After a disappointing 6-5 loss in overtime to the St. Louis Blues that followed a momentous comeback, the Minnesota Wild were looking to get things back on track when they took on the San Jose Sharks. It was the second game of a back-to-back and they were at home where they’ve proven to be the most comfortable. They got things started early with two goals back-to-back in the first period, both by defensemen. The Sharks answered back with a goal that clearly frustrated Wild goaltender Marc-André Fleury and it stayed 2-1 through the rest of the period.
The Wild carried the lead into the second, but it lasted barely a minute and a half before the Sharks responded to tie the game up at two. The scoring continued through the period as the Wild got the go-ahead goal only for the Sharks to tie it back up a little later. The third came and for the first time all evening, the Sharks took the lead 4-3. They held it for about seven minutes before the Wild came back to tie it. Again, the period ended in a tie and they went to their second straight overtime game. This time, however, they came out on top with the win and a playoff spot clinched for the ninth time in the last 10 seasons.
They secured the victory even with a shifted lineup due to injuries. Jon Merrill and Tyson Jost were out but are listed as day-to-day and hopefully will return for their next game. The worst news was Jordan Greenway and Matt Dumba remained out but are listed as week-to-week and it’s unknown when they will return. With Jost out, Connor Dewar was inserted back into the lineup and he played on the fourth line while Nick Bjugstad bumped up to Greenway’s spot.
Wild’s Defensemen Have Big Night
The Wild got out to an early lead thanks to two of their defensemen. Dmitry Kulikov got things started with his sixth goal of the season and he was followed closely by Jared Spurgeon who tallied his eighth goal of the season. Spurgeon also assisted on Kevin Fiala’s overtime winner for his 30th assist.
Both of the Wild’s goals came from the blue line but many times throughout the night they had defensemen break towards the net. They were able to do that because their forwards made sure to drop back and cover the point. They cycled well throughout the game and made it hard for the Sharks to stop their offensive attack.
While their defensemen had a strong night offensively, they had great performances defensively as well even though they allowed four goals. One defenseman, in particular, Jacob Middleton had a huge defensive back check that helped stop an almost guaranteed goal.
Wild’s Boldy Fits With His Line
With how Matt Boldy carries himself on the ice, it’s hard to believe he’s still a rookie. He continued to showcase his talents against the Sharks where he scored at the time, the go-ahead goal for his 14th of the season. Before he scored, he recorded an assist on Kulikov’s goal. It was his 20th assist of the season for a total of 34 points in 40 games that has him tied for ninth among rookies. He’s been a strong presence for the Wild all season, but he’s also done well due to his linemates Fiala and Frederick Gaudreau.
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Gaudreau had been on a scoring streak with goals in his last three games. This time he wasn’t able to score but he accumulated three assists, one each for his linemates’ goals finishing with the third on the overtime goal. Fiala also continued his dominant play with points in his sixth straight game. He scored a goal and three assists for four points, and it was his goal that tied the game and sent them to overtime.
Wild’s Record Breakers
Their game against the Blues was obviously a heartbreaker in the end, but fans have to be proud of the fight this team has and the records that were achieved despite the loss. It’s also been a record-breaking season for not only individual players setting career highs, but the franchise itself had some new faces add their names to its record books. Kirill Kaprizov set the new franchise record for most goals in a season with 43, but that number could continue to rise.
While linemate Mats Zuccarello did the same but for most assists in a single season, the number is currently 52 but also could keep rising. The Wild have seven players who have hit career-high numbers in all three categories: goals, assists, and points with one exception: he has not reached his career-high in goals yet, but he’s close.
One more side note about Kaprizov, he’s slowly getting closer to 100 points. With seven games left to go in the regular season, he sits at 93 and it’s entirely possible for him to reach that next milestone. It’ll be interesting to see if he can accomplish it before the campaign ends on April 29.
Wild Take on Canadiens
The Wild will now head onto the road, north of the border to take on the Montréal Canadiens. The last time they faced each other the Wild snatched the win in commanding fashion 8-2. The Canadiens had been playing strong hockey at the beginning of the month but as of late, they’ve started to struggle again. However, they recently got their star goaltender and fan favorite, Carey Price back in the crease. It’s hard to say if he’ll be in goal against the Wild or not.
The Wild will have Cam Talbot in net to face the Canadiens after Fleury’s dominant performance. Against the Sharks, it started out rough, but once again, he found his way and was strong through the rest of the game which included making saves nearly outside the net. Even though the Canadiens are a struggling team, the Wild still need to watch out for Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield, Mike Hoffman, and Josh Anderson, who are their current leading scorers.
While it may or may not be Price in net, if he’s not, the offensive core will need to find a way past Jake Allen or Sam Montembeault. The Wild are just one point behind the Blues in the standings, so they still have a chance at home-ice advantage if they can pass them before the end of the season. Hopefully, they can continue their winning ways and secure home ice, to give them every chance possible for a deep run in the postseason.