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Five Takeaways From Wild At Canadiens

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

Following Wild games, Content Coordinator Evan Sporer will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at the Wild's 4-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre.

MONTREAL –

FIRST TAKEAWAY

In a building that has been very unkind to visiting teams lately, the Wild did what it has done frequently over the past few weeks when playing the role of the away team: It won.

And true to the way the Wild said would portend its success, it stuck to the game plan of simplifying, and doing more with less.

"It's just keeping the game simple," interim Head Coach John Torchetti said. "Just like we talked about this morning, and the other day prior, and now we have to take that, we're still on the road here for a little bit, but we have to take that game home with us, too."

Of course, there are a lot of layers to that. Less for the Wild means picking its spots, gapping up at its own blue line, playing stout defensively, and capitalizing on the other team's mistakes (see: Nino Niederreiter's goal to make it 1-0).

Other than that, the Wild was much better in the neutral zone than it was against the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday, turning far fewer pucks over at both blue lines, and, when applicable, getting the puck deep.

One note on getting pucks deep: There's some nuance to that concept. Against the Oilers, the Wild turned over too many pucks when it would have been better off flipping them below the goal line and, at the very least, forcing the Oilers to come 200 feet.

But getting pucks deep isn't black-and-white, meaning that the two options aren't to throw every puck below the goal line, or to never do so.

What the Wild did effectively on Saturday was recognize on the fly when it was better off dumping the puck, and when it was afforded the chance to carry it in with control.

"It's huge for us," Marco Scandella said. "We have to keep pucks in front of us, and everyone was helping out. The forwards were tracking back hard, so that's what we did tonight."

All of that added up to the Wild improving to 6-2-0 on the road under Torchetti, and snapping an eight-game point streak (7-0-1) for the Montreal Canadiens at home.

SECOND TAKEAWAY

The plan for the Wild, same as it was on Thursday (and was expounded about above), was to get pucks deep, and use its forecheck to win back possession and generate zone time.

It's something Torchetti felt the Wild didn't do in its past game against the Oilers well enough, but against the Canadiens, Minnesota quickly reaped the benefits on a play it won back the puck below Montreal's goal.

On a shift that began with a Mikael Granlund faceoff win, Scandella worked the play down the boards. Though it was a Canadien who was first to the puck, Jordan Schroeder was there soon after, winning possession back for Minnesota.

From there, the Wild went to work, cycling the puck around the zone, before Matt Dumba carried it high-to-low, and cheekily threaded a seam pass through everyone and onto the stick of Granlund, who finished the sequence he started with a one-time goal.

"We got pucks in deep early and then played a solid game," Niederreiter said. "There were moments where they definitely outworked us but overall we stayed strong and we deserved to win."

THIRD TAKEAWAY

Another successful night on the penalty kill for the Wild, though it looked a little different than how Minnesota has been effective most recently.

Where the Wild's forwards, the new personnel on its penalty kill, have been aggressive in the neutral zone, there wasn't the same up-ice pressure that had helped the Wild go without a power-play goal against in its past two games.

But it wasn't a lack of aggressiveness in a negative sense, rather, a read-and-react mindset that stood up at its blue line, made it difficult to carry the puck into the zone, and forced Montreal to try to dump and retrieve.

When it did, Devan Dubnyk did well to settle the puck in the trapezoid, and move it up the boards. On the Wild's first penalty kill, Dubnyk played the puck three times, two of which directly resulted in a clear.

"He did a really good job with his goalie handles for us, getting out of our end," Torchetti said.

The Wild has also done well recently to stay out of the box. It's the easiest way to not get scored on while shorthanded, and in the past five games, the Wild has been shorthanded seven times.

FOURTH TAKEAWAY

There's been so much talk about the penalty kill, the Wild's power play, which couldn't stop scoring, went more or less unnoticed going goalles in its past two games, 0-for-8 in those 120 minutes.

That slump (if you can call it one) ended on Saturday when Granlund potted his second of the game when a loose puck found its way onto his stick at the side of the crease.

In doing so, the Wild extended its streak of scoring a power-play goal in a road game to 13 consecutive, keeping a franchise record alive, and matching the longest streak since 2007, done by the Pittsburgh Penguins, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

When Granlund scored a power play two road games ago in Toronto, he said there really wasn't anything so complicated to the Wild's newfound power play success.

His latest goal showed it, as a run-of-the-mill point shot from Scandella, complemented by net-front traffic, resulted in a loose puck and a slam-dunk for Granlund, his first career multi-goal game.

"[Granlund] just has to start shooting the puck some more, and wanting to attack off the rush, and keeping it at a shooting angle when he gets over the blue line," Torchetti said. "He's doing a better job, and it's just being aggressive. Not looking to pass, a shoot-first mentality, and then good things happen."

FIFTH TAKEAWAY

Worth noting how good of a game Scandella had, and how it really showcased the many ways he can be a very multifaceted defenseman.

There are elements of Scandella's game that jump out and probably paint his identity: the big shot, the smooth stride, and his ability to join the rush.

But when Scandella's game is really clicking, he can attack a forward in the zone, dispossess him off the puck using his body, and in an instant start the play going the other way.

It's almost one fluid motion: separate man from puck, move the puck up to a forward, and, if spaced correctly, gallop into the open ice to provide support in transition.

Scandella, a Montreal native, looked energized from the moment the Wild hit the ice for warmups, when he took a spin without a helmet at the suggestion of his teammates.

"The guys wanted me to do it, and I had a lot of people in the stands, so I just wanted to do it to get the nerves out of the way, too," Scandella said.

He also made a key play in setting the gears in motion for the Wild's power-play goal, playing on the second unit with Mike Reilly a healthy scratch, and also had a hand in Granlund's first goal, making a good read at the blue line.

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