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Five Takeaways From Wild At Panthers

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 2-1 loss against the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center.



SUNRISE –


FIRST TAKEAWAY



In a game the Wild took 40 shots on goal, it scored once. There were a number of factors that went into that, but more often that not, when a box score has a 40 in the shots on goal column, the team taking said shots scores more than once.

"It was a lot of zone time, but I'm not sure if we got real quality chances as much," Koivu said. "[Panthers goaltender Al Montoya] kept the rebounds, and we just couldn't get to the loose pucks."

Montoya played a strong game, making nine save on the power play, and stifling the Wild on a number of quality chances.

"It's too bad, actually one of our better road games, but obviously we didn't put the puck in the net, and came away shorthanded," Head Coach Mike Yeo said.

But one of the positives to take out of that is how much the Wild was able to generate, especially at even-strength. Those games or stretches generally foreshadow scoring booms.

It happened just a few weeks ago when Mikko Koivu predicted the Wild was ready to bust out following a 2-0 win against the San Jose Sharks, and then Minnesota scored a combined 11 goals over two games.

"It's more important right now that we get the momentum, and get some quality chances, and you have to believe it's going to go in," Koivu said. "We have to stay on it, and keep creating."

SECOND TAKEAWAY


Yeo juggled his lines again on Sunday, putting Zach Parise with Koivu and Jason Zucker, and Thomas Vanek with Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville. 



The former had a big impact on the game. 



What Zucker does for a line is use his speed to stretch the ice vertically, creating space for his linemates. He had that effect on Sunday, opening things up for Parise and Koivu. The line was able to cycle the puck in the Panthers' zone, creating extended shifts during which it forced Florida to chase.


"Five-on-five we dictated a lot of the play tonight," Zucker said. "Everybody had some really good shifts five-on-five."

One of those sequences for his line in the second period ended in a goal. 



At the end of a 48-second shift, with Florida running around below its blue line, Zucker hung in front of the net and got lost in space. After a Ryan Suter shot ended up toward the side of the crease, Koivu fire-wired a pass to Zucker, who had his first shot stopped, but poked home the rebound lying in the crease (VIDEO). 


"And honestly I didn't even see it," Zucker said. "It just hit my stick, and went five-hole, and I thought he made a save, and then I saw it pop out, so I took another whack at it."

There were other near-goal sequences created by the line, including Koivu hitting the post in the second period in what was a solid game overall for the Wild's newly assembled top line.


"That's a start, and that's a good thing," Zucker said. "That's what we wanted, obviously, and a lot of us in general haven't had a ton of offensive zone time.

"It's been a lot of neutral zone, so it was good to get that zone time, but obviously we didn’t win so we have to make sure that we build off that."

THIRD TAKEAWAY



The Wild didn't score on the power play, but made some tweaks to the top unit that carried over from Saturday and helped generate some good looks.

Defenseman Matt Dumba and Granlund made their way onto that top unit, joining Parise, Suter, and Vanek. 



Dumba, who set a franchise-record for a defenseman by taking nine shots on goal on Saturday (seven of which came on the power play), is a willing shooter with a lethal shot. 



There are a few components to Dumba's power play influence. With him occupying that point spot, it forces the opposing penalty kill to account for him. That changes the spacing and dynamic of a power play, opening things up for the four other Wild skaters, and opening up seams, which can be so vital to power-play success.


"A lot of movement, a lot of zone time, just not a lot of goals," Yeo said.

And with Dumba out there, the Wild generated good chances. He took another five shots on the power play, but couldn't connect.

Before the game, Yeo said the power play could really give the Wild a boost on the road, and in a one-goal game on Sunday, it certainly could have.

"We had some good opportunities for us to tie it up, or early before we got down, for us to take the lead," Suter said. "But they'll come, and hopefully they'll come in bunches soon."



FOURTH TAKEAWAY



The talk before the Wild and Panthers dropped the puck was of Minnesota getting off to a quicker start.



A night earlier in Tampa Bay, the Wild trailed early, and took three-quarters of the first period for Minnesota to register its first shot on goal. 



Against a Panthers team that had won eight straight games entering Sunday, and had scored the first goal in six of those eight games, Yeo was expecting Florida to come out fast. 



And it did. 



The Panthers scored on their first shift, 27 seconds into the game, on a start reminiscent of the Wild's 3-2 loss against the Nashville Predators two weeks ago. The Wild conceded the first goal in a road building 46 seconds in, and then the Wild was forced to chase. 



Minnesota did get to its game rather quickly though, and played a much better first period overall than it did in Tampa Bay.



FIFTH TAKEAWAY



The Wild's penalty kill was perfect on Sunday, erasing the five minor penalties Minnesota took. The PK has killed off 10 of the past 11 penalties the Wild has taken, and has done so without relative consequence. 



Save for a quality chance by Steven Stamkos on Saturday that resulted in a quality Devan Dubnyk save, the Wild has kept opposing power plays to the outside. Minnesota has done it by making aggressive, but not overly aggressive, reads. Penalty killing is about picking your spots, and the Wild has done a good job of conceding space when it should, and taking it away when it can.

One element of all the penalties on Sunday (nine combined between the two teams) was less time spent at even-strength, where Minnesota was so effective virtually all game.

"We gave them too many power plays, and that gets you out of the flow of the game sometimes," Zucker said. "That gets different line combos out there at times, and that definitely changes some things, but that's the way it goes."



Still, Yeo said he preferred Minnesota play aggressively than take a passive approach.

"Obviously now the next step will be to make sure that we keep that aggressiveness, and stay out of the box a little bit more," he said.

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