The Minnesota Wild faced the best team in the NHL, the Colorado Avalanche in the second game of their back-to-back on Sunday evening. It was the first time they’d faced them in St. Paul this season with their previous two games held in Denver. The game was back and forth action with no scoring until the second period. The Wild got things started for the second consecutive game and went into the third period with the lead.
After some skirmishes, the Avalanche found a way to get past Cam Talbot and tied the game with more than half the period to go. The momentum continued to swing in their direction as they took the lead for the first time a few minutes later. The Wild wouldn’t go down easy as they found a way to tie it up and go to overtime for the third straight game. It took them only 15 seconds to get past Avalanche goaltender Darcy Kuemper on the power play to win 3-2 and record their 40th win of the season.
It was the first time newcomer Tyson Jost faced his old team and Nico Sturm, the other piece in the trade, was also on the ice to face his former team, the Wild. The defensive rotation also continued, but this time it was Alex Goligoski who sat out while Jon Merrill and Dmitry Kulikov were back in. The win was the Wild’s sixth consecutive and first over the Avalanche this season.
Wild Need to Watch Their Physicality
While well-timed, clean hits are a great addition to any team’s game, the Wild need to be careful when it comes to the level of their physicality. They’ve had a couple of players who’ve been heavy hitters all season, Marcus Foligno and Jordan Greenway. Now they’ve added two more to that list in Jake Middleton and Nicolas Deslauriers.
They’ve already made an impression on the lineup with quite a few big hits to the point the rest of the team has tried to keep up with them. Players like Jonas Brodin and Brandon Duhaime have stepped up their physical game to match their teammates as of late. However, it can sometimes get them into trouble as it did against the Avalanche on Sunday.
After both Matt Dumba and Nathan Mackinnon ended up in the penalty box for fighting, the Avalanche took advantage of the change in momentum and tied the game. Thankfully after getting down by one, the Wild found their game and focused more on shooting instead of hitting to climb back into it.
Wild’s Talbot Saves Game
Talbot has faced some adversity the last couple of months but in the last couple of weeks, he’s been on fire. He kept it up against the Avalanche when he faced 42 shots on goal and stopped all but two. His save percentage increased to .952 while his goals-against average was his steady 2.00. His game had been improving, but once the Wild gained Marc-André Fleury, Talbot had to elevate his play even further. If Sunday’s game is any indication, he already has.
He saved his team multiple times which included stopping two Avalanche players that made it past the defense and had a clear path to the net. Had this been two months ago, he probably wouldn’t have stopped it. After Fleury’s first night in net, the Wild look to have a solid goalie tandem going into the last month of regular season play.
Wild’s Power Play Strong
Two of the Wild’s three goals were on the power play. Kirill Kaprizov got things started with the first goal of the game for the second straight time and on the power play. It was also the third straight game that Kaprizov got the Wild’s first goal. The overtime winner by Kevin Fiala was also on the power play and was the second consecutive time they won in overtime on the man advantage. It appears the Wild have figured out how to score on the power play, by shooting more.
One thing they need to remember is to stay calm when they’re a man-up and not let the shorthanded team dictate the play. They got a little sloppy with their passes and that’s how they gave the Avalanche a shorthanded chance that thankfully Talbot was ready for. Their penalty kill was perfect against the Blue Jackets but it took a slight step back against the Avalanche. Luckily, they only scored once while a man-up, and the Wild’s penalty kill looked good apart from that one mistake as their defense stepped up and played well.
Wild’s Honorable Mention
The fourth line has done well behind the scenes and should get recognition here and there. Since it was pieced together under a week ago, they’ve already made a name for themselves. Deslauriers, Duhaime, and Jost have been a physical line but also a scoring one. Deslauriers scored in his first game with the Wild and since then, he has been an electric presence to the rest of the lineup. His linemates feed off that energy and work hard to match it, they deserve to be noticed.
Wild Face Flyers
The Wild’s next opponent will be the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night at home. The last time these two played was at the beginning of the month when they were on a quick back-to-back out east. The Wild were in the middle of a losing streak but they were able to sneak out a 5-4 win against the Flyers.
This time around the Flyers will be looking to avenge their loss and they’ll be coming off a hard-fought 5-4 loss to the Nashville Predators. In their last meetup, the Wild were scored on by Scott Laughton, Patrick Brown, Travis Konecny, and James van Riemsdyk, so they’ll have to be on the lookout for those guys again plus their top-scorer Cam Atkinson.
The last time they met Talbot was in net for the Wild while Carter Hart was in net for the Flyers. It’ll more than likely be Hart in net again but they also have Martin Jones, who’s filled in from time to time this season, including their most recent loss to the Predators. The Flyers are a struggling team and the Wild will have to be prepared for them to play a hard game.
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.