Wild’s Defense Struggles in Second Straight Loss

The Minnesota Wild were put to work against the Florida Panthers and couldn’t contain their scoring power. They jumped on the board first, but the Panthers answered back with two straight goals to steal the lead going into the second period. They had a high number of shots in the second but couldn’t convert on any chances, and the Panthers added one more to increase their lead to 3-1.

In the third period, the Wild showed some hope, but it was quickly dashed. The Panthers started the period with another goal to give them a three-goal lead. The Wild temporarily changed the momentum in their favor after a big hit by Ryan Hartman that led to their second goal of the game and got them back within two. That would be the end of their scoring, however, as the Panthers added two empty-netters to stop them in their tracks and take the win 6-2.

Ryan Hartman Minnesota Wild
Ryan Hartman, Minnesota Wild (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

For the second straight game, the Wild struggled to get on the board, and their defense had a lot of trouble keeping the puck off the sticks of the Panthers. They were without defenseman Matt Dumba due to injury once again, and goaltender Cam Talbot got his second straight start and second consecutive loss.

Wild Have Trouble With Marchment

In the Wild’s last two losses, two players could not stop through each game. The first was Mark Scheifele, who had a hat trick in the loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday, Feb. 16. Now for the Panthers, it was Mason Marchment who also tallied a hat trick, his first ever in the NHL. Both hat tricks came against the same goaltender, Talbot. Marchment recorded his first two goals back-to-back in the first period to propel his team from down by one to up by two.

His last goal wouldn’t come until the end of the game when he scored the final goal in the empty net. It was his fifth multi-point game of the season, with three in the last five games. Of those five games, he had a career-high six points against the Columbus Blue Jackets back on Jan. 31, and that performance also earned him the top spot for most points in a game this season. He was the high scorer of the game for the Panthers, but even with the loss, the Wild’s scorers got on the board.

Wild’s Offensive Resurgence

The Wild’s star, Kirill Kaprizov got the game going with a perfect setup goal from Jared Spurgeon on the power play, it was his 23rd of the season. That goal was also the 50th of his career in his 100th game played. He recorded an assist on Mats Zuccarello’s goal in the third period for his 61st point of the season and 38th assist. That wasn’t the end of his impressive stat array, he’s had eight points in his last four games, and he also created success on the power play.

The Wild scored twice on the power play out of five possible chances, and their top unit of Kaprizov and Zuccarello was responsible for both goals. They also lead the team in power-play points, Kaprizov sits in second place with 15 points while Zuccarello has the top spot with 18 points. They each have four goals on the power play, five goals behind Joel Eriksson Ek, the team leader with nine goals.

Wild’s Defensive Struggles

It didn’t take long to see the Wild’s struggle on the defensive end of things as they had multiple giveaways that caused the Panther’s first two goals. Once they started piling on the goals, the Wild’s play became sloppy. They couldn’t connect on their passes, and the puck seemed to bounce right off their sticks. They appeared to get antsy with their play, rushing things.

Related: Wild’s Eriksson Ek Shines Despite Loss to Jets

In the future, they’ll need to learn to slow down and concentrate on their game even when they’re behind. The Panthers did a good job of shutting down every attempt the Wild had at getting things going. They also forced the Wild to commit 11 giveaways, the most they’ve had in the last five games, something they’ll need to fix before they face their next opponent on Sunday.

Wild’s Next Opponent

The Wild will head on a four-game road trip in Canada. The first opponent will be the Edmonton Oilers and Connor McDavid, who they took down 4-1 back in early December. They kept McDavid to one point while Eriksson Ek, Zuccarello, and Jonas Brodin had two points each. Talbot was in net and saved 38 shots out of 39 for a .974 save percentage.

He’s played the last two games, so it’ll be hard to say if he’ll be in net for the third game in a row or if it’ll go to Kaapo Kahkonen. Talbot had a rough game against the Panthers, but he made an impressive save in the third period that, at the time, kept his team within two goals. He slid the puck away from the goal line with his thighs that, even with the loss, deserves to be on the highlight reel.

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

If he’s in net against the Oilers, he’ll be facing a lot of shots as the Oilers are on a four-game winning streak. However, they’ll have to get past the Jets on Saturday, Feb. 19, so the Wild may be in luck. They’ll face the Oilers on the second game of a back-to-back, and the Jets play a physical game that may leave the Oilers more worn out than usual. The Wild will need to refocus and play their style of game, it worked the first time they played the Oilers, and hopefully, they can get back in the winning circle.

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