Wild’s Offense & Gustavsson Stand Tall in Win Over Lightning

The Minnesota Wild opened 2023 against the Tampa Bay Lightning at home during yet another snowstorm on Wednesday, Jan. 4. It was 80’s night at the Xcel Energy Center and the Wild participated by wearing their Reverse Retro jerseys that are throwbacks to their Minnesota North Star days. They got things going their way early in the game with a goal in the first period that put the Lightning on their heels slightly.

Minnesota Wild 2022-23 Reverse Retro
Minnesota Wild 2022-23 Reverse Retro (NHL/adidas)

The Wild kept things going in the second with two goals one after the other towards the halfway point of the period. The Lightning made an attempt at a comeback with a goal just a few minutes later but the Wild answered right back and retook their three-goal lead. Finally in the third, the Wild sunk an empty netter to extend their home win streak to nine straight games with a 5-1 victory.

Wild’s All-Around Offense

The Wild were fortunate enough to get scoring from all over their lineup in their win against the Lightning and while Joel Eriksson Ek didn’t have the most points he did get the scoring started with the first goal of the game for his 13th of the season. His goal wasn’t the only good thing he did against the Lightning either, he played a very defensive and disciplined style of game. Multiple times he could be seen rushing on the back check and taking the puck away from the opponent after lifting their stick.

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Eriksson Ek’s good fortune in scoring passed onto his teammates as well that included Calen Addison who had three points (1G, 2A), and Kirill Kaprizov who recorded two goals for two points. Matt Boldy was right behind them with two assists plus he played a similar defensive game to Eriksson Ek with backchecking and a lot of hustle. The final player on this list was Sam Steel, who scored the final goal of the second period for his seventh of the season plus it was his second straight game with a point. Hopefully, he can continue this production as the Wild could use more out of him while he’s on the first line.

Gustavsson Had Solid Night

It was Filip Gustavsson’s turn in the net against the Lighting and he made it a good one. He may not have secured a shutout but his 5-1 win showed he is becoming a stronger goaltender that can be relied on for more games. Against the Lightning, he faced 35 shots and let in just one for a save percentage of .971. It was his second-best performance of the season and what’s even more impressive about this win is that he was potentially sick while playing.

If Gustavsson can play that well while under the weather, it’ll be even more exciting to see how he plays when he’s feeling 100 percent. Hopefully, after this performance, the Wild will start to use him more often, once he’s fully healthy, and give Marc-André Fleury the 50/50 split he was hoping for at the start of the season.

Wild’s Special Teams Ups & Downs

The Wild’s power play continued its success as Kaprizov scored his 10th power-play goal and gave his team a strong two-goal lead at the time. Their man advantage converted on just one of three chances and the same can be said about their opponent. The Wild’s penalty kill stopped three out of four Lightning power play opportunities but the one power play goal they tallied nearly gave them the momentum to climb back into the game.

Once again the Wild took too many undisciplined penalties that could’ve given the Lightning a chance to tie the game. Four total penalties may not seem like a lot but 12 minutes sitting in the penalty box is 12 minutes without a player who could score a goal. They need to play more disciplined and stay out of the penalty box moving forward.

Next Up, the Buffalo Sabres

The Wild will head on the road this weekend to face the Buffalo Sabres for the first time this season and it’ll be their first game of a back-to-back as well. They’ll have their hands full with Tage Thompson who’s been on a scoring tear as of late, but he’s not the only one they have to worry about. They also have to keep their eyes on former Wild player Alex Tuch, plus the talented Jeff Skinner and Rasmus Dahlin.

While the Wild have to put forth a solid defensive effort they’ll also have to work just as hard offensively to get by either Craig Anderson or Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen who will be in the Sabres’ net. Both teams will be coming off recent wins but the Sabres will have the advantage of being on home ice.

The Wild had a very strong effort in their win over the Lightning but they still have a major issue to fix before it becomes too out of hand and that is their penalties. If they take a lot of penalties against the Sabres, who have the second-best power play in the NHL, they’ll be in big trouble. Hopefully, they can stay out of the box and focus on their strong offensive game and they’ll continue to win.