The Minnesota Wild are making up for lost time. After a win against the Florida Panthers despite more injuries, the Wild pulled off another win against the Carolina Hurricanes. Despite a large imbalance of shots on goal, especially in the first period, the Wild were able to hold off an offensive onslaught from the Canes.
Final Score: 5-2 Wild
PIMS: 12 minutes combined
Shots on goal: 19-42 Canes
Notable Moments: Slow Start, Hat Trick, Gus Bus Is Back, Wildly Unbalanced Shots on Goal
Vibes Report: 9/10 again! More at the end
Before the game even started, the Wild had to call up Jake Lucchini and Jesper Wallstedt after both Connor Dewar and Marc-Andre Fleury were injured during the game against the Panthers. While Filip Gustavsson has had a tough time coming back from his own injury, he entered Friday’s game in relief for Fleury and after letting in a few more goals, managed to buckle down and get the Wild a win. Thankfully, Gustavsson was able to bring that same style of play to this game as well, stopping 40 shots on goal throughout the game.
Things didn’t look promising at the beginning of the game. The Wild spent most of their time in the defensive zone, not getting their first shot on goal until halfway through the first period. Gustavsson was what really kept the Wild from being down by multiple points to start the game. He stopped a breakaway shot from Michael Bunting just two minutes into the game.
At 14 minutes into the first period, the Canes did manage to put a point on the board first. Martin Necas shot it in short side over the blocker. Both teams have a record of winning when they record the first goal of the game, so this could already be seen as a bad omen.
Shortly after the Canes scored, Marcus Foligno took a penalty that the Wild were able to successfully kill off. As the period was winding to a close, Kirill Kaprizov tipped in an Alex Goligoski shot from the blue line. It was only the Wild’s second shot on goal.
After a penalty kill, 4 on 4, and a power play to begin the second period, Kaprizov was able to score his second of the game just as the power play ended. Matt Boldy passed from the blue line to Kaprizov, who then rifled it into the net, putting the Wild up 2-1.
By the halfway point of the second period, the shot attempts were already unbalanced. The Canes had 1 goal on 49 shot attempts while the Wild had 2 goals on 14 shot attempts. While this may seem like a bad night for Gustavsson, Lou Nanne, who was the color commentator in the booth, made a good point. A busy goaltender is a happy goaltender. They want to see action because it keeps them sharp. And Gustavsson was proof positive of that last night!
By the third period, the Canes were playing very loose and allowing the Wild to constantly turn over pucks and bring things back down into the Wild’s offensive zone. Bunting took advantage of one good shift to rifle a shot over Gustavsson’s blocker once again to even the score at 2-2.
But the Wild didn’t sit back on their heels. Joel Eriksson Ek scored just over a minute later from his office in the blue paint. This was Ek’s fourth game in a row with a point. And as is typical, Ek managed to score while surrounded by 4 Canes players who just couldn’t stop Ek’s determination to put the puck in the net.
With 3 minutes remaining in the game, the Canes pulled goalie Antti Raanta for the man advantage. The 6 players peppered the goal with shots, which were alternatively saved by Gustavsson or blocked by other players. Kaprizov had a big block just before he shot the puck to clear the zone. In a slower shot than normal, the puck trickled down the ice and into the net, completing Kaprizov’s hat trick for the night.
With the score 4-2 and 2 minutes left in the game, Carolina opted to pull Raanta again. Off of a neutral zone faceoff that was won by Ek, Zach Bogosian passed the puck to Jake Middleton. Middleton took no time in firing it down the ice and into the empty net once again. The Wild won the game 5-2.
With the way things have been going, just the fact that the Wild won is enough for a good vibes game. But this game had a good number of things that upped the vibes. First of all, the Gus Bus has returned from the mechanic and not only was he repaired, but apparently also souped up. The very first thing in my game notes was “Nice save by Gus!” That could’ve been written a million times because he had things locked down and looked like his calm self in the net.
With Fleury out of the lineup, Wallstedt was called up from Iowa. Just the idea of everyone’s favorite baby goalie being in the lineup, even if he isn’t in the net, is great for the vibes. The only problem was that Carolina’s visiting bench was too small for the backup goalie, so poor Wally had to sit by himself.
The fourth line has gone through a number of changes this season and had a different look during this game. Brandon Duhaime, Adam Raska, and Lucchini made for a very physical line that was fun to watch.
All three made big and noticeable hits and at the end, Lucchini looked like he was just happy to be there.
Last game, the special teams were amazing. While the power play didn’t score this game, the penalty kill went 100% again. That is even more wild considering that the Hurricanes had 42 shots on goal by the end of the game. One difference about the PK is that Ryan Hartman has once again made an appearance on it. Could he be bringing some sort of Hartzy magic? Who knows!
At one point, Mats Zuccarello tried to head the puck to Rossi, who was a few feet further down the ice from him. Anthony LaPanta quipped on the broadcast that it was a “little too tall for him.” Another reminder that the Wild are one of the shortest teams in the league. It was made all the better by the graphic that the NHL used for the Wild/Canes game score which shows just how small Zuccarello is compared to even his buddy Kaprizov. Scroll over two to see and have a little giggle.
As I noted in my podcast a few days ago, Middleton is a fan favorite around Minnesota. He scored in the Panthers game because no one was defending him, choosing instead to defend Zuccarello, Rossi, and Kaprizov. While his goal in Carolina wasn’t as spectacular because it was an empty net, it still brings his career-high goal count up one more to 7 goals on the season. This was accompanied by a postgame interview where Middsy showcased his wonderful personality and enchanting giggle.
For more game recaps and hockey vibes, listen to Her Wild Side Hockey Podcast.