Wild’s Hartman & Gustavsson Lead Way in Win Over Kings

After their seven-game homestand got off to a rough start, the Minnesota Wild finished it on a high note against the Los Angeles Kings in the midst of a snowstorm. For the third straight game, there was no scoring for either team in the first period but the Wild found the back of the net in the second. For the second game in a row, they scored under 15 seconds into the period and took the early lead. They kept it 1-0 throughout the second period and late into the third.

The Wild added another goal with just over five minutes left in the third and it looked like they had the win secured. However, the Kings answered back with just over 20 seconds left and things got intense again. Luckily the Wild were able to hang on and take their third straight win 2-1.

Wild’s Hartman Plays Hero

The past two seasons have been pretty up and down for Ryan Hartman and lately, they’ve been on the up side. Last season he was bounced around a bit before landing on the top line with Mats Zuccarello and Kirill Kaprizov on what became one of the most productive lines in the NHL. This season that changed for the worse, they weren’t producing and Hartman was pulled from the top line.

It wasn’t long after that Hartman suffered an upper-body injury and missed the next 21 games. When he returned he wasn’t put back on the top line and while he struggled to score he also struggled to stay out of the penalty box. That problem landed him a benching and the message rang loud and clear, and since that point, he’s worked on taking fewer penalties. He’s also succeeded in scoring goals, even recording his 100th and 101st of his career.

Ryan Hartman Minnesota Wild
Ryan Hartman, Minnesota Wild (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Hartman has since returned to the top line and has been greatly rewarded. He’s had four points in the past two games and against the Kings, he scored two goals, the only two the Wild scored in fact. He scored the first one on a beautiful, well-placed shot early in the second and his next goal was scored in a similar fashion from almost the same place. Hartman’s performance was key to the win and hopefully, it’ll continue.

Wild’s Gustavsson Seals Deal

While Hartman was the hero for the Wild’s offense, goaltender Filip Gustavsson was the hero for the defense. He started his third straight game and recorded his third consecutive win, he was just seconds away from having his second career shutout but was thwarted at the last second. He made 33 saves on 34 shots and had a .971 save percentage.

Gustavsson made some key saves that kept his team in the game and gave them the chance to take the win. He stood up to a lot of big shots from top Kings’ players that included keeping their leading scorer and former Wild player, Kevin Fiala off of the scoreboard. While Gustavsson did most of the heavy lifting, his defensive teammate Jared Spurgeon helped save at least one goal from going in.

At one point during the game, Gustavsson was in the process of making a big save and was moving to make another when Spurgeon got his stick in the way just in time to prevent the goal and assist his goaltender. Gustavsson has really stepped up from where he was at the beginning of the season and it looks like he’ll just continue to get better which is exactly what his team needs.

Wild Stay Away From Penalty Box

One of the biggest problems that have plagued the Wild this season has been their inability to stay out of the penalty box. While they’ve had strings of good play, they seem to always fall back into the penalty problems. In their game against the Kings they were able to stay out of the penalty box with the exception of just one infraction against Jordan Greenway for interference.

Related: Wild’s Penalty Kill Put to Work in Loss to Panthers

It’s clear the Wild play better when they limit the penalties and it seems they’re finally learning how to do that. They were able to pull out the win over the Dallas Stars on Feb. 17 despite having 12 minutes in penalties, but thankfully their penalty minutes continued to decline as the week went on and they kept accumulating wins.

Wild’s Future Opponent

It’s hard to say if Calen Addison or Sam Steel will be taken off the bench to play on Thursday, Feb. 23 when the Wild take on the Columbus Blue Jackets, but with the team’s recent success, it’s hard to believe they’ll be wanting to change anything. The one change they might make is if Marcus Foligno is able to return to the lineup after injuring his knee blocking a shot on Feb. 13 against the Florida Panthers.

The Wild will head on the road when they face the Blue Jackets on Thursday night in the first game of a back-to-back. While they’ll be on the lookout for players like Boone Jenner, Patrik Laine, and Jack Roslovic, they most likely won’t have to deal with Johnny Gaudreau who was involved in a knee-on-knee that caused him to miss the Blue Jackets’ previous two games and it’s unclear when he’ll play next.

While the Wild try to deal with the Blue Jackets’ scorers, they’ll also have to find a way past Joonas Korpisalo or Elvis Merzļikins. The Blue Jackets are a struggling team but they won’t be easy to get past, the Wild will have to continue to stay out of the penalty box and push their offense as they have been this past week. If they can do those things they’ll get past them and record another win.

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