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 5-4 win against the Chicago Blackhawks at Xcel Energy Center. FIRST TAKEAWAY
It's not just that Mikko Koivu's line seems to be dangerous every time it hops over the boards; it does it to start periods, which sets the tone in a major way.
The Wild has started 28 regulation periods at even-strength this season, and Koivu's line has been out for 26 of those faceoffs. In those beginning sequences, the line always seems to get the puck deep in the offensive zone, creating both possession and scoring chances.
"We're trying to prepare the right way, and making sure that we're ready to go," Koivu said. "Goals for sure are nice to get, but it's more important the way you come into the games. You're always trying to set the tone, especially at home."
Against the Blackhawks, it was no different. Quick-start goals bookended the Wild's scoring, with Jason Zucker scoring 18 seconds into the first period to make it 1-0, and Nino Niederreiter scoring 32 seconds into the third to make it 5-4 for Minnesota.
"Starts are crucial in this game," Ryan Carter
said. "I don't know what the stats are this year, but it seems like historically teams that score first win often. It's nice to get that first one on the board."
They're shifts that create positive momentum for the Wild, and a great jumpstart to any period.
With an assist on Niederreiter's goal, Zucker already has more assists (six) than he had last season (five).
The best way to respond when a player gets injured in the manner Justin Fontaine did is on the scoreboard.
Fontaine was in a collision at the offensive blue line with Blackhawks forward Andrew Desjardins. A tripping penalty was called, as Fontaine was helped off the ice by his teammates.
Jared Spurgeon scored on the ensuing power play, extending the Wild's lead to 4-2. Fontaine did not return to the game with a lower-body injury
The Wild's fourth line has its first even-strength goal of the season, and it was scored in a very fourth-linean matter.
"Our line has been generating from good defensive zone coverage," Carter said. "Coaches have been putting us out there in that zone, and playing sound there has created our chances in the offensive zone."
It began with a shift in its defensive zone matched up against Patrick Kane's line, no easy task. As Kane tried to move the puck near the blue line, Erik Haula got a piece of the midair pass with his stick, Chris Porter killed its momentum with his skate, and Porter sprung Haula up ice with the puck, joined by Carter, for a 2-on-1.
Carter was the recipient of a pass from Haula, and took advantage of an aggressive play by Scott Darling, walking around the Blackhawks goalie, who was way out of his crease.
The goal's seeds were planted in Minnesota's defensive zone, its roots stretched through the neutral zone, and it bloomed in Chicago's end, flowering into a goal.
"Another really solid game from that line," Head Coach Mike Yeo said. "(They're) creating through work ethic, creating through doing things the right way, defense-first mentality, taking pride in shutting down the other team, and bringing momentum to our group."
If you're a fan of hockey, which presumably you might be if you're reading this story, the first period was a pure joy to watch.
Fans of the Wild and Blackhawks probably found it very stressful, but the back-and-forth, barn-burner pace of play made for some incredibly entertaining hockey.
The Wild scored 18 seconds into the first period, courtesy of Zucker, who did his best to break a franchise record he set in Winnipeg five days ago by scoring 10 seconds into a game.
Chicago responded, as Chicago does, with a shorthanded and power-play goal to take the lead, 2-1.
A counter-punch was thrown by Minnesota, with Carter scoring on a breakaway, and Charlie Coyle
deflecting home a Marco Scandella
point shot to make it 3-2 Wild.
"What we have been absolutely outstanding at is when there have been momentum shifts that have gone against us, or something bad has happened, we've been able to collect ourselves and get back to our game," Yeo said.
Back and forth they went. Twenty minutes of hockey, a combined five goals, 26 shots on goal, and a combined 48 shot-attempts at all strengths.
"As a player, yeah, these are fun games," Carter said. "I don't know that the coaching staff and everybody likes them that much. I think they like the 3-2 games more than the 5-4."
Nice to see Don Beaupre at the game on Friday, and his involvement with the Wild, and specifically as it pertains to Chicago, is hardly done.
Beaupre was in attendance to do the "Let's Play Hockey" announcement prior to puck drop. He'll also be participating in the alumni game in February
between the Wild and Blackhawks prior to the 2016 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series.
Though the outdoor game is a ways away, whenever these two teams play, and when figures like Beaupre are around, it will serve as a reminder of something special that's on the horizon.