The Minnesota Wild looked to continue their winning streak when they took on the Vancouver Canucks in the middle of their lengthy homestand Thursday evening. They got down early in the first period but stormed back to tie it before the period ended. The Wild came out strong in the second and recorded the only goal of the period to take the lead until the third. The Canucks weren’t counted out yet, they tied it up and it was a fight to the finish.
It required overtime to determine a winner and the Wild scored 31 seconds in to steal the win. It wasn’t an easy 30 seconds, there were a couple of close calls that included a ringer off the pipe for the Canucks before the Wild tore off on a breakaway for the final goal of the game.
The Wild got the win and also saw the debut of their newest blueliner Jake Middleton. He had a good first game with two shots on goal, two hits, a blocked shot, and a takeaway. He was partnered with Jared Spurgeon and it took a few shifts to get their chemistry working, but by the end, they figured it out.
Wild’s Scorers Take it All
The Wild got down early but Kirill Kaprizov tied it up on the Wild’s first shot of the game, for his 33rd goal of the season. He recorded his second point of the night when he assisted on the game-winner by Joel Eriksson Ek. Kaprizov now has 78 points in 61 games and is a mere six points away from setting a record for most points among Wild players. It was also his 22nd multi-point game of the season.
Their second goal was tallied by Kevin Fiala, his first goal in six games. It was his 21st goal and 56th point of the season as he continued to add points to his already career-high numbers. Last week against the Chicago Blackhawks, he tallied his 55th point of the season, breaking his old career-high of 54 points set two seasons ago. Along with his goal, he had four shots on net that left him right behind Eriksson Ek and Kaprizov with five each and the leader Matt Dumba who had six.
That left the game-winner in overtime by Eriksson Ek, it was his third game-winning goal of the season. The goal was his 19th and his 33rd point of the season. Along with his five shots on net, he had four hits, the second-highest on the team. He’s been rather quiet in the points department lately, so hopefully, this goal can spark some offensive power for him moving forward.
Wild’s Second Period Improved
The Wild have struggled off and on all season to have good performances in the second period. Their win over the Boston Bruins almost didn’t happen because they let up in the middle frame. Thankfully against the Canucks, they held their momentum and played some of their best hockey in the second period. They kept up their energy and didn’t flatten out.
They outshot the Canucks throughout the entire game including the second period. They also kept the penalties to a minimum. The Wild had two penalties in the first and third periods but only one in the second. The goal they scored in the second period was the first they had in four games and will hopefully continue.
Wild’s Special Teams Struggle
The second half of the season for the Wild has been a major struggle in regards to their special teams. Their power play has had some success but their penalty kill hit some roadblocks. Lately, the roles have been switched until they faced the Canucks. They had strung together two straight games without a power play goal against but they let one in last night.
Their power play is now on its third consecutive game without a goal. It’s hard to believe they haven’t been more successful while a man up. They have some of the best scorers in the league and both power-play units have players that can score but for some reason, the other team is able to shut it down. The Wild need to figure out their special teams problems before the postseason.
Wild’s Goaltending Saga
It was not Marc-André Fleury’s net yet; Cam Talbot got the start and recorded his sixth consecutive win. He had a goals-against-average of 1.99 and a save percentage of .929, some of the best numbers he’s had lately. Since they’ll have a back-to-back over the weekend, it’ll most likely be Fleury’s turn in their next game on Saturday evening.
It’ll be interesting to see how this goalie tandem works out. They’re both capable starters and hopefully, they’ll push each other to play better through competitiveness. They’ll each want the starting job so they’ll both be playing their best hockey, something the Wild really need out of their goaltenders at this point in the season.
Wild Face Blue Jackets
The Wild will face the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first of their back-to-back games at home. They were handed a tough shootout loss the last time they met a couple of weeks ago. The game will be the second of a back-to-back for the Jackets with their first game coming against the Winnipeg Jets.
In their last meetup, the Wild were victimized by Yegor Chinakhov and Zach Werenski, Chinakhov also had the game-winner in the shootout. However, they’ll have to be on the lookout for Patrik Laine, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Jakub Voracek, and Boone Jenner. While Fleury will probably be in net and can handle the scoring power, the Wild will have to try to get by Elvis Merzlikins who has been in net for the Blue Jackets most of the season.
The Wild will be looking for their fifth straight win and need every point they can get as the postseason gets closer. They have 21 games left and sit one point out of second place in the Central Division. They need to start putting distance between them and the teams right behind them to try and secure home-ice advantage in the playoffs.
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.