Stars had some connections to both the Wild and Minnesota that included former Wild defenseman Ryan Suter as well as Minnesota native Jake Oettinger, the Wild’s next opponent, the Flames, do not have any former Wild players or Minnesota natives on their roster.

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However, the Wild will have to watch out for Jonathan Huberdeau, Nazem Kadri, Elias Lindholm, Tyler Toffoli, and Rasmus Andersson. If they can keep those players off the scoreboard, they’ll have half of their problems solved. The other half will be figuring out how to get past goaltender Jacob Markström or possibly backup Dan Vladar. Hopefully the Wild will be able to harness the scoring power they found in the second period against the Stars and use it against the Flames to try and get their second road win in a row.

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