Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he'll remember from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 4-0 win against the New Jersey Devils:
It took the Wild some time to find its groove, but when it did, the Devils didn’t have much of a chance.
Minnesota settled down after the slow start and took it to New Jersey. A big key to tonight were the special teams, as the Wild had to kill three penalties in the first period. The Wild has had a tough time shorthanded this season, but the club was spot on, not giving the Devils much of a chance on any of its power play opportunities and only allowing three shots on goal shorthanded.
Meanwhile, the Wild was 1-for-3 on the power play and looked good with each opportunity. It was the second unit that hit pay dirt, as Dany Heatley notched his second goal of the season. The forward redirected a Keith Ballard point shot past New Jersey netminder Cory Schneider.
Josh Harding continued his strong play in net tonight. He’s one of the great early-season stories in the NHL. The Wild netminder improved his record to 7-2-1 on the year. Coming into the contest, he was sporting a .946 save percentage and 1.22 goals-against average. Obviously, those will go down after tonight’s shutout, his second of the season.
The Wild started about as fast as an old man easing into a warm bath. But with the Devils throwing its best shots early, Harding was spot on from the get-go, making six saves before Minnesota tested his counterpart, Schneider. He only faced 13 shots for the rest of the game, but he stood tall when the team needed him to come up big early.
Mikael Granlund is a pass-first centerman and leads the Wild in assists this season. The 21-year-old has set up linemates Jason Pominville and Nino Niederreiter with some beauty assists this year. But tonight, he wasn’t passing up a wide open net as he scored his first of the season.
The play started in the Wild’s defensive zone, as Keith Ballard fired a pass up the middle to Granlund. The center deflected the puck high into the air into the neutral zone. Pominville tracked it down and went high on Devils netminder Corey Schneider. The rebound kicked out to Niederreiter, who tried unsuccessfully to stuff the puck, but regrouped and found a wide-open Granlund in the slot, who fired it home for his first of the year and third of his career. Niederreiter took the role of playmaker, adding three helpers on the night.
The trio of Pominville, Niederreiter and Granlund have combined for 20 points in the last five games. @mnwildLIVE has nicknamed the combination Graninoville. I don't know how much I like the nickname, but it'll do for now.
For the first time since signing with the Wild two summers ago, Zach Parise faced his former team, the Devils. In seven seasons with New Jersey, Parise put up 410 points with 194 goals (194-216=410) and was named team captain in his final season, before the Minnesota-native came home signing a 13-year contract with the Wild.
Tonight, he helped the Wild top his old mates, adding the primary assist on Torrey Mitchell’s first goal of the year. Parise is a prime example of how getting the puck on net leads to good things happening. Parise took a cross-ice pass from Ryan Suter and held the puck before trying to slide it past Schneider. It wasn’t the hardest shot Parise has ever taken, but it created a rebound that bounced directly out front of the net. Mitchell and Suter were both crashing the crease, and the puck bounced in. With a shooter’s mentality, Parise has scored against every team in the NHL, with the exception of New Jersey.
Charlie Coyle re-aggravated a lower-body injury and was held out of the game as a precautionary measure, so the Wild recalled Carson McMillan from the Iowa Wild, the team’s American Hockey League affiliate. McMillan skated on the fourth line and saw 58 seconds of time on the team’s penalty kill.
McMillan is off to a great start in Iowa and was rewarded with the call-up. The big forward has two goals and four assists in seven games with the iWild. He fills a role on the checking line, plays well in the D-zone and brings physical play. He isn’t known as a goal scorer, but doesn’t need to be; he knows his game and plays it well.