The Minnesota Wild wasted no time in the beginning minutes of their game against the Edmonton Oilers. They jumped to a three-goal lead seven minutes into the first period and kept the pressure on. They added another goal before the Oilers answered back to end the period 4-1. The scoring continued into the second period, as the Wild scored twice while the Oilers added one to end the period 6-2. Both teams scored another goal in the final period, and the Wild took the win, 7-3.
The Wild switched goaltenders around with Kaapo Kahkonen in the net instead of Cam Talbot. They also had Nick Bjugstad back in the lineup for the first time in nearly two months after a finger injury. He wasn’t the only player they added to the lineup, defenseman Calen Addison rejoined the team after Dakota Mermis and Victor Rask were assigned to the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League. Matt Dumba was still out of the lineup due to injury, and it appears he’ll be out for some time.
Wild’s Fourth Line Earned the Limelight
The fourth line of Brandon Duhaime, Nick Bjugstad, and Connor Dewar were scoring machines against the Oilers. It was Bjugstad’s first game back after missing the last 15, and he didn’t miss a beat. He assisted on the first goal of the game by Duhaime that opened up the floodgates. Their team scored three more goals, but the fourth line didn’t score again until the second period.
Similar to the first period, the fourth line got the scoring started in the second period as well. Dewar got his second goal of the season while Bjugstad got both his second assist and second point of the game, plus it was his first multi-point game of the season. The fourth line hasn’t contributed many points this season, but they were the stars against the Oilers, and they weren’t the only players who had success.
Wild’s Entire Lineup Contributes
It wasn’t just the fourth line who had success in the scoring department, 12 different players on the Wild’s lineup tallied points, including 10 out of the 12 forwards. Joel Eriksson Ek scored his 10th power-play goal of the season. Kevin Fiala scored back-to-back goals for his 15th and 16th goals of the season and his 11th multi-point game.
While Dewar and Duhaime had good games, so did fellow rookie Matt Boldy. He’s played in 16 games and tallied 16 points to lead Wild rookies. Their top line wasn’t to be left out either, both Ryan Hartman and Kirill Kaprizov tallied a single point each, while Mats Zuccarello recorded two points. He assisted on Eriksson Ek’s goal and tallied a goal of his own.
It was Zuccarello’s 17th goal and 52nd point of the season, and he’s just 10 points away from beating his career-high of 61 points. Other than the wide variety of scorers, the other impressive stat from the Wild’s win was the low number of shots. They recorded seven goals on 22 shots for a 31.8 shot percentage, the highest of the season. Duhaime had one shot and tallied a goal for 100 percent shooting percentage. While the offense had a strong game, so did the defense.
Wild’s Defense Improves
After having a couple of rocky games due to lineup switches, the Wild’s defense looked more comfortable with each other. The top pairing of Jared Spurgeon and Alex Goligoski was back together, and they hit it off. The other pairings, Jonas Brodin with Dmitry Kulikov and Calen Addison with Jon Merrill, also did well. Brodin had four blocked shots and tied for his highest of the season. While the defensive pairings did well, there was one defensive area the Wild struggled in.
The one negative of the entire game was the Wild’s penalty kill that suffered a bit as they let in one goal. Thankfully out of the three opportunities the Oilers had, they only tallied the one power-play goal. It was the sixth consecutive game the Wild let in a goal while shorthanded. Their overall penalty kill percentage has taken a hit as well. They’ve dropped to 23rd in the league at 79.8%. It hasn’t become a hindrance yet, but if they keep this up, they’ll start to let in more goals, and their overall game will struggle.
Wild Head Across Canada
The Wild’s four-game trip in Canada has begun, and their next opponent will be the Ottawa Senators. The Wild will be coming off this strong win while the Senators will be coming off two straight losses, but they were both close one-goal games. Their leading scorer Brady Tkachuk was held pointless in their last two losses, but he’ll be looking to get back on the scoreboard.
Like the Wild, the Senators have two goalies they’ve relied on throughout the season. Anton Forsberg has the slightly better record and will probably be in net to face the Wild. He’s played 23 games with a record of 10-8-2 and an overall save percentage of .916. The first meeting between these two teams was on Nov. 2, when the Wild came out with a 5-4 win in overtime on their home ice. Marcus Foligno had two goals in the game while Nico Strum and Addison tallied one goal each, it was also Addison’s first NHL goal. Kaprizov scored the game-winner, and Cam Talbot was in goal.
Hopefully, the Wild didn’t use up all their scoring power against Edmonton and can come out strong against the Senators. Their defense found pairings that worked, and Kahkonen was strong in the net. The Wild had rotated goaltenders, but Talbot had the last two starts before winning over Edmonton. They may play Talbot against the Senators so that Kahkonen would get the next start against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Since Kahkonen’s been the hot goalie, it would make sense for them to have him go against the Maple Leafs. Whoever’s in the net, the Wild will have to play strong in front of him to achieve their second straight win.
Mariah Holland is a contributing Minnesota Wild writer for THW. She’s been covering the Wild at THW since October of 2020 and specializes in game takeaways and weekly check-ins. She is always looking for different angles to cover the Wild and dig deeper into the stories surrounding the team to help fans connect on a more personal level and to keep an eye on the latest follow her on Twitter @MariahEStark.