The Minnesota Wild were reunited with a couple of former teammates when they took on the struggling New York Islanders last night. The former Wild players they encountered were Zach Parise and Cal Clutterbuck. Both were fan favorites in Minnesota during their tenures with the Wild – Parise was with the Wild until last season, while Clutterbuck’s last season was 2012-13. The Wild held them to zero points each as they went on to win the game 4-3.
The Wild started out strong in the first period, getting out to an early 2-0 lead before they hit a brick wall in the second. They did get an early goal from Matt Boldy, but after that it was a very hard period. In the third, they got things back on track and stole the win despite an onslaught of shots from the Islanders. Their second line was very strong, Kaapo Kahkonen stood tall in the net, and both Kirill Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala continued their point streaks.
Jon Merrill, Nick Bjugstad, and Nico Strum were joined on the injured/COVID list by Marcus Foligno, who was out with an upper-body injury he received against the New York Rangers. Thankfully for the Wild, the second line did well despite Folingo’s absence, and hopefully he’ll be back soon.
Wild’s Second Line Strikes Again
The Wild’s second line had a new addition, but it didn’t stop their success. With Foligno out of the lineup against the Islanders, Brandon Duhaime was moved up to fill his open space, and did not disappoint. He got things started when he scored the first goal of the game for his fifth of the season. The second line continued its production when Joel Eriksson Ek got on the board on the power play for the second goal of the game.
It was Eriksson Ek’s second straight power-play goal and his eighth overall on the season. He led the team in power-play goals and his linemate Foligno was right behind him in second place with four goals on the power play. He didn’t just score either, he assisted on Duhaime’s goal for two points in the game. They dominated the first period but it faded away in the second.
Wild’s Second Period Struggle
The only good to come out of the second period was Boldy’s goal and Kahkonen’s play. Boldy started the period out with his fourth goal of the season and his second point of the game – he’d already assisted on Eriksson Ek’s goal in the first. He’s played in nine games and contributed nine points, with three of those on the power play. In the last three games, he’s tallied five points. He’s played well and has continued to be one of the Wild’s best players.
After the Wild’s goal, things went downhill throughout the rest of the second period. They looked like a completely different team, playing really sloppy. They had trouble staying on their feet as well, causing several giveaways. Thankfully for the Wild, despite how they struggled, they only let one goal slip in. It was evident their defense missed Merrill, who’s been their top shot-blocker most of the season, as they were outshot 21-43 and had their lowest shot total in nearly a month. Thankfully despite the high number of shots from the Islanders, the Wild were able to hang on.
The main reason the Wild were able to stay in the second period, let alone the game, was the superior play of Kahkonen. He stood tall despite all the difficult shots he had to face. His own teammate, Matt Dumba, almost took a shot on him accidentally when he slipped as he tried to go behind the net. He faced 43 shots and saved 40 of them. The first period wasn’t much of a struggle, but in the second and third he faced 14 and 18 shots respectfully. Kahkonen saved the game for them and he should’ve been one of the stars of the game as well.
Wild’s Kaprizov Continues Dominance
Kaprizov wasn’t about to let his point streak end, as he scored near the halfway point of the third period to give the Wild a 4-2 lead. He’d already assisted on Eriksson Ek’s goal earlier in the game for his 34th assist and 51st point, tying his point total from last season. His goal went on to be the game-winner and gave him a new career-high in points at 52. He did all of this in front of his parents, who were in attendance last night and at the Rangers game on Friday, Jan. 28.
Kaprizov’s parents had to get their visa clearance in the Dominican. Told they spent 2 weeks there before flying to NY. They’ll return to Minnesota tomorrow to see Kirill’s place, stay there when #mnwild go to Chicago and go to Vegas with Kaprizov for the All-Star Game— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) January 31, 2022
His point streak would be 20 points in 11 games but due to his previous injury and the game he missed because of it, his streak does not count. Since his return from that injury, he’s on a seven-game point streak that has been equally impressive with 12 points in those seven games and five of them were multi-point games. He’s already reached 52 points with just over half the season left, which puts him on pace to record over 100 points, and a franchise first for the Wild.
Kaprizov wasn’t the only one who continued a point streak – Kevin Fiala extended his streak to 11 games when he assisted on Boldy’s goal. He’s had 14 points in the last 11 games, with three of them being multi-point games. He’s just one game away from tying the franchise leader Mikael Granlund who had a 12 game point streak back in 2017.
The Wild have one more game on the schedule before the All-Star Break that will give the team a five-day break – with the exception of Kaprizov and Cam Talbot who they’ll send to the All-Star Game. Their final game will be against the Chicago Blackhawks, and it’ll be the third time they’ve seen each other in less than a month. The Wild won both games of their back-to-back and will have to be ready for the Blackhawks, who’ll be looking to get even.
While the Wild will be coming off this win over the Islanders, the Blackhawks will be coming off a game against the Vancouver Canucks and prior to that, a loss to the Colorado Avalanche. Hopefully, the Wild’s point streak of nine games can stay intact and they can go into the All-Star break on a win.
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.