3 Takeaways from the Wild’s Shootout Loss to Avalanche – 1/17/22

Despite some remarkable resilience from the Minnesota Wild, the Colorado Avalanche escaped Monday afternoon with a 4-3 shootout victory. There is a lot to dissect from this game. The teams have had no shortage of drama in recent years, and Monday was no different. Here’s a look at some of the biggest takeaways from this thrilling matchup.

Slow Start Haunts Wild

The Wild were the better team through the final 40 minutes of regulation, outshooting the Avalanche 28-19, including many high-danger chances. However, they weren’t ready to start the game, and it cost them as the Avalanche jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period.

Minnesota should know what happens when you give the Avalanche time and space. They’ve played the Avs three times already this season and were part of their division during the shortened 2020-21 season. The 16-8 shot advantage in the first period doesn’t even paint the whole picture. The Avalanche were quicker to every loose puck, made crisper passes and were more physical on the puck. Kaapo Kähkönen did all he could to keep his team in the game, in what could have been a much more lopsided score than 2-0 to start the second. He has been solid in net while starter Cam Talbot recovers from a lower-body injury.

Kaapo Kähkönen Minnesota Wild
Kaapo Kähkönen, Minnesota Wild (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Overall, the Wild should consider themselves lucky to have earned a point in this one. Few teams can allow the high-scoring Avs that much time with the puck in a period and still have a chance to win. The Wild could have earned two points if they had played the first period as they did in the final 40 minutes.

Related: Wild’s Season Depends on Kähkönen Finding His Game

Fiala Scores No. 100

The 2021-22 season hasn’t been the smoothest for winger Kevin Fiala. A pending restricted free agent (RFA) after this season, he has seen his ice time decrease every month as he struggled to find his offensive game. However, things have started to turn around for him. He now has points in six straight games, including his goal early in the second period against Colorado was his 100th.

Fiala is at his best when he keeps his feet moving when he has the puck, which he did on this goal. He received a pass from Matthew Boldy, dropped the shoulder, skated around Samuel Girard, and scored on an incredible backhand past goaltender Darcy Kuemper. He wasn’t doing that in October and November, but he has regained his form early in 2022. He’s also shooting more, with five shots in this game and 19 in his past five games. In the last six games of 2021, he only had 13 shots total.

Kevin Fiala Minnesota Wild
Kevin Fiala, Minnesota Wild (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Fiala is having the most crucial season of his career; he’s working to prove to general manager Bill Guerin that he deserves a significant, long-term commitment this offseason, and if he continues to play as he has lately, he could earn a nice payday. Thanks to his goal against the Avs, his list of accomplishments now includes 100 career NHL goals before he turned 26.

Kaprizov Continues Extra-Skater Magic

Here’s a crazy stat: the Wild have scored more goals with their net empty than any other team in the NHL this season. They’ve scored 11 times with their goalie watching from the bench. The next closest team is the Tampa Bay Lightning, who have scored eight times. However, the Lightning have allowed 10 goals on their empty net, while the Wild have only allowed six.

Only seven teams in the NHL have a positive differential with their goalie on the bench. Last season, only four teams had a positive differential; the Wild were one of them, scoring five and allowing four.

The Wild again pulled off some late-game magic, as Kirill Kaprizov found some open space in front of the Avalanche net and banged home a rebound off a shot from Mats Zuccarello to tie the game 3-3 with 2:51 remaining in regulation. Could they just be lucky? It’s possible, but opponents must also know that the Wild are a force with six skaters on the ice. At the end of the season, the Wild will recognize how many points they earned by scoring late to force overtime.

Kirill Kaprizov Minnesota Wild Winter Classic
Kirill Kaprizov, Minnesota Wild Winter Classic (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

However, Minnesota will be disappointed that they left Colorado with only one point, especially after a controversial third goal by the Avs that was allowed after review, despite not seeing the puck cross the line. It’s still a big point, as they try to climb back into the top three in the Central Division. They will now prepare for a home-and-home series on Friday and Saturday versus the Chicago Blackhawks.

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