After a big win over the Colorado Avalanche earlier in the week, the Minnesota Wild had their first chance of the season to clinch a spot in the postseason when they faced the Vegas Golden Knights Saturday, Apr. 1. Things looked good in the beginning with the Wild getting on the board early in the first period, but the Golden Knights had other plans. They answered back not just once but twice to take the lead and held it through the end of the first period.
The Golden Knights extended their lead in the second period, but the Wild were still within two and had hope going into the third. The Wild fought hard throughout the third but couldn’t get a comeback started. The Golden Knights got an empty netter at the end of the third to seal the 4-1 win and the Wild were unable to clinch playoffs just yet.
Wild’s Offense Stumped
In the past few weeks, Matt Boldy has been leading the charge when it comes to the Wild’s scoring, but in most cases, he was accompanied by his teammates. This time around, he was the only one who could get a goal past Golden Knights goaltender Laurent Brossiot. Marcus Johansson and Joel Eriksson Ek both had four shots on goal, second on the team behind Boldy, but they couldn’t force one past Brossiot.
The Wild started in the right direction by outshooting the Golden Knights 13-8 in the first period, but as the game went on, the Golden Knights flipped a switch. Things stayed close in the second, but in the third, they outshot the Wild 21-4 and took the victory.
It wasn’t only the Wild’s lack of shots that was a problem but their struggling power play also continued its issues. They’ve only scored a power-play goal four times in the last 10 games despite having 29 man advantage chances. It’s easy to blame their power play problems on Kirill Kaprizov being injured, but other players have to step up. Players like Mats Zuccarello, John Klingberg, Johansson, and numerous others need to contribute as the regular season draws to a close and the playoffs begin.
Wild’s Defensive Breakdown
The first goal the Golden Knights scored was due to a defensive breakdown in front of the net by Jared Spurgeon and Jacob Middleton. It started with Middleton breaking his stick and then both he and Spurgeon were slow in blocking out their opponents, which led to the goal. The second and third Golden Knights’ goals were more on Fleury’s shoulders, but they were also very difficult shots to stop.
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With how strong the Wild have been playing of late, it was bound to happen they’d have an off-game. However, instead of just one aspect of their game being off, pretty much all of it was off, including both their defensemen and their goaltending. Despite their defensive game struggling, which included a lack of blocked shots with just 14, they were able to kill off both penalties they took and kept their penalty kill going strong. Hopefully, the Wild can recover from this and shake it off as they will need to play better if they intend to keep their first-place spot in the division.
Wild’s Shaw Injured
As if Kaprizov being injured wasn’t bad enough, the Wild’s Mason Shaw took a hard fall into the boards and appeared to tweak his knee in the process. He was unable to get up under his own power and had to be helped off the ice; obviously, he didn’t return to the game. He’d been playing very outstanding hockey of late and it was a hard blow to the roster to lose a player like him, especially early in the game.
The Wild could’ve used his physical presence as the game went on but also his gritty aggressiveness when handling the puck. Hopefully, for the team’s sake and Shaw’s it’s nothing serious and he can return to play sooner rather than later. He’s already been through three ACL tears in his minor league career before he joined the NHL, so he doesn’t need another one. Luckily, he’s got a very strong team behind him that’ll be there every step of the way.
Wild Can’t Get Away
While the Wild will be working on their mistakes and trying to forget their loss, it’ll be thrust back upon them on Monday, Apr. 3 when they take on the Golden Knights once again but this time at home. The Wild saw firsthand what happens when they let Ben Hutton, Zach Whitecloud, Brett Howden, Jack Eichel, and Chandler Stephenson loose in front of their goaltender and they’ll have to put a stop to that if they want to win.
The Wild’s offense was unable to solve Brossoit in net and while it’s likely the Golden Knights will use him once again, they may also switch it up and go to Jonathan Quick. Whoever’s in net, the Wild have to push harder and keep up their shots if they plan to win. Every team has their off nights and that appears to be all that this loss was, but the Wild have to pick themselves up and get their focus back so they can get back in the winning circle and secure their place in the 2023 postseason.