The Minnesota Wild took their road trip to the West Coast when they headed to California to take on the San Jose Sharks. While the Sharks are not having a great season, they are still a talented team that can score and made it difficult on a Wild team missing their star scorer, Kirill Kaprizov. It was their first game without Kaprizov, but they started the game out on the right foot with an early goal.
The first period went well for the Wild as they escaped with a 1-0 lead despite being outshot 18-5. The second period took a turn, however, as the Sharks answered back and tied things up at one a piece, halfway through the period. The Wild weren’t going to back down and retook the lead with just a few minutes left before the end of the second.
In the third period, the Wild found their offense as they scored to begin the period and took their first two-goal lead before the Sharks answered back to get within one again. That was the last goal the Sharks would score, however, as the Wild went on to score two more goals and secured the 5-2 win to extend their winning streak to five games.
Wild’s Special Teams Roller Coaster Is Back
Ever since the Wild got their five-on-five scoring back on track their power play became almost nonexistent. However, it had a slight bounce back when they took on the Sharks with two goals recorded on the man advantage. The first was from the Wild’s shootout specialist, Frédérick Gaudreau, and the second went to one of their power play specialists, Mats Zuccarello.
The Wild’s power play found some success, but their penalty kill, which is normally very strong, struggled immensely. The two goals the Sharks scored were both on the power play and the first goal occurred due to a bad habit the Wild developed early in the year. At the beginning of the season, the Wild struggled to cover the weak side wing on the penalty kill and it led to several bad goals. The second goal had the proper players covered but they still managed to sneak by Fleury. The Wild have to tighten things up on the penalty kill as they continue on this trip if they want to continue to win.
Wild’s “Flower” Dominates Again
Once again, one of the main storylines of this game was the Wild’s goaltender Marc-André Fleury doing what he does best and that’s making the key saves. Fleury may have let in two goals, but he also stopped 35 of 37 shots for a save percentage of .946. It’s also hard to say either of the goals scored was his fault as they were both scored on the penalty kill and the defense was caught off guard.
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While Fleury stepped up and made the important saves to give his team the chance to win, he also kept his cool in a very heated situation. During the second period, one of the Sharks players got in Fleury’s space and waved his stick right in Fleury’s face multiple times. No one would’ve blamed Fleury if he tried to retaliate and he did do some pushing, but he kept his cool and didn’t cause his team a penalty.
As I guessed at the time, seems Quinn benched Svech for this stupidity. Sharks were completely dominating, Wild scored on ensuing power play and took over the rest of the game. https://t.co/9GXl4svp1O— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) March 12, 2023
It appears that Fleury’s play improves with every game he plays and they’ll need that as they continue to play without Kaprizov. Hopefully, Fleury’s game will continue to heat up and he’ll be able to pull his team out of any tough situation they get into.
Wild’s Johansson & Klingberg Fitting In
The Wild’s newest additions are fitting in well with the lineup and already have found chemistry with their linemates. The first is Marcus Johansson who’s on his second stint with the Wild and seems to be having more success this time around. Against the Sharks, he tallied his first goal in a Wild jersey and gave his team a boost with a two-goal lead. He’s been showing off his speed in the last few games and it was just a matter of time until he found the back of the net.
Johansson’s teammate and also a new member of the Wild, John Klingberg, had a very up-and-down game. He started out with several mishaps on the blue line that allowed the Sharks a number of scoring chances with one turning into a goal. However, he nearly made up for it with two assists; the first was on the third goal and the second was on the fourth goal.
It’s great that Klingberg was able to assist on two goals, but he needs to clean up his defensive game if he wants to continue without being a healthy scratch. Players are going to have off games, but with Kaprizov, Jonas Brodin, and Brandon Duhaime out, they need Klingberg to pick up his game.
Wild’s Next Opponent
Again, the Wild will not have much time to rest as they head slightly east to take on the Arizona Coyotes in the second half of their back-to-back. The Coyotes have forced some close games against strong teams and have also come up with big wins. They won’t go quietly and the Wild have to keep an eye on their scorers Clayton Keller, Nick Schmaltz, Lawson Crouse, and Matias Maccelli.
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If the Wild’s defense can shut down the Coyotes’ scorers, their offense will have to find a way past either Ivan Prosvetov, Karel Vejmelka, or Connor Ingram. The Wild have to pounce on every scoring opportunity they have and get an early lead to throw out any momentum the Coyotes could get. If they can do those things, they have a chance to come out of this weekend with two wins.