The Minnesota Wild lost to the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 Friday night at the Honda Center. A furious rally by Minnesota in the third period fell just short, as the Ducks won their eighth straight home game. Anaheim earned two points, extending their lead over the Wild in the Western Conference to 9 points. The loss also cost Minnesota a chance to move into a tie with Vancouver for the lead in the Northwest Division. The Wild played great in the second and third periods, but couldn’t overcome a lackluster opening period in which the Ducks scored a pair of goals. Minnesota once again had more scoring chances than their opponent, but couldn’t convert them into goals.
With the loss, the Wild fall to 10-8-2 for a total of 22 points, but still hold the 8th spot in the Western Conference. The Ducks move to 15-3-1 on the season and hold the 2nd spot in the conference with 31 points. Rookie net minder Darcy Kuemper takes the loss, falling to 1-2-0 for the year. Jonas Hiller gets the win for the Ducks.
Again, the Wild were doomed by a slow start in the opening frame, in which they were outshot 12 to 8, and had several turnovers in the neutral zone, killing their momentum and leading to the pair of Ducks goals. Minnesota was again shut out on the power play, going 0 for 3 with the man advantage. The Wild return to St. Paul on Saturday, with no practice scheduled. They face divisional rival Edmonton on Sunday at the Xcel Energy Center. The loss snaps the Wild’s two game win streak, at no time this season has Minnesota won three straight.
The Wild had a couple of good chances in the first two minutes of the game, but the momentum was quickly taken over by Anaheim. Ryan Getzlaf opened the scoring at the 4:45 mark of the opening period, tipping a Corey Perry pass past Darcy Kuemper. Teemu Selanne scored the second goal of the period, the play developing when Nate Prosser coughed up the puck at the blue line, sending Selanne in on a 2-on-1 break ending with a backhander past Kuemper. The goal was Selanne’s 669th of his career, moving him into 11th place on the all-time list. The Ducks’ transition game, and aggressive forechecking, made the difference in the period. Sloppy puck handling, and positional mistakes, made it difficult for the Wild to develop any sustained pressure. Late in the period, Clayton Stoner and Matt Beleskey dropped the gloves, as Stoner tried to turn the momentum towards the Wild. Minnesota’s best chance of the period came at the 17:15 mark, when Torrey Mitchell and Mike Rupp sailed in on a two-on-none break. Jonas Hiller made a tremendous save to maintain the Ducks two goal lead.
In the second period, Minnesota began to move their feet, and generate some more scoring chances, and began to pepper Hiller with shots. By midway in the period, the Wild were 0 for 2 on the power play. Zenon Konopka and Patrick Maroon fought, after Konopka took exception to a hard check on Wild defenseman Tom Gilbert. At this point in the game, the Wild were 2-0 in fights, but 0-2 on the scoreboard. The energy line of Mike Rupp, Konopka and Mitchell was one of the Wild’s best throughout the evening. They generated several scoring chances but, alas, no goals. Beleskey made it a three goal lead for the Ducks when he spotted the puck sitting in the blue paint behind Keumper, and poked it home for the score. The puck had bounced off of Ryan Suter‘s skate and the Wild goaltender thought he had it frozen. In the second period ,the Wild outshot, outchanced and outhustled the Ducks, but Anaheim scored the period’s only goal to take a 3-0 lead into the dressing room.
The third period is where the Wild broke through on the score sheet. Kyle Brodziak put Minnesota on the board just 29 seconds in the third period. His big slap shot beat the Ducks Hiller on the right side, making the score 3-1. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo made some defensive changes in the third as well, pairing Jared Spurgeon with Ryan Suter and moving Jonas Brodin to partner with Nate Prosser. The Wild would score their final goal of the game at the 10:37 mark as Devin Setoguchi took a Mike Rupp pass and put a blistering slap shot past the Duck’s net minder to bring Minnesota to within one. The Wild would keep the pressure on Anaheim when Francois Beauchemin took a tripping call late in the period. The Wild pulled goalie Kuemper for an extra attacker to go 6-on-4. The Ducks’ defense, and netminder Hiller, were up to the task, keeping the puck clear of the net and taking the 3-2 victory.
After the game, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo tried to put a positive spin on the loss saying, “We’re not big on moral victories, but I was very impressed with the effort of the guys.” Yeo added that the first period was the problem saying, “I didn’t think our first period was good enough, we have to start better.” Minnesota Captain Mikko Koivu was less charitable about the game as he said, “A loss is a loss.” The Wild will have a chance to get that better first period when they take on the Edmonton Oilers at home on Sunday. This will be the first time Minnesota has faced Edmonton since Taylor’s Hall’s hit on Cal Clutterbuck that put the Wild winger on IR with a thigh injury, and saw Hall suspended for the illegal hit. Late word from the Oilers is that Hall was injured in their game against the Blues tonight and may not play on Sunday in St. Paul. The game on March 3rd will be Minnesota’s chance to get back on the winning track, and stay ahead of the Oilers in the Northwest Division. GonePuckWild.com will have a full game preview before that matchup. Until then, Let’s Go Wild!!