The Minnesota Wild headed south to face the San Jose Sharks, searching for their eighth straight win on Thursday evening. Their last game against the Sharks was a rough 4-1 loss on home ice. Now on the road, they looked to avenge that loss, and they did just that, as they handed the Sharks a 5-2 loss. The Wild were able to put together a more consistent second period, but their third period suffered, thankfully for them, their defense was able to help out goaltender Cam Talbot.
The Wild had a lot go right for them against the Sharks: they got their captain back, scored power-play goals, and several players continued their point streaks. Jared Spurgeon wasn’t the only player who appeared last night either; they had a new player make his NHL debut in Mason Shaw. He may not have ended up on the scoresheet, but Kevin Fiala, who’s had trouble finding the net, finally scored the goal he’d been waiting for.
Wild Offensive Game Strong
The Wild have been quite lucky in terms of goal-scoring this season. They’ve had nearly every player on their roster contribute at least one goal, which continued against the Sharks. After being held goalless for almost three weeks, Fiala scored his fourth goal of the season and the Wild’s first of the night. He tallied another point later in the game as he assisted on one of Jordan Greenway’s goals.
Speaking of Greenway, the Wild’s second line continued its dominance as both Joel Eriksson Ek and Greenway scored against the Sharks. Greenway has found his stride as of late and can’t be stopped, his goal was his second in three games. He wasn’t done there as he outmuscled former Wild player, current Sharks defenseman Brent Burns and scored an empty-net goal for his second of the night.
Fiala and Greenway stole the show while Eriksson Ek and Kirill Kaprizov scored goals to keep up their point streaks. Eriksson Ek extended his streak to three games, each being multi-point nights, while Kaprizov extended his to seven games. Kaprizov’s now tied for fifth in the league with 32 points and tied for third with 22 assists. The final positive note of the Wild’s offensive play was their power play. They scored back-to-back power-play goals and had a power-play percentage of 66.7, the highest rate they’ve had this season and just the second time they’ve hit that number. While their offense had a strong night, their defense kept up their play as well.
Wild’s Defensive Power
The Wild got their beloved captain and leader of the defensive core, Spurgeon, back after being out the previous eight games with a lower-body injury. His timing was fortunate for the Wild as they lost fellow defenseman Matt Dumba for the night due to illness. Spurgeon didn’t have a big night but had his typical behind-the-scenes strong defensive play. He also tallied a shot on goal and snagged a takeaway.
Jon Merrill and Alex Goligoski were among the Wild’s defensemen who stepped. Merrill had an assist on Fiala’s goal, and he blocked two shots on the defensive end of things. Goligoski had an assist on Greenway’s goal, and he blocked a shot with his face, thankfully he was okay and returned to the game. As far as the defense, as a whole, they kept the Sharks off the board through the second period, something that had been a struggle as of late. That struggle moved to the third period where the Sharks snuck two goals, but thankfully the Wild were able to keep their lead and come out with the win.
Once again, they stayed in the lead with the help of their goaltender, Talbot. He faced 19 shots in the third period, more than he’d faced in the first and second periods combined. He came out of the game with a .935 save percentage and a goals-against-average of 2.02. With this win, Talbot secured the top spot in the league with 15 wins. With all the good, the penalty kill was one downside of the game. The Wild killed off two of the three penalties against them, but they let in a goal on the third. Their defense let the opposing forwards in behind them so they’ll have to keep an eye on that in the future.
Wild’s Honorable Mentions
The Wild have had to shuffle their lineup with Frederick Gaudreau in COVID protocols. The latest call-up was Shaw, who took Rem Pitlick’s spot and fit right in. He didn’t have any points but he did have one of his two shots on net ring off the pipe. The majority of the Wild’s young players that have cracked the lineup this season have done well and Shaw continued that trend.
Speaking of trends, something that has been mentioned all season for the Wild is the ability to have different players step up every night. There was one player who didn’t end up on the scoresheet but he had a great game, that player was Nick Bjugstad. His name was mentioned all night and he had two shots on goal, a hit, and a takeaway. The Wild will need that type of play when they head to Los Angeles next to face the Kings in the first game of another back-to-back. The second night they’ll head to Las Vegas to face the Vegas Golden Knights. The Wild have started this road trip off on a high note and they’ll need to keep up this intensity of play to continue this success.
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.