When you shoot the puck on net and continue to shoot the puck on net good things happen, as evidenced by the Minnesota Wild’s 5-1 win over the Dallas Stars. I’d like to know who the guys on the ice are and what have they done with the Minnesota Wild? Over the last two games the Minnesota Wild have out shot their opponents 66 to 34. The Wild’s defense has not allowed a team to accumulate 10 shots in a period for 6 consecutive periods. Tonight the Wild went 2 for 4 on the power play and 2 for 3 on the penalty kill. The game also included several personal firsts. Justin Fontaine and Mathew Dumba scored their first NHL goals, while Nino Neiderreiter scored his first as a member of the Wild. Fontaine also set a Minnesota Wild team record for the fastest goal to start a game by putting the puck past Star’s netminder Dan Ellis just 12 seconds into the contest. The third line for the Wild was hot tonight with Matt Cooke scoring a goal and adding an assist giving him 4 points over the last two games. He leads the Wild in points after 5 games, totaling 3 goals and 2 assists. Zach Parise is just one point back after registering 1 goal against the Stars.
The Wild’s defense corps had a good night registering 5 points. Dallas had trouble all game getting any consistent pressure on Wild goalie Josh Harding. The lone Dallas goal came on a power play. Jamie Benn got the goal while Tyler Seguin and Steve Chiasson picked up assists on the play. The Stars gave the Wild 4 chances on the power play, two of which Minnesota converted into goals. This was the second game in as many nights for Dallas and their tired legs showed it. They had trouble controlling the puck with Minnesota accumulating 15 takeaways to the Stars 3. The Cooke, Neiderreiter and Brodziak line played some tough minutes against the Stars’ top line and held them scoreless on the night. The Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverly line was a combined -4 for the game. In his post game comments Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said, “I like the way that we defend, the structure that we have.”
Josh Harding won his second game in a row stopping 18 of 19 shots against the Stars and a total of 31 of 33 in his last two starts. As of tonight Harding’s goals against average sits at 1.07 and his save percentage is .944, pretty gaudy numbers for any NHL goal tender, let alone one with just 3 starts. At the other end of the ice, Stars net minder Dan Ellis now has a goals against average of 4.24 and a save percentage of .898. Without Ellis in net the Wild could have easily added several more goals. Ellis began the year as the back up to . Ellis was thrust into the starting role when Kari Lehtonen went down with an injury towards the end of the 2nd period through the Stars game against Winnipeg. At the conclusion of tonight’s game Wild backup net minder Darcy Kuemper was reassigned to the Iowa Stars where he is expected to start in their next game Sunday night. Kuemper is expected to be called up again to the Wild at the end of Sunday’s game in Iowa and travel with the NHL squad as they travel to Buffalo on Monday for a Tuesday game against the Sabres. Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom is not expected to be available for Tuesday’s game but is reportedly close to returning to game action.
Saturday night’s victory puts the Wild into 4th place in the Central Division one point behind the Chicago Blackhawks and 8th place in the Western Conference. It’s early in the season but points gained now will become more and more important as April and the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs draw closer. This win was a satisfying one and Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said, “We get to enjoy this one (victory) but put it aside quickly and come back tomorrow and get ready. This is the start of 3 games in 4 nights. We have to be prepared and ready to go.” The Wild showed tonight the level of play they are capable of and now the expectations will be heightened as the season moves along.
The Minnesota Wild are 2-1-2 and are looking better and better after a somewhat suspect start that left fans unsatisfied and grumbling about what might have been. Winning two straight games in a dominating fashion heading into a four game road trip has the team playing with confidence and the attitude they can play with and beat any team in the league. Next up for the Wild is a road game against the Buffalo Sabres, Jason Pominville’s old team. I’m sure he’ll be the center of media attention going into Tuesday night’s game. I’ll be back with a game preview of Minnesota vs Buffalo Tuesday morning. Until then, this is Scott Drain shouting, “Let’s Go Wild!!”