Wild Weather the Hurricanes in OT Led by Steel & Goligoski

On a night that was full of pregame festivities with a presentation for Hockey Fights Cancer as well as honoring Minnesota native Alex Goligoski for his 1,000th game played back on Oct. 19, the Wild started things out slow against the Carolina Hurricanes. They began the game in typical fashion with the Hurricanes scoring the first goal of the game in the opening half of the first period and that put them on their heels a bit.

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The Wild seemed very fatigued and lost as the game went on; they did have a number of decent chances but couldn’t convert and let the Hurricanes skate around them. The score stayed 1-0 through the second and looked that way through most of the third until just under three minutes to play and the Wild found the comeback moment they were looking for as they tied it up. They played strong to finish out regulation and headed to overtime where they stole the show and took the win 2-1.

Wild’s Goligoski Makes Comeback

It’s been a tough season so far for Goligoski who’s played just six games this season, and while it was understandable that he’d be the odd defenseman out for most of the season, he made it clear in his first game back after nearly two weeks off that he wants that roster spot back. He played aggressively and forced his way into the offensive zone to give himself a chance to score multiple times.

Alex Goligoski Minnesota Wild
Alex Goligoski, Minnesota Wild (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Goligoski may be 37 years old but he showed he can still keep up with the best of them, including Sebastian Aho who fell victim to him in overtime. Goligoski started out in his defensive zone, made the play to get the puck up ice to Frédérick Gaudreau who passed it to Sam Steel who then made a beautiful chip pass in front of the Hurricanes net to Goligoski who’d busted his butt to get to the other end of the ice in time and scored the game-winner. It was the perfect ending to an emotional night for Goligoski and hopefully, he’s able to keep this magic going and play again in their next game on Wednesday.

Wild’s Steel Steals the Show

Goligoski got the game-winner but another player contributed to both that goal and the one that got them there in the first place. That player was Steel, who had a very strong night playing center on the top line between Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello. While Gaudreau was a good fit on the top line, it was time to change things up and it worked out well for all three players involved. Steel’s speed made it possible for him to keep up with Kaprizov and Zuccarello, plus he seemed to help motivate them at times as well.

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Steel has been struggling most of the season to find his scoring touch and after taking on the Hurricanes, he may have finally found it. After the Wild’s struggle to find the back of the net throughout the game, Steel found a way past Pyotr Kochetkov to tie the game and get a point for his team. He didn’t stop there, however, as he went on to help set up the game-winner in overtime to end the night with two points.

Wild’s Minor Tweaks to Make

As great as this win was for the Wild, the game wasn’t all great things. They have a number of things to improve on to keep winning games. The first item on their list to fix is their too-many men on-the-ice penalties, which they’ve been taking too many of lately. Normally that type of penalty will happen once in a great while, especially for NHL teams who are supposed to know who’s on the ice and when. The Wild, however, have been really struggling with this lately due to miscommunication and not paying attention.

The Wild have to communicate better and get those penalties under control or they will continue to struggle. The next issue after their penalty problem was how fatigued they looked at the end of the first and most of the second periods. The Wild chased the Hurricanes through most of the game and really struggled to keep up their fast pace. Thankfully, their goaltending was able to keep up and kept them within one through the game when the defense lacked the speed to help out.

It’s hard to say how they can fix the fatigue problem other than more conditioning or getting their injured players like Ryan Hartman and Jordan Greenway back in the lineup to take some pressure off other players. The final issue deals with a player being sat and once again that was Marco Rossi. He was a healthy scratch against the Hurricanes, and while they got by without him, it would be good to have him back again. He has struggled a bit lately, but it’s still very early, and while he was the odd forward out this time, they can’t continue to sit him; he needs to play.

Wild Face Jets

The Wild will take on division rival the Winnipeg Jets for the first time this season on Wednesday, Nov. 23. They’ll have some changes to their lineup that include possibly keeping Goligoski in the lineup since he had such a great night in his first game back. They also put Tyson Jost on waivers and he was picked up by the Buffalo Sabres, and while that is mixed news for some, there is also some good news for the Wild that Greenway may be back in one of these games.

The Jets will be a tough team to get past; they’re another team that always plays the Wild rough and difficult. They’ll have their hands full trying to keep Josh Morrissey, Kyle Connor, Marc Scheifele, and Pierre-Luc Dubois off the scoreboard, especially Connor who’s been known to score against the Wild in the past.

On the flip side, the Wild’s offense will need to find a way past the Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck who continues to be one of the strongest goalies in the league. Hopefully, now that the Wild have a strong hard fought win under their belt, they’ll be able to carry that momentum and do it again.