The Minnesota Wild were looking to complete the season sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes when they faced each other on Thursday, Jan. 19. The first period was quiet with a small number of shots for the Wild and while the Hurricanes had more shots, they couldn’t get past the goaltending of Marc-André Fleury. In the second period, things looked better as the Wild scored the first goal of the game just under halfway through the period but the Hurricanes had an answer just two minutes later to tie it at one.
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That was just the beginning for the Hurricanes who responded with two more goals to end the period up 3-1. The Wild’s hopes were dashed even more as the Hurricanes scored two more goals to start the third. They did resurrect some hope with a goal by Matt Boldy a few minutes later but that was all they could muster. Despite a number of chances for both sides, neither team scored and the Hurricanes took the win 5-2.
Wild’s Penalties Catch Up to Them
There’s a problem that keeps happening in nearly every single game the Wild play this season and that is their nonstop penalties. They appear to have no idea how to stay disciplined and out of the penalty box. In their game against the Hurricanes that problem was maximized 100 percent. They opened the first minute of the game with a boarding penalty against their best scorer Kirill Kaprizov. They followed that with three more, which included a 10-minute misconduct against Ryan Hartman.
They managed to pull themselves together in the second, only taking one penalty but lost it again in the third with three more. The Wild were lucky in the first period to not give up any goals while shorthanded, but they weren’t so lucky in the second and third as the Hurricanes scored a power-play goal in each period and gave their team a clear advantage.
After this game, it has to be obvious to the Wild that they need to clean up their act and keep themselves out of penalty troubles going forward. This one could’ve had a much better outcome if they’d avoided the penalty box.
Wild’s Special Teams Flip-Flop
The Wild’s power play has been struggling off and on for the last few weeks and had been held scoreless to start this recent road trip when they took on the Washington Capitals. However, they found success against the Hurricanes when Kaprizov opened the scoring on the power play; it was also his 100th career goal. While their power play showed off the scoring ability they should have in every game, it also failed when the Hurricanes scored while shorthanded.
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The Wild have had a lot of triumphs when playing a man short, but that quickly fell apart against the Hurricanes. Up until their most recent loss, their penalty kill had killed off the last 13 straight penalties. Unfortunately, it didn’t fail just once but twice in this game when their defense broke down and Fleury couldn’t make the saves. As the season wears on, the Wild will need their power play to keep scoring while their penalty kill will need to reset and get back to their perfect games. However, the biggest thing that would help is once again staying out of the penalty box.
Wild’s Spurgeon, Brodin & Eriksson Ek Grind
While Fleury’s goaltending struggled, one of their defensemen, Jared Spurgeon did all he could to help stop any potential goals. He was only credited with three blocked shots but it seemed like every time he was on the ice, he was dropping down and blocking shots. His defensive teammate Jonas Brodin was also throwing his body around to block shots as he led the team with six. The Wild’s top two defensemen did everything they could and also contributed offensively with two shots on goal each, but they couldn’t get the win.
They weren’t the only players who stepped up, Joel Eriksson Ek had a strong game with an assist, four shots on goal, and two takeaways that were a result of his constant persistence. He ground throughout the entire game and he was rewarded when he helped set up Kaprizov’s power-play goal but it didn’t stop there. He continued to play with a lot of grit and while he was physical, he managed to stay out of the penalty box and was able to help on the penalty kill.
Wild’s Next Opponent
The Wild were without Matt Dumba as he was a healthy scratch in favor of Alex Goligoski but it’s expected he’ll be back in for their next game on Saturday, Jan. 21 against the Florida Panthers. The Panthers haven’t had as great of a start as they did last season but they’re still a strong team. They made a big move to acquire Matthew Tkachuk this past summer and he’ll be the main player the Wild’s defense will have to try to stop. While Tkachuk is their leading scorer they’ll also have to watch out for Aleksander Barkov, Brandon Montour, and Carter Verhaeghe.
The Wild’s defense will be very busy but their offense may have an easier time scoring since the Panthers’ main two goaltenders are now injured. Their starter Sergei Bobrovsky was recently injured in their win over the Montréal Canadiens on Thursday evening, Jan. 19, and Spencer Knight, the Panthers’ backup was hurt just over a week ago. They’ll be relying on their third-string goaltender, Alex Lyon and the Wild will need to pepper him with shots early and often.
The Wild have to play a cleaner game if they hope to get back on the winning track, especially when it comes to their penalties. Even if they face a third-string goaltender with minimal experience, it won’t matter if they give up power play goals as they did against the Hurricanes. Hopefully, they’ll find a way to fix that part of their game and if their power play can stay successful, they’ll be able to make it past the Panthers and get their second win of the road trip.
Mariah Stark (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.