Wild’s Special Teams Perfect in OT Win Over Flames

After a rough loss to the Arizona Coyotes two nights prior, the Minnesota Wild were looking to get back into the win column. They started their final back-to-back of the regular season against the Calgary Flames and things were pretty equal for the first two periods. It was tied at zero after one, as the Flames got on the board first in the second period but the Wild answered right back to tie it up at one.

Everything stayed the same going into the third until around 12 minutes in when the Wild stole the lead. That wasn’t the end of it though, as the Flames came back to tie it up with just under three minutes left in the game. After a few very tense minutes, the game was still tied and required overtime to determine a winner. Then, something happened that is hardly ever seen in overtime: the Flames had a penalty called on them for closing their hand on the puck. It came back to bite them when the Wild scored on that power play to steal the win and two points.

Fiala, Kaprizov & Gaudreau Do it Again

The names Kevin Fiala and Kirill Kaprizov will never get old to Wild fans’ ears and they were heard once again as they made a beautiful passing play to secure the win in overtime on the power play. They each had a point and numerous chances all night, that if they made their way through, could’ve had their team strongly in the lead. Kaprizov’s goal was his 46th of the season and 106th point. Fiala’s assist was his 52nd of the season and 85th point.

Kirill Kaprizov Minnesota Wild
Kirill Kaprizov, Minnesota Wild (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Frederick Gaudreau, recently nicknamed “Freddy Hockey” thanks to playing against Johnny Gaudreau, who is also known as “Johnny Hockey”, had a strong night as well. He’s not as well known as his namesake, but he’s working hard to change that. In his last few weeks of hockey, he has played outstanding and that continued when he scored the Wild’s first go-ahead goal of the night and the only lead they had in regulation. In his last 10 games, he’s had 12 points and his goal against the Flames was his 14th of the season and his second point of the night.

Wild Put the Pressure On

Something the Wild have struggled with all season has been applying pressure on the other team and forcing them to make mistakes. They figured it out against the Flames and were pressuring them all night long. There were a few mistakes here and there, but overall they were more aggressive than in their previous two matchups earlier in the season.

That included their defensemen being more assertive as well, especially Dmitry Kulikov. He was up in the offensive zone a lot during the game and had several breakaways into the zone but only had two shots make it to the net. He was able to play up in the offensive zone because his teammates made sure to cover his open spot on the point, something they were strong at all night.

Wild’s Power Play Comes Up Strong

It’s been a crazy season for the Wild’s special teams but against the Flames, they had everything go their way. They were 100 percent on the power play, as they scored two goals on the two opportunities they had. They made sure to shoot the puck more rather than pass it too much and ended up finding success.

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Typically on a night where one area of their special teams does well, the other area does not, but not against the Flames. They went 100 percent on their penalty kill too, killing off all four chances against a team whose power play is top 10 in the league. Of the eight minutes they spent killing penalties, Kulikov was on the ice for five minutes of that.

Wild Side Notes

There were a few things that the Wild need to fine-tune before the postseason starts next week. The first is successfully executing passes and shots. For some reason, they fanned on a lot of them against the Flames. The second thing is their goaltending, they had a great performance from Cam Talbot again but both he and Marc-André Fleury have been getting a little too comfortable leaving their net to get the puck. The gutsiness is appreciated, but not always necessary and they need to be careful doing that in the future.

Related: 3 Wild Players Who Can Be Playoff Heroes

The Wild also need to watch the lengths of their shifts. Usually, they’re good at this but several times throughout the night, tired players could be spotted. The last thing they improved on, but still need to tighten up, is their passing plays. They once again were trying to be too cute instead of taking the shot, something that can’t happen in the playoffs.

Besides the win, there were a couple of good things. The GREEF line was back together for the second game in a row and they looked like they did prior to the recent injuries and COVID absences. Jared Spurgeon, Matt Dumba, and Mats Zuccarello were still out, but the lineup was flowing well and seemed to have forgotten all about their hard loss the other night. Tyson Jost also deserves a special shoutout, as he had multiple breakaways and was speedy all night. His work ethic was outstanding, but he just couldn’t get the puck past the goaltender.

Wild Face Avalanche

The Wild will play their final game of the regular season against the Colorado Avalanche in the second game of a back-to-back. They took them down in their last meeting and they’ll be hoping to do that again. If they can get a win in regulation, they will officially have home-ice advantage no matter what happens with the St. Louis Blues.

Minnesota Wild Celebration Kevin Fiala
Kevin Fiala celebrates a goal for the Minnesota Wild (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Wild will have to keep Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, Nazem Kadri, and Mikko Rantanen off the scoreboard but also find a way past former Wild goaltender Darcy Kuemper. If they can do those things, they may be able to finish the season on a winning streak and snatch up the home-ice advantage which could be critical to their success in the postseason.

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