The Minnesota Wild met up with the Vancouver Canucks in the first game of their back-to-back on Thursday (April 21). The first period was fast-paced, back and forth action but neither team could find the back of the net until the second. To start the middle period, the Wild snuck one in but the Canucks stormed back to tie it a little over 30 seconds later. That didn’t silence the Wild as they scored to take the lead and again the Canucks came back to tie it at two.
Things switched towards the end of the second as the Canucks took their first lead of the game but it wouldn’t last, as it was the Wild’s turn to fight back and that’s just what they did. They answered with three straight goals that included an empty-netter to finish things off 6-3. With the win, the Wild secured their match-up against the St. Louis Blues in the postseason.
The Wild got the win despite missing key players in their lineup that included Matt Dumba, Jordan Greenway, Marcus Foligno, and Tyson Jost. Foligno missed due to COVID Protocols and the rest dealt with injuries. Connor Dewar and Mitchell Chaffee remained on the roster and had decent performances. The good news was defenseman Jon Merrill was back. Speaking of defense, it was 14-year veteran Dmitry Kulikov’s 800th game. He didn’t record any goals but he did have a shot on goal, three hits, and a blocked shot.
Wild’s Fiala on Fire
The Wild’s Kevin Fiala has been on a scoring rampage as of late and it continued when his team took down the Canucks. He scored two goals, his first was the first goal of the game to get things rolling, and then he embraced his inner Kirill Kaprizov on his second goal which was the Wild’s fourth of the game. He now has 32 goals on the season and 77 points. It was also his third straight multiple-point game and his 21st of the season.
After having a somewhat slow start to the season in terms of scoring, Fiala’s last couple of months has been full of goals. From the start of the season until Jan. 29, he has played in 39 games and has 12 goals and 19 assists for 31 points in that time frame. From Jan. 30 until now, he’s played in 38 games and scored 20 goals plus 26 assists for 46 points. He’s the third member of the Wild to hit 30 goals this season with the other two being Kaprizov and Ryan Hartman.
Wild’s Special Teams Neutral
There were a lot of high sticks throughout the game but the Wild only had to kill off two penalties and did it without surrendering a goal. It was the third straight game they kept their penalty kill at 100 percent. Prior to that, it had been six straight games where they let in power-play goals. They’ve made some improvements, but they need to continue to focus and be consistent.
Their power play hasn’t been as successful lately but they’ve had goals while a man-up nearly every other game. Against the Canucks, they weren’t able to add to their goals out of the three power plays they had, but there were plenty of chances. That seems to be the theme of their power play all season, plenty of opportunities but few go in.
Wild’s Talbot Earns Back-to-Back Start
For the first time since Marc-André Fleury arrived in Minnesota, Cam Talbot got back-to-back starts. He got the shutout over the Montréal Canadiens and earned his next straight start against the Canucks. Things didn’t go as smoothly as the last game, but they fought through and got the win. He faced 24 shots and stopped 21 for a .875 save percentage (SV%) and a goals-against average (GAA) of 3.00. Definitely not the greatest stats of the season, but it still got the job done.
Talbot on Win 200: “The road that I took, the perseverance, the dedication, a lot went into making it this far. These milestones, you kind of have a chance to look back and reflect on stuff like that and the journey along the way.”— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) April 22, 2022
While the win may not have been glamorous, it did have some significance for Talbot as it was the 200th win of his career. In nine seasons, he has a record of 200-142-34 with a .915 overall SV% and a 2.63 GAA. Talbot got to take down the Canucks, which means that Fleury will get to face the Seattle Kraken in the second game of their back-to-back tonight.
Wild’s Kaprizov’s Race to 100
Kaprizov added three points to his total after their win against the Canucks and is now at 97 points, just three away from the big 100. They have five games left, and after his performance in their recent win, it seems likely he could hit 100. If he does, he’ll be the first Wild player in franchise history to do so, as he’s currently in a territory that no Wild player has been in before.
It’s been said numerous times over the last month, but it’s a big deal for Wild fans, as prior to this season, the highest point total in a single campaign was 83 by Marián Gáborík nearly 14 seasons ago. It was time someone new came along and Kaprizov has blown everyone away with his stats, while his teammates haven’t been disappointing either.
Wild’s Next Opponent
The Wild will have little chance to rest as they head into the second game of their back-to-back tonight in Seattle. They’ll face the Kraken for the third time this season. So far the series is split with the Kraken stealing the first game and the Wild snatching the second, both were in Seattle while the third will be at home in Minnesota. The Kraken are a tricky team, as they have struggled for the majority of the season but lately, they’ve been taking wins from some strong teams like the Colorado Avalanche and the Dallas Stars.
They’ll be coming off a close win over the Avalanche that was also their third win in a row. The Wild will have to keep Jared McCann, Yanni Gourde, Jordan Eberle, and Alex Wennberg off the scoreboard. While the defense is kept busy with them, their forwards will be trying to find a way past either Chris Driedger or Philipp Grubauer. They’ve been rotating their goaltenders and it looks to be Driedger’s turn. The Wild have yet to face him, as in their first two games they saw Grubauer.
They’re currently tied with the Blues for second place in the standings and in order to get home-ice advantage, they have to be in second place alone, so every point counts. The Wild will have to continue to play hard and earn points to get themselves in a better position for the postseason.
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.