Wild’s Special Teams Lead Way in Win Over Canucks

After a rough couple of losses, the Minnesota Wild found their winning ways once again when they took on the Vancouver Canucks, on Saturday, Dec. 10, on the road in Vancouver. They started things off strong with a power play goal in the first and held off the Canucks through the rest of the period. However, in the second, things started to look like they would unravel as they were outshot 19-7 by the Canucks, took three straight penalties, and lost a lot of momentum.

Sign up for our regular 'Red Wings Newsletter' for all the latest.

Thankfully, they held on and actually scored a goal toward the end of the second period to extend their lead to 2-0. The third period has been the point where the Wild have had trouble hanging on in their last few games, but this time, they were able to stay strong. They buckled down, stayed disciplined, and didn’t take any penalties plus they added one more goal to get to 3-0 and secure their first win in the last three games.

Wild’s Special Teams Shine

The Wild’s power play started the season out strong and then went quiet for a stretch of games but it has found success once again. Matt Boldy found the back of the net for the first time in nearly two weeks and it was on the power play. He got things going for his team and his goal ended up being counted as his second game-winner of the season.

While Boldy was busy on the power play, Connor Dewar was successful once again on the penalty kill. He scored his third shorthanded goal of the season after converting on a breakaway and he now sits tied for the most shorthanded goals in the NHL. While the Wild have been taking too many penalties this season, they’re very lucky Dewar has found his scoring touch while a man down.

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

Dewar’s goal came at a very crucial time during the second period when the Wild were being outshot and seemed to be losing momentum. Once he scored his goal it turned things around and they were able to get back on track for the rest of the game.

Wild’s Gustavsson Gets Shutout

While the Wild got their second shutout of the season, their goaltender Filip Gustavsson got his first of the season and the first of his career. He stopped all 35 shots the Canucks threw at him, which included some very acrobatic moves and truly showed how much he’s improved over the last month or so. He struggled quite a bit at the start of the season, but he’s clearly worked hard and it showed in their last few games with his record of 4-1 in his last five starts.

Related: Wild’s Goaltender Rotation Changes with Gustavsson Acquisition

Latest News & Highlights

After Gustavsson’s performance against the Canucks, it wouldn’t be surprising if they start to use him in more games. Before the season started, Fleury was expecting to have a 50/50 split with Cam Talbot, but obviously, after Talbot’s departure, that plan went out the window. However, as Gustavsson improves, that plan may come back into play especially if Fleury needs a break and Gustavsson keeps playing well. It’s great news that the Wild are starting to have two goalies to rely on instead of just one.

Wild’s Sammy Walker Debut

The Wild had their first “rookie lap” of the season and it was by Minnesota native Sammy Walker. While many rookies show some nerves in their first game or two, Walker looked like a five-year veteran with very minimal nerves showing and hardly any mistakes in his first game. He currently leads the American Hockey League in points for rookies and he showed that talent against the Canucks.

While Walker wasn’t able to put any points or shots on the board, his effort is what made all the difference. He was put on the second line with Boldy and Frédérick Gaudreau and it looked like he’d been playing there all season. He immediately clicked with his linemates and was hustling all game. If he can keep that up in their next game, the Wild will have a tough decision to make on who to send back down to the Iowa Wild.

Wild’s Next Game

The Wild’s next game will be against a familiar opponent and it will be the third time in less than two weeks they’ve seen the Edmonton Oilers. So far, the series is split evenly 1-1 and this will be the third and final meeting of the regular season. Thankfully for the Wild, it’s back at home. Clearly, their most recent game didn’t end well with a 5-2 loss, but hopefully, they learned a few things and will come out on top in this next game.

They made a mistake in their last meeting when they let Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins get on the scoreboard. They’ll have to double down their defense on those players while also trying to figure out a way past the Oilers goaltending. They found a couple of ways past goaltender Stuart Skinner, but in the end, he got the win.

The Wild will also be at a slight disadvantage when it comes to fatigue, while they played the Canucks, the Oilers were off and had two days off compared to the Wild’s one day off. Hopefully, they won’t be too tired and can use both their loss to the Oilers and their win over the Canucks as motivation to get past the Oilers at home on Monday, Dec. 12 to get their second win in a row.