On a night where the number of fights stole the show, the Minnesota Wild battled hard against the Philadelphia Flyers in St. Paul on Thursday, Jan. 26. Things didn’t look good for the Wild when the Flyers scored just five minutes into the first period. However, the game took an odd turn from there with three consecutive fights that gave both teams energy they didn’t seem to have before. Three fights throughout an entire game are hardly seen anymore, but three fights on three consecutive stoppages in play are basically unheard of.
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The teams eventually settled down and the period moved along, but it ended with the Flyers still in control of the lead. The momentum flipped to the Wild’s favor in the second period when they scored early to tie things at one. There was one final fight and a number of scoring chances both ways but the period ended tied. In the third, the Wild kept up their strong play and secured their first lead of the game when they scored early again.
It looked like the Wild were going to skate away with the lead but the Flyers held on and forced their own goal to tie it at two. Neither team could find a way to score before time ran out and overtime was necessary when the Wild were able to snatch the win on a beautiful goal by Mats Zuccarello.
Wild’s Boldy Carries Team
The Wild’s newly re-signed Matt Boldy showed he’s worth every dime of his new contract as he saved his team, not just once but twice with his two goals. Both of Boldy’s goals resulted from him constantly circling in front of the net and making sure he was always open for a potential pass from his teammates. His first goal was on a pass from Marcus Foligno that he picked out of his own skates, pulled it across the top of the crease right in front of Flyers’ goaltender Carter Hart, and snuck it past him.
Boldy’s second goal was a one-timer for his seventh power-play goal of the season and 18th power-play point. Following those two goals plus an assist on the overtime winner, he now has 16 goals and 20 assists for 36 points this season. He’s just three points shy of the 49 points he accumulated during his rookie season in 2021-22. He appears to have finally found his scoring stride after going pointless in six straight; he now has points in the last four games. Hopefully Boldy can continue this run of production and help win games for his team.
Wild’s Defense Steps Up
The Wild’s defense has been under strict criticism the last few weeks due to a high number of turnovers and mistakes in front of their own net. Their recent loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning earlier this week was a prime example of this. However, against the Flyers their defense was tight and while there were still mistakes made, they were minimal compared to earlier games.
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The Wild’s defense cleared opposing players from the front of the net and made sure their sticks were tied up so they couldn’t get a shot off. They tied them up just enough to not draw a penalty, in fact, other than the fighting majors, the Wild only took three non-fighting or roughing-related penalties and their first one didn’t occur until the second period.
In their three recent losses, the Wild’s penalty kill struggled, but in their win over the Flyers, it found its way back to 100 percent. They killed off all three penalties and with the exception of the fights they kept their frustration in check to stay out of the box as much as possible. They also saw Ryan Hartman scratched for taking too many undisciplined penalties that cost their team and didn’t want to follow in his footsteps.
Wild’s Fleury Saves Team
Once again, the goaltending of Marc-André Fleury saved the day many times over the course of the game. Without his play, the Wild would not have won this game, in fact, they probably would’ve lost by a large amount. After his last performance against the Lightning on Tuesday, Jan. 24, which was a hard-fought loss, head coach Dean Evason felt Fleury earned his second consecutive start in net, the first time that had happened since the end of December.
Against the Flyers, he had some of his best numbers of the season with a save percentage of .933 and a 1.93 goals-against average. He faced 30 shots on goal and stopped 28 of them despite being crashed into numerous times throughout the game. Toward the end of regulation, he appeared somewhat shaken up after one of those collisions but managed to stay in the game and get the win in overtime. Hopefully, he can remain healthy as the Wild will continue to rely on his strong presence in the crease to help them win games.
Wild’s Next Opponent
Luckily for the Wild, they’ll be staying at home where they thrive off the crowd’s cheers when they take on the Buffalo Sabres this Saturday, Jan. 28. It’s likely that Filip Gustavsson will be in the net that night to give Fleury a break, but Gustavsson will have his work cut out for him trying to stop Tage Thompson, Rasmus Dahlin, Alex Tuch, and Jeff Skinner from scoring.
The Wild’s last meeting against the Sabres at the beginning of January didn’t go well and while their offense scored a high number of goals, they’ll have to try and do the same thing against either Craig Anderson or the goaltender they faced previously; Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. If the Wild can continue to play the way they did against the Flyers, but without the fighting, they’ll have a high chance of beating the Sabres.