The Minnesota Wild played a rollercoaster of a game against the Calgary Flames and ended their Canadian road trip on a low note. The Flames have had a successful month, and it clearly showed in their dominant win. The Wild got out to an early start with a goal under two minutes into the first period, and it was the only lead they’d have as the Flames woke up in the middle of the first and went on a scoring rampage.
They scored three straight to end the first up 3-1 after being down 1-0 to start. The second period didn’t go any better as the Flames added two more goals and kept the Wild to their single goal. The third period gave them new life as they got on the board with two straight to trail the Flames 5-3. They got on a roll but it stopped as quickly as it started. After the Wild’s two goals, the Flames answered right back with two more of their own to take the game 7-3.
Unfortunately, quite a bit went wrong for the Wild, and they struggled all game. They struggled in the penalty area as well as their penalty kill. Their scorers played decently but couldn’t get anything past Flames goaltender Jacob Markström. They had some bright spots with Nick Bjugstad as well as the second line, but it was mostly a struggle. Being without Jordan Greenway and Matt Dumba made it more difficult for the Wild to have a physical presence on the ice, and that was something they needed against a tough Flames team.
Wild Struggle with Physicality
The main reason the Wild seemed to have trouble was the number of hits the Flames threw at them. It seemed at every turn they were getting hit by a Flames player. The Wild had 15 hits while the Flames had 29. Kirill Kaprizov was the main victim of this. He even served two penalties because of all the physicality. He was constantly followed, hooked, held, and many other things that pushed him to the brink, and he retaliated. He did get revenge late in the game when he scored the third goal for the Wild that gave them hope.
With Kaprizov included, they had trouble staying out of the penalty box. They served 16 minutes in penalties, with two players being the main culprits. Kaprizov was one while Brandon Duhaime was the other. Due to those penalties, the Wild suffered on the penalty kill as well. The Flames found the net while on the power play twice in five opportunities. The Wild’s penalty kill has struggled this season on and off, and it continued against the Flames. Hopefully, the Wild can figure out their issues and get back to a solid penalty kill.
Wild Offensive & Defensive Goaltending Issues
There were a number of things that went into solving Markström, and the Wild couldn’t do any. The main problem was the lack of shots. They had 25 shots and scored on three of them. The real puzzle was how they didn’t score more. The Flames blocked only four shots on net and had 10 giveaways that the Wild were unable to capitalize on.
Every shot they threw at Markstrom, he stopped, unlike the Flames against Kaapo Kahkonen. For the first time in nearly a month, Kahkonen had a hard game. He faced 33 shots and stopped 28 of them for a .848 save percentage and a 5.30 goals-against average. Those stats were some of the lowest he’s had all season.
He was in the net when they lost against the Toronto Maple Leafs a few days earlier, but he didn’t deserve the blame. This game was partially Kahkonen and partially his defense having problems. He gave up a lot of big rebounds that the Flames were able to force past him. Both of the Wild goaltenders have now had back-to-back losses, they need to figure out their problems before this losing streak becomes unstoppable.
Wild’s Couple Bright Spots
Despite it being the third loss in a row, the Wild did have a couple of things that were good and will need to be focused on going forward. The first item was the second line stepping up again. Frederick Gaudreau had his second straight game with a goal while Kevin Fiala tallied an assist and his fourth straight game with a point.
The second item was Matt Boldy and Nick Bjugstad’s hustle. Boldy had a number of great chances, and he never gave up. The level of play made his linemates push to be better. The same could be said about Bjugstad. Ever since his return from injury, he’s played well. These may be small things, but the Wild can build off of them to try and improve their play.
Wild’s Next Opponent
It would be great to say the Wild don’t have to see the Flames for a couple of weeks, but that isn’t the case. They’ll face the Flames once again right away on Monday, Feb. 28. Thankfully, they’ll be on home ice that can hopefully help solve some of their problems and get them to play better. Regardless, the Wild need to step up every aspect of their game and play like they did against the Edmonton Oilers last week.
The other thing they need to do is learn and move on quickly from this loss. They’re capable of playing better, and they have the talent. It’s getting closer to the end of the season. Every win counts, and the Wild need to get back on the winning track quickly.
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.