The Minnesota Wild fell to the Anaheim Ducks by a 2-1 final score Wednesday night at the Honda Center. Heading into the game the Wild knew they had to shut down the Ducks top line of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Dustin Penner. Simply put Minnesota didn’t. Perry had 1 goal and Getzlaf added an assist. Secondary scoring for Anaheim came from rookie Alex Grant who had a goal and an assist. The Wild, once again, wasted an excellent game by net minder Josh Harding giving him only a single goal in support. The loss drops Minnesota’s overall record to 18-9-5 and a disappointing 5-7-3 on the road. Their 41 points have the team still in 3rd place in the Central Division but only because 4th place Colorado and 2nd place St. Louis were idle. In his post game comments Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said, “We’re not executing, turning pucks over and allowing them (opponents) to come right back at us. That was the biggest problem for sure.” Yeo added, “We need a little more puck strength, a little more urgency, and a little harder on the puck. we’re doing one thing right but we’re not following up with another thing right and that’s the key.”
Minnesota came out strong in the first period matching the Ducks shot for shot, hit for hit, and save for save. The opening period ended in a scoreless tie with Anaheim leading 11 to 10 in shots on goal. The 2nd period opened with the Ducks on the power play, a carry over of 1:28 from a Jonas Brodin holding infraction. That was the only other penalties to this point in the game were matching unsportsmanlike conduct penalties given to Matt Cooke and Ryan Getzlaf. Anaheim would open the scoring at the 2:37 mark as rookie Alex Grant took a clearing pass from Andrew Cogliano and streaked up the right side, cutting toward the goal and beating Harding cleanly with a shot over the blocker. The goal is Grant’s 2nd of the season and matches his number of NHL games played, 2 for 2. He is the first rookie to do that since Marcus Ragnarsson back in 1995 with San Jose. Grant is also the first defenseman in NHL history to score in his first 2 games. That would end up being the game winner for Anaheim. Less than a minute after the Ducks scored Brodin would take his second penalty of the game, this time a holding call, giving Anaheim their 2nd power play. The Wild penalty killers looked good and shut down of both Duck power plays with few scoring opportunities. Anaheim would score again in the 2nd period, both goals coming during 5 on 5 skating, a rarity for Wild opponents this season. Corey Perry found the back of the net at the 13:27 mark on a feed from Hampuc Lindholm. The Ducks would out shoot the Wild 14 to 7 in the 2nd period. Throughout the game the Ducks were able to carry the puck into the offensive zone relatively unmolested. They didn’t need to dump and chase because they simply were not being challenged at the blue line. Wild Coach Yeo addressed that issue after the game saying, “We’re coasting, were not going after them. That’s not us, that’s not how WE play the game. We’re about taking time and space away and then we allow the guy to just skate in when we have an opportunity to put some pressure on him. We WILL address that.”
In the 3rd period the Wild would finally come to life and get some sustained pressure in the offensive zone. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? It’s the same pattern we’ve seen from the Wild over the course of the last several road games. Minnesota finally scored on a power play after Lovejoy was whistled for boarding 3 minutes into the 3rd period. Jason Pominville scored on the man advantage, his 5th power play and 15th goal overall this season. His 5 power play goals are well ahead of last season’s pace when he had two total on the man advantage. Ryan Suter took a pass from Koivu out at the point, then sent a wicked wrist shot in on goal. Jonas Hiller fought off the initial shot but couldn’t control the rebound that landed right in front of Pominville, who controlled the puck and sent a quick shot up high past the Ducks net minder to cut the Anaheim lead in half. The new look #1 power play unit consisting of Koivu, Pominville, Parise, Suter and Spurgeon got the job done and looked strong doing it. That power play goal would wrap up the scoring for this game. Coach Yeo was pleased with the goal but not pleased his team only drew a single power play all evening. After the game Yeo addressed the lack of power play chances saying, “Again we draw 1 power play. Either other teams are extremely well disciplined against us or we’re not doing enough to draw penalties. We’ve got to force them (opposing teams) into situations where we’re drawing more (power plays), because it’s tough right now.” “When you’re getting 1 power play, 2 power plays every game. It’s been an unbelievable streak of this. We’ve got to do more to draw more penalties.” The Wild came oh so closse to tying the score midway through the 3rd period on a Charlie Coyle breakaway. He gathered in a loose puck near the redline and streaked in on Hiller. Coyle tried a deke move going to his backhand then quickly cutting from left to right as he neared the goal. He then shifted to his forehandand tried to slip the puck past Hiller who by now was over against the opposite post, but Hiller slid across the goal mouth in a desperate attempt to make the save and just managed to get the tip of his skate on the puck to send it wide. Coach Yeo called out Coyle in his post game comments saying, “He made a heck of a play to get a breakaway but, the goalie made a great save. That was one of the moments, oh look, there he is. He seems to kind of step when it’s late in games. We saw this in Colorado, we’ve seen this a few times now where he kind of steps up and raises his game to another level. I’d like to see him start the game that way. He was attacking more, he was a lot more aggressive. I’d like to see him take charge.”
The Wild are 2 points behind St. Louis and 1 point ahead of Colorado heading into Thursday when all three teams are in action. Minnesota faces another big challenge as they take on the San Jose Sharks in the Shark Tank, the Wild’s 3rd game in 4 days. The Sharks are still smarting after a loss to the Wild on Sunday when they out shot Minnesota 38 to 13 but lost the game 3-1. The Wild need to become road warriors and do it soon. They have 9 games left in the month of December, 7 of those are on the road. It was a disappointing game for the Wild, but there is no time to dwell upon it. Up next for Minnesota is the San Jose Sharks Thursday evening with puck drop scheduled for 9:30 pm Central Time. I’ll be back tomorrow morning with a look at Wild vs Sharks round 2. Until then this is Scott Drain tiredly shouting, “Let’s go Wild!!”
For the best deals on Minnesota Wild tickets all season long, always visit TiqIQ.com.