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 4-3 win against the Edmonton Oilers at Xcel Energy Center.
Zone entries, and controlled zone entries, are such an integral part of how any team manufactures offense.
Gain the zone with control, and it opens up the offensive looks a team can generate. Dump the puck in the zone, and while it can be successful, it adds some more variables into the equation.
Marco Scandella had a clean zone entry on a power play, which allowed the Wild to score a matter of seconds later.
After the second power play unit failed to work the puck up ice a few times with stretch passes, Scandella decided to do it himself, using his speed to evade penalty killers and carry it over the blue line.
He left the puck for Thomas Vanek, drove to the net, and tipped home Vanek's return pass off the ice and into the top corner to make it 2-0 Wild.
"When you get a kick-out play, and you drive through, everything opens up. That’s the main thing on the PP break-in," Scandella said.
Head Coach Mike Yeo was pleased with his defenseman's performance.
"His game has really been coming along," Yeo said. "You’re starting to see a lot of the things that you think of Marco doing when he’s playing his top game.
"Obviously the speed of his goal, and the ability to get into the play, but even more important than that, Marco, when he’s on his game, he’s a horse for us. You see him, his skating ability, his ability to play one-on-one, but his ability to separate guys, and then execute with the puck."
A 200-plus-foot goal for Ryan Suter—his first of the season—and he worked every inch of those 200-plus feet.
The Wild lost the puck at its offensive blue line, and Suter skated back for it only to be passed by Connor McDavid. Suter didn't panic though, and chased down McDavid, making a defensive play and helping the Wild to win possession back.
He then jumped into the rush, as Suter has done so frequently this season, and took a drop pass from Jason Zucker. Through a sea of red and white jerseys, Suter took a seeing-eye shot that Cam Talbot never saw to give the Wild a 1-0 lead.
"It’s how the game is; it’s up-and-down," Suter said. "You’re playing well, and you’re not getting points, but sometimes you’re not playing well, and you’re getting points. I hit three posts in the first three games, and now two goals tonight. Who knows? I’ll probably go another 10 games without even getting a shot now. It’s funny how it works."
The goal was pretty emblematic of what Suter has been doing well this season: a sound defensive play, leading to him activating up ice, and finishing with an effective offensive play.
Suter wasn't done.
After an extended shift in Edmonton's end in the third period, Suter cycled down from his point spot, went to the front of the net, and tipped home a Mikko Koivu pass to tie the game at three.
"When you’re defending, you’re just standing there looking for a guy to pick up," Suter said. "It was a lucky bounce, but we’ll take it."
The eight points Suter has in nine games are the most he has had in his first nine games to start a season. He previously had six points in nine games to start three separate seasons (08-09, 09-10, and 14-15).
When the Wild's play stagnated a bit in the second period, Mike Yeo juggled his bottom six forwards, looking for a spark.
Erik Haula took a shift in between Thomas Vanek and Justin Fontaine. Then Chris Porter took a shift with Vanek and Charlie Coyle. Yeo tried a few different things and, on one shift, the former trio followed up a strong shift by Koivu's line by continuing to hem Edmonton in deep.
The Wild didn't score on those sequences, but the new lines certainly created quality scoring opportunities and puck possession, and as you'll read below, there were fruits to those moves.
Call it a demotion, or call it whatever you want, but Charlie Coyle responded to being bumped off his line with some hardworking shifts that got him back between Vanek and Fontaine. He then parlayed that spot into a goal.
"Whether I was or whether I wasn't (trying to send him a message), the main thing about that story is he responded," Yeo said. "That’s what you want from players."
Only 43 seconds after Suter tied the game, Coyle's line got the puck deep. It was worked around the goal line before Vanek flung it toward the crease, and Coyle and his big frame crashed the net, stick on the ice, and got a piece on the backhand, redirecting it into the net.
"I knew I had to come out better in the third, and personally I don’t think I was playing my game," Coyle said. "I kind of get away from things sometimes, and you can’t do that. I tried to respond there in the third, and get back to my game."
When Coyle was successful early in the season, including a two-goal performance against the St. Louis Blues, he used both his size and speed to create space for himself and his linemates. On his goal, he used that same formula to get to a spot atop the blue paint and put himself in a scoring position.
There was a hockey game played tonight, but Tuesday was about so much more than hockey.
From everything that happened throughout the day, beginning with the Wild and Make-A-Wish teaming up to grant the wish of Bridget Villebrun, to a 10-year-old Lincoln Becker who just went through a year of intensive chemotherapy skating out and carrying the flag when the Wild hit the ice for warmups, to eight-year-old Navaeh Belker, who has beat cancer twice starting the game off with the "Let's Play Hockey" call.
Hockey is a game, but hockey can be bigger than a game. Sports can be bigger than sports. That's what Tuesday was truly about.
The Wild held a moment of silence before the game for former Minnesota Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders, who died on Sunday after a battle with Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Tuesday at the Xcel Energy Center had many similar elements to other games—save for being colored lavender—but it was a glimpse into why hockey can truly be special.