Wild’s Special Teams Continue Decline in Loss to Stars

The Minnesota Wild started their game against the Dallas Stars with the most energy they’ve had in a long time. It was a very entertaining game from start to finish with a slight lull in the middle. They began the game with a goal halfway through the first period to give them the lead for the first time since their game against the Calgary Flames on Saturday, Feb. 26.

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The Wild couldn’t hold the lead however as the Stars snuck in a goal with three seconds to go in the opening period. That led the way for them to score three straight goals in the second and deflate the Wild’s energy. In the third period, momentum switched back to their side of things with two back-to-back goals by Kirill Kaprizov to get them back within a goal. The Stars finally found the empty net and crushed the Wild’s comeback with two empty-net goals to win the game 6-3.

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

Matt Dumba was back in the lineup after missing the last 10 games with a lower-body injury. His energy level was a major motivator at the beginning of the game. Mats Zuccarello was also back from missing the last game with an undisclosed injury and he, like Dumba, carried a lot of energy that created a lot of opportunities. That left Jordan Greenway still out of the lineup as he was placed on injured reserve for the time being.

Wild’s Loss Not on Goaltender’s Shoulders

Kaapo Kahkonen started the game for the Wild but he was pulled in the second period after Jason Robertson’s second goal and fourth for the Stars. Cam Talbot came into the game and stopped all three shots he faced in the last half of the second period and just over half of the third period before head coach Dean Evason pulled him for the extra skater.

Related: Wild’s Kahkonen has Strong Game Despite Loss to Sabres

Kahkonen can’t be blamed for the loss; he had some exceptional saves before being pulled. On the first goal, he was knocked down by his own teammate and couldn’t make the save and on the third goal he was interfered with and wasn’t able to get back into position. On the other hand, the second and fourth goals rolled right past him when he thought he had stopped them.

Kahkonen’s stats were dealt a blow once again. He faced 21 shots and stopped 17 of them for a rough save percentage (SV%) of .810 and a goals-against average (GAA) of 8.04. Hopefully, he can build off the great saves he made despite the loss and come back stronger. Talbot didn’t face many shots but he kept his team in the game in order for them to have a chance at a comeback.

Wild’s Penalty Kill Landslide Continues

The penalty kill for the Wild can’t catch a break, as they let in two more goals while shorthanded. Even with Dumba back, they couldn’t keep the Stars from scoring on the power play. Once again, while on the penalty kill, the defense let a forward slip to the corner of the net, and they scored. The second power-play goal was scored in that fashion while the first was a lucky bounce.

Out of four chances, the Wild couldn’t convert on the power play either. Even though they had 35 shots on goal, that was the main reason they couldn’t score on the power play. They didn’t shoot enough, they focused more on passing the puck and tried to make the cute plays rather than just taking the initial shot. Most of the time, it ended up with the puck being turned over.

Wild Have Hope

The Wild showed they can get on the board early but they also proved they’re capable of a comeback. They’ve climbed back in the last three games they’ve played, two of them were losses but they showed their ability to not give up. This time instead of running out of time, the Stars scored empty-net goals to finish the game.

Even when they were down by three goals they continued to fight. The empty net served as an additional motivator to get them to that next level of compete. They need to find a way to keep that going throughout the whole game, every game.

Wild Face Rangers

The Wild will remain at home for their next game that will take place against the New York Rangers on Tuesday. The last time these two played it was Henrik Lundqvist’s jersey retirement and the Wild stole the win after getting down early. The Rangers will be coming off a dominating win over the Winnipeg Jets and their third victory in a row. The goaltending situation for the Wild is up in the air again but more than likely it’ll be Talbot in the net, as he appears to have a slightly better game as of now. He’ll be facing the scoring powers of Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Adam Fox, and Chris Kreider.

Artemi Panarin New York Rangers
Artemi Panarin, New York Rangers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Wild will also be facing one of the hottest goaltenders in the NHL in Igor Shesterkin. He’s played in 37 games and has an impressive .942 SV% and a 1.93 GAA. The Rangers are a strong team and the Wild will need to find the energy they had at the beginning of their game against the Stars. If they can do that, they have a shot at beating them.