Wild’s Penalty Struggles Continue in Loss to Golden Knights

The Minnesota Wild have been a team that seems to follow a pattern. If they score first, they do it multiple games in a row, or if they fail to get on the board first, that’ll become the trend for the next set of games. That is exactly what happened against the Vegas Golden Knights, they failed to get on the board first, just like the previous night against the Los Angeles Kings.

Minnesota Wild Celebrate
Minnesota Wild Celebrate (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Wild showed promise against the Golden Knights as they fought back multiple times and played until the final buzzer but couldn’t come up with the win. This time it wasn’t a lack of scoring that caught up with them but their penalties and lack of shots, especially on the power play. One good thing for the Wild was they got Frederick Gaudreau back in the lineup after he missed the last six games while in COVID protocols which meant Mason Shaw was pulled out of the lineup to make room.

Wild Need to Tighten Up

This game started very similarly to the night before in more than just goals scored. The Wild were careless with their penalties again, getting called for delay of game after shooting the puck over the glass for the third time in two games. They need to show more control and discipline, especially when tossing the puck against the glass. That was the first-period problem; in the second, they seemed to get back under control and focus on staying out of the box, but that came crashing down in the third. The Wild were called for two more penalties, and their penalty kill struggled.

Related: Minnesota Wild Struggle to Find Back of Net in Loss to Kings

The Wild’s penalty kill was perfect against the Kings, but things took a turn for the worst versus the Golden Knights. The Wild were without Jonas Brodin for the second night in a row, and it showed. The Golden Knights were able to score two power-play goals. In the Wild’s defense, a couple of those calls were questionable, and they can’t be called out for a penalty they didn’t really deserve, but it’s not an excuse for their play on the penalty kill. Regardless of the call, they needed to buckle down and focus on their defensive game and work to stay away from the box.

Wild Find the Net Again

After a night of being held to just one goal, the Wild’s floodgates opened again against the Golden Knights. They scored four goals from four different players. Alex Goligoski and Mats Zuccarello scored their second points in three games, while Nick Bjugstad got on the scoresheet for the first time since Nov. 28. That left Marcus Foligno, who scored his second goal in back-to-back nights.

Marcus Foligno Minnesota Wild
Marcus Foligno, Minnesota Wild (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

On the offensive side, defenseman Jared Spurgeon was another bright spot for the Wild. He didn’t score any goals, but he assisted on three of them. He was the only player on the Wild roster who tallied multiple points against the Golden Knights. Unfortunately for the Wild, Kirill Kaprizov was held pointless for the second straight night after having a streak of seven consecutive games with a point. It wasn’t for lack of trying however, he had six shots on net but couldn’t get any past Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner.

Wild’s Up/Down Power Play & Shot Totals

The Wild’s success on the power play continued against the Golden Knights as they tallied a goal while a man up. That goal made it their fifth straight game with a power-play point. That was the good side, the slightly bad side regarding the Wild’s power play was their lack of shots. This showed itself mostly against the Golden Knights. They passed and passed but almost refused to take any shots, resulting in only one goal on six opportunities. Many would be grateful for just one power-play goal in a game, but the Wild are better than that.

Robin Lehner Vegas Golden Knights
Robin Lehner, Vegas Golden Knights (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Wild’s shots in total were disappointing, they had only 27 shots on net while the Golden Knights had 36. Despite the low shot totals, they still snuck four goals past Lehner. There’s a good side note to their shots, and that was the highest number of shots in the game was during the second period, a period they’d been struggling in as of late. The Wild tend to make small improvements in one area to slip in another but nothing drastic, other than their penalty problems.

Wild Head Back Home

The Wild’s goaltending was made to look worse than it actually was. Cam Talbot was not to blame for the goals scored while he was in the net. One of them was a giveaway by the defense, and he had no time to get ready. Two others were due to the defense being outhustled to the puck, as well as one of the Golden Knights cherry-picking behind the Wild’s defense. The team also blocked just eight shots in front of Talbot compared to their regular numbers in the teens and twenties. It was a switch from the night before, where they had 27 blocked shots.

Cam Talbot Minnesota Wild
Cam Talbot, Minnesota Wild (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Thankfully for the Wild, they head home for their next three games, however, it won’t get any easier as their first opponent is the Carolina Hurricanes, another top team in the league. The Wild will need to rely on their hometown magic, stay out of the penalty box, and take shots every time they can. If they do those things, they can get back on the winning track and keep their spot in the standings.

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