Following Wild games, Manager of Digital Media Ryan Stanzel will occasionally give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 3-1 loss against the Columbus Blue Jackets:
Darcy Kuemper entered this road trip having gone winless in four straight games - getting pulled in two and topping that off with a heavy bout of food poisoning last week. But if the last two games are any indication, he’s back in a big way. He made 28 saves in Winnipeg on Monday, and followed that up with a 23-save performance tonight. He didn’t stand much of a chance on David Savard’s power play game winner in the third, a blast from the top of the left circle with a screen in front. On the team’s first goal, Kuemper was bitten with bad luck, as Kevin Connauton scored while the netminder tried to pick up his stick.
The Blue Jackets had a 5-1 shot advantage in the early going as the Wild, who arrived in Columbus after 3 a.m. yesterday morning. The team had just a light skate yesterday and skated out of its road legs. But Minnesota allowed just seven shots in the next 35 minutes.
How did they do it? Solid, tape-to-tape passing, getting the puck in deep and not allowing the Blue Jackets to clear the zone easily. Countless times, Columbus was hemmed in deep, especially against the Wild’s third and fourth lines. Tyler Graovac, continuing to impress in his second NHL game, drew the penalty that led to Zach Parise’s first-period goal by using his hulking, 6-foot-5 frame behind the net. Brett Sutter, Kyle Brodziak and Ryan Carter didn’t allow the Jackets much all night.
The Wild now heads home for four of its next five games, with the road tilt in that span at Dallas, a place Minnesota has won twice this season. The Wild is 0-1-3 in its last four at Xcel Energy Center, losing three ties in overtime. But if the Wild plays like it did the majority of the last three games, it should be tough at home versus Toronto, San Jose, Chicago and Nashville. All four of those teams, by the way, are currently in playoff position.
Minnesota didn’t get the road sweep it wanted, but completes this quick two-game trip with a split against two teams that were on a combined 18-2-5 run—that’s just two regulation losses in 25 games. Columbus is the hottest team in the league, at 10-1-1 in its last 12.
While the Wild didn’t play as well tonight as it did in its two games against Winnipeg, it’s definitely closer to “our game” as Mike Yeo says.
On Twitter tonight we asked Wild fans for their favorite moment of 2014. Not surprisingly, our choice matches the majority—Nino Niederreiter going “Bar Down” in Game 7 of overtime in Round 1 of the playoffs in Denver. The Wild celebration—matched with the stunned silence of the Pepsi Center crowd—was a memory of a lifetime.