Wild’s Special Teams Take Hit in Loss to Predators

The Minnesota Wild were not prepared for the onslaught they faced when they took on the Nashville Predators Tuesday night. Things started physical early and it took its toll as the Wild got down a goal early but found a way to tie it shortly after. However, that was the only time the game was tied as the Predators got on a scoring run shortly after and didn’t look back.

Almost immediately after the Wild tied it up the Predators scored to take the lead 2-1. They weren’t done, however, as they added one more to finish off the period up 3-1. That still wasn’t the end, as the second period started they snuck another one in to extend their lead to three goals. The Wild responded with a goal late in the second to get some hope back. They came out in the third with renewed energy and played quite well. However, the Predators stormed back with two more goals to win the game 6-2. The Wild continued to be without Matt Boldy and Jon Merrill, as both of them are still recovering from upper-body injuries.

Wild’s Special Teams’ Ups and Downs

The Wild’s penalty kill struggled immensely, out of four chances, the Predators scored on three of them, and half of their goals came on their power play. They almost went four for four but the penalty ended a few seconds prior to the Predators scoring their fourth goal. Before their collapse against the Predators, the Wild were coming off of two straight games where they killed off every penalty.

Dean Evason Minnesota Wild
Dean Evason, head coach of the Minnesota Wild (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Their power play was slightly better, but only slightly. They had six opportunities while a man up and only converted on one of them. They had plenty of shots, but Predators goaltender Juuse Saros figured out how to stop all but one. The Wild had a five-game streak of power-play goals before their last game against the Washington Capitals. They may have lost but hopefully, they’ve started another streak of scoring while on the power play.

Wild: A Team of Contradiction

In the last few games, this team has found ways to win with the lowest number of shots they’ve had all season. However, they became a team of contradictions in this particular loss. They had their highest shot total of the season at 49 but only scored twice. Their shooting percentage was just 4.1 percent compared to 26.3 percent in their last game. Typically, the team with the higher shot total goes on to win the game, but that was clearly not the case for the Wild this time.

Ryan Hartman and Kevin Fiala led the way with eight shots each followed closely by Jordan Greenway with six. Their scorers Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello both had five shots apiece. Out of the entire lineup, only five players didn’t register a shot on goal.

Wild’s Silver Lining

There may have been a few issues in their loss but there was a happy note as well. Zuccarello scored the first goal for the Wild to tie the game which gave them hope. He also went on to assist on Kaprizov’s goal later in the game. He followed in his linemate’s footsteps as he tied a franchise record with that assist. It was his 50th of the season. The record was held previously by Pierre-Marc Bouchard in the 2007-08 season.

Related: Wild Check-In: Greenway, Boldy, Kaprizov & Hartman

Speaking of Kaprizov, he already set the franchise record for most points in a single season with 84. He added two more to that against the Predators to bring his total to 86 and inch him even closer to 100. If he can make it there, he’ll be the first to ever reach it in a Wild sweater. His goal was his 40th of the season which put him two away from tying the franchise record for most goals in a single season. The current record is 42 held by both Marián Gáborík and Eric Staal.

Wild Face Blues

The Wild’s next opponent and final game of the road trip will be against a division rival in the St. Louis Blues. They’ll have to play without two defensemen in the lineup, as Matt Dumba left the game against the Predators after a big hit and did not return due to an upper-body injury that didn’t look good. It also doesn’t look like Merrill will be back, but Boldy may be a possibility.

What’s left of the defense will have to be on the lookout for Jordan Kyrou who destroyed the Wild in the Winter Classic. Not far behind him are his teammates, Vladimir Tarasenko, Robert Thomas, and Pavel Buchnevich. While the Blues’ forwards are busy with the Wild’s defense, the Wild’s forwards will be busy trying to find a way past either Ville Husso or Jordan Binnington.

The Wild will need to improve their penalty kill as well as their power play before they face the Blues. While they will be coming off this disappointing loss, the Blues will be coming off a game against the Seattle Kraken. It’ll be Cam Talbot’s turn in net and hopefully, the defense can help out more than they did in this loss. This game will be crucial in regards to the standings and the Wild will need to come out on top to keep their distance and their second-place position in the Central Division.

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