The Minnesota Wild were back on the road at Madison Square Garden in front of a celebrity-filled crowd to take on the New York Rangers on Tuesday, Jan. 10. They were trying to get back on the winning track after a weekend of back-to-back losses. With Mats Zuccarello, Jordan Greenway, and Marc-André Fleury back in the lineup, that meant the Wild were back to a healthy roster for the first time since the beginning of the season. They got off to a great start with the first goal of the game and just a few minutes later they added another to make it 2-0.
The Wild went into the second period with the lead but their play dropped off and they let the Rangers climb back in with two unanswered goals of their own. The teams were tied at two going into the third period but the Wild appeared to have a slight edge when they scored early to take the lead once again. It took a little bit but the Rangers responded and tied it up at three a piece.
They had to head to overtime and despite some very strong chances, neither team could score so they had to go to a shootout. Again, it was a close match-up but the Rangers came out on top and took the game 4-3 after a promising effort by the Wild that fell short.
Wild Drop Effort in the Second
After a very fatigued effort against the St. Louis Blues on Sunday, Jan. 8, the Wild looked like a different team with plenty of energy when they took on the Rangers just a few days later. However, things looked a little dicey in the beginning as they took back-to-back penalties just over a minute into the game but luckily, they were able to kill off both of them. Following those penalties, the Wild redeemed themselves and scored back-to-back goals, but that effort disappeared in the second period.
In the middle frame, things completely flipped and it was all Rangers who outshot the Wild 20-10 and scored twice on those 20 shots. While penalties have been to blame for the Wild’s struggles in past games, they can’t be blamed for the sudden lack of effort in the second period. They also didn’t seem fatigued so it’s unclear why they played sloppy and gave the Rangers more room to skate.
The Wild have to work on playing a consistent game and not letting up in any period. They have to figure out how they let the Rangers back in and use that to improve their game so it doesn’t happen again.
Wild’s Sloppy Mistake Managed by Defense
The Wild took penalties throughout the game but none were as bad as the one they received in overtime. It was one that was completely preventable and showed a lack of communication that shouldn’t be happening as often as it has this season so far. That penalty was too many men on the ice which the Wild have taken a handful of times already and this time it happened during three-on-three overtime which gave the Rangers the best possible chance to win the game.
It was called when Frédérick Gaudreau was heading to the bench for a shift change, but he suddenly stopped for some reason and stood still even though his teammate had already jumped over the boards and was in the play. Gaudreau clearly wanted to rejoin the action but he should’ve continued to the bench since his teammate was already on the ice.
Luckily for Gaudreau, his teammates; Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon, Joel Eriksson Ek, and Fleury all stepped up in an incredible way defensively to cover for the mistake. They singlehandedly killed off the penalty by blocking as many shots as they could as well as getting their stick in almost every passing lane. Fleury also stood on his head to stop every shot that made it to him; there were a number of close calls but he came out of the overtime intact.
Wild’s Fleury Not to Blame
The one player who was consistently strong throughout the entire game was the Wild’s goaltender, Marc-André Fleury. While he was absent from the team on Sunday due to a personal matter, he came back ready to play, as he faced 43 shots and saved 40 of them for a save percentage of .930. While he was quite aggressive in the shootout, the loss can’t be blamed on him.
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Even in the second period when the Rangers scored their goals, Fleury can really only take partial blame as his defense was not a lot of help. If his defense could’ve played like Brodin, Spurgeon, and Eriksson Ek did in overtime, they would’ve held their lead and left with the win. Despite the loss, the Wild’s goaltenders are currently playing very strong and they should continue to rotate them as a 1A/1B tandem.
Wild Face Islanders
The Wild will remain on the road for their next game on Thursday, Jan. 12, and will face the New York Islanders who have a number of Minnesota connections. Brock Nelson, Anders Lee, and Zach Parise are all natives of Minnesota, and Parise of course used to play for the Wild a few seasons back. The Wild appeared to come out of their game against the Rangers unscathed so they will continue to play with a healthy roster and that likely means Mason Shaw will be a healthy scratch for the second game in a row.
The Wild will have their hands very full trying to stop Mathew Barzal, Nelson, and Lee. However, they’ll also need their top line and the GREEF line to continue their scoring as they did in the Rangers game and convert it to goals against either Ilya Sorokin or Semyon Varlamov. If the Wild can play a consistent game with the level of defense they had from Brodin, Spurgeon, and Eriksson Ek, they’ll be able to contain and beat the Islanders.
Mariah Stark (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.