The Minnesota Wild became just the second team this season to hand the Ducks a regulation loss at home with an impressive 4-2 effort on Tuesday night.
Top line left winger Zach Parise notched his second three-point game of the season (one goal, two assists), while Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville each collected a goal and an assist. However, it was rookie goaltender Darcy Kuemper whose play shone late in the game, making 18 saves in the third period for a total of 31 and a .939 save percentage on the night. I’m sorry…Ryan Miller who?
Prior to the game, it was tough to imagine the rising Wild coming out on top of the Ducks, who lead the NHL with 39 wins and 83 points. However, it was Minnesota that got on the board first at 7:57 of the opening period when Pominville banked a rebound from a Granlund high slot slapper off the back of Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller and into the back of the net for his team leading 21st of the season. Parise was credited with the secondary assist–his first point since making his return from a broken foot.
Dustin Penner would tie the game up at the 18:13 mark of the first period with a one-timer from the top of the left wing circle after being fed from Ryan Getzlaf behind the net. Both teams would head into the intermission tied 1-1 on the scoreboard and 11-11 in shots.
The second period? Well, that was all Minnesota as the Wild outshot the Ducks 11-4 and got the go-ahead goal just 13 seconds in off a power play goal from the low slot by sophomore center Granlund. Cruising through the neutral zone, No. 1 defenseman Ryan Suter passed the puck up the ice to Granlund, who quickly dished the puck over to Parise once entering the offensive zone. Parise gave the puck back to Granlund upon reaching the left wing circle, who then tipped the puck past Hiller from the edge of the blue paint for his fourth goal of the season. That would be it for the second frame’s scoring department, but it was obvious momentum had turned to Minnesota’s favor.
Anaheim bounced back in the third period, outshooting the Wild 18-11, but didn’t find the back of the net again until Mathieu Perreault’s back door tap-in power play goal at the 10:53 mark of the period. By then, the damage was done as Parise and rookie center Erik Haula would put the game away with two goals in the span of 1:46 starting at the 6:35 mark of the third.
In all, it was a rather impressive performance by an injury-stricken Wild squad–making one wonder just how good this team could be when fully healthy. Minnesota converted on one of five power play chances, while the Ducks would go one for three. The Wild defense also made 13 blocks, three more than Anaheim. While Minnesota did make some good progress in the faceoff circle, the club still only won 26 of 58. Granlund led all Wild center-men, winning 56% of draws taken.
With the win, Minnesota improves to 29-20-6 for 64 points, good for seventh in the West and four points ahead of ninth place Phoenix. The Wild sit seven points back of the Colorado Avalanche–their next opponent–for third in the Central division. Minnesota will take on the Avs Thursday night at Denver’s Pepsi Center. For a team that has struggled on the road this season (10-13-4), Minnesota has taken three of four possible points so far. Let’s hope that continues against Patrick Roy’s Avalanche.