Following Wild games, Content Coordinator Evan Sporer will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at the 4-1 loss against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center.
The line of Mikko Koivu, Jason Zucker, and Nino Niederreiter is playing incredibly well.
Niederreiter scored the Wild's goal on Sunday, taking a stretch pass up the boards from Koivu, and with Hampus Lindholm draped all over him, managed to beat Anton Khudobin.
"We had a lot of great chances, especially early on and toward the end as well," Niederreiter said. "It was right there for us, and I feel like we've got to sharpen up on our chances."
It would be hard to analyze the lines defensive merits simply because it spent each of its shifts in Anaheim's zone.
Zucker made a great play at his offensive blue line in the first period when he fed the puck the length of the rink to Jonas Brodin, who broke in alone on Khudobin, but hit the post. Zucker had no idea Brodin was breaking down the right side until Brodin yelled for the puck.
Koivu's line was a scoring threat every time it hopped over the boards, controlling possession, cycling the puck down low behind Anaheim's goal until it was satisfied with attacking the net.
The Koivu line took 15 of the Wild's 35 shots on goal.
"They were extremely unlucky to only get one goal tonight," Head Coach Mike Yeo said. "Those guys, it seemed like they had zone time every time they were out there, and scoring chances every time they were out there."
Save for the third period in the season opener against Colorado, the second period against the Ducks might have been the Wild's best of the season.
The Wild outshot the Ducks 13-3, out-attempted them at even-strength 21-11, and lived in Anaheim's zone for just about 20 minutes.
As luck would have it, the period would go by without a goal scored by either side. Zach Parise jammed at a puck during a net-mouth scramble that slid off the post. Koivu wired a shot from in between the circles on the power play that rang off the crossbar.
"We had a lot of quality chances, and obviously that's a good thing, but it's getting frustrating when you get those kinds of chances … but what can you do?" Koivu said.
Add in the post that Brodin hit in the first period, and it was a tough-luck game in many respects for Minnesota.
"Funny game. It might have been our best game of the year," Yeo said.
During the Ducks first four games of the season, in which they scored one goal on 128 shots, there was plenty of hard luck to be had.
The Wild played arguably its most complete game of the season, but didn't get any points to show for it.
Facing a physical team, the Wild said one of the keys to neutralizing that part of Anaheim's game was by using its speed.
The Wild turned it into a higher gear on Sunday, really pushing the pace in a number of regards. The breakouts were crisp, decisive, and executed quickly. When Minnesota dumped the puck into Anaheim's zone, forecheckers quickly got on puck carriers, not giving them time or space.
The Wild's goal was a byproduct of quick decision-making and Niederreiter's speed, and both Niederreiter and Zucker created multiple scoring chances by simply skating north-south.
"I felt really good today, and I felt like today was definitely a game that I moved my legs a lot," Niederreiter said.
Yeo had talked about mixing things up defensively, and the Wild juggled some its pairings at the end of its game against the Los Angeles Kings on Friday.
Against Anaheim, Marco Scandella was playing with Matt Dumba, and Jonas Brodin with Christian Folin. The pairing of Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon remained intact.
With the new configuration, all six defensemen were still playing on their strong sides. The Wild treat its defense like one unit with three pairings versus ordered on a depth chart, which trickles down to its deployment and usage.
Anaheim held its Hockey Fights Cancer Night on Sunday, which included a touching pregame ceremony and several in-game moments. Fans in the crowd held up lavender "I Fight For" support signs on which they wrote the names of those they know effected by the disease.
It's all part of a month-long, league-wide initiative, raising awareness and money for different cancer organizations. The first 3,000 fans in attendance received lavender ribbons to wear.
The Wild will hold its Hockey Fights Cancer Night on October 27 versus the Edmonton Oilers. More information about the Wild's Hockey Fights Cancer Night can be found here.