Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 3-0 win against the Colorado Avalanche:
If the opening win of the home-and-home series was a knockout for the Minnesota Wild, tonight’s game against the Colorado Avalanche was a TKO. The Wild wore down the Avs by executing its game plan and forced them into submission with surgical precision. It wasn’t a perfect game, but it was a good, hard-fought road victory.
Darcy Kuemper posted a second-straight shutout, this time facing many more shots and making more difficult saves. The netminder was out of his crease, making his 6-foot-5 frame much larger and cutting down the amount of net Avs shooters had to look at. He also showed off his athletic ability, making several sprawling saves.
The Wild continued to show its depth in scoring, with two players notching their first goals of the season. Charlie Coyle was credited with his first tally of the year, redirecting a point shot from Ryan Suter. Jason Zucker also added a pure snipe that we’ll get to in a minute. Seven different scorers tallied the team’s first seven goals of the season. It wasn’t until Zach Parise’s empty net goal with three seconds left that a player marked his second. His teammates could probably joke after the game that it was about time, as the forward fired 10 shots on goal. Through two games, Parise has gotten more shots than a lot of players get in a month. Many of his shots came on the power play…
The Wild wants to improve its power play this season and although it has gone scoreless in the first two games, it had plenty of chances and was constantly knocking on the doorstep. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo previously stated that he wants the team’s power play to be fluid. Tonight, the Wild’s power play looked like it was ready for an assembly line due to the amount of interchangeable parts. On the team’s first man advantage Jared Spurgeon, who started at the left point, moved into the high slot, and was replaced by Jason Pominville. The wing then roamed along the weak side for the remainder of the shift and Spurgeon remained in the slot—typically reserved for forwards. Meanwhile, Zach Parise and Mikael Granlund played catch along the right boards and cycled from high to low.
In the second period, the rotation continued as the Wild went on a five-minute power play after an Erik Johnson elbow (we’ll get to that). During the major, Minnesota poured out a concoction of combinations that rivaled even the most well traveled mixologist. There was the Vanek-Koivu-Parise Slammer trying to jam home pucks in the crease. The Suter-Pominville D-Bomb pairing dropping one-time shots from the point. Finally, with time winding down on the Johnson major, the Coyle-Granlund-Niederreiter Barely Legal looked like it scored…
With the youngsters taking up the final few seconds of the major penalty, Granlund floated the puck towards Nino Niederreiter in front of the net. Avs netminder Seymon Varlamov turned the puck away and the puck rested just beyond the goalie’s reach and crease. Scrambling for the puck, Varlamov, Niederreiter and Avs defender Jan Hejda heaped into the net like a schoolyard dog pile. Coyle chipped the puck over the mass of bodies for what looked like his second goal of the game. However, the referee, Graham Skilliter, stationed behind the net immediately waved it off. Here’s the explanation from the League:
At 7:18 of the second period in the Wild/Avalanche game, the Situation Room initiated a video review because the puck entered the Colorado net. The referee informed the Situation Room that Wild forward Nino Niederreiter made incidental contact with Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov. This is not a reviewable play therefore the referee's call on the ice stands - no penalty and no goal Minnesota.
The ref must’ve failed to recognize that Niederreiter was helped onto the netminder, the way that a bouncer helps a drunken, rowdy customer out of an establishment and onto the sidewalk. Overall, it was a much feistier game than Thursday’s event…
With the bad blood between the Wild and Avs finally surfacing tonight, the game resembled the Zombie Pub Crawl back in the Twin Cities. The contest took on a contentious air, especially after the Johnson hit. Erik Haula was skating through the neutral zone and as he crossed the blue line, he dumped the puck into the corner. Johnson, trying to step up for a big hit, was off his angle. However, that didn’t stop him from flying through the air with an elbow drop like Randy “The Macho Man” Savage coming off the turnbuckle.
As Haula pulled himself off the ice, Johnson was given the gate and ejected for the rest of the game. As Haula dusted himself off, Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog went over to the Wild forward to give him a piece of his mind like Bobby "The Brain" Heenan. Landeskog wasn’t done being the villain. At the end of the second, he tried to mount Niederreiter with a Sharpshooter like a Brett “The Hitman” Hart. To the Wild and its fans, Landeskog is beginning to look a lot like the Iron Sheik (a lot more wrestling references than usual, I know, but the 80s were the best and tonight’s game took on that air).
For Zucker to make the Wild this season, he had to show the club’s brass that he was more than a one-dimensional speedster with a good shot during training camp. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said that he needed to do the little things that would help the team win, namely, play a strong two-way game. Well, the forward took the role and advice to heart, killing penalties and taking care of the puck by making smart decisions. Tonight, Zucker played 1:08 shorthanded. Of course, he showed that nose for the net on a wicked one-timer on a Thomas Vanek setup. Zucker ended the night with a goal, a plus-one rating, two shots and 9:41 TOI.
For Vanek it was his first point in a Wild sweater. After missing a pass from Zucker on an odd-man rush, Vanek pulled the puck out of the corner, spun away and held off Daniel Briere. The wing then slid a perfect pass to Zucker, who blasted a one-timer into the upper-right corner. When Yeo was asked recently if there was any part of Vanek’s game that was surprising, the bench boss said he was most impressed by his ability to set up plays and create offense for teammates. Tonight’s assist to Zucker was a pretty good illustration of that skill.