Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Penguins. The Wild. The top two teams in the NHL set to take the ice…

The top two teams in the NHL met for the first of two meetings this season at the Xcel Energy Center last night (these two teams will meet again in Pittsburgh on January 13). Coming into this game, the Wild were the only remaining undefeated team at home (Montreal lost Sunday night to Calgary at home 6-2). These two teams split their two game series last season. 

The Penguins will be without defenseman Olli Maatta for the next four weeks. It was reported yesterday that he underwent successful surgery to remove a tumor from his thyroid. It had been revealed recently Maatta’s tumor was found during his pre-season physical, but he had been cleared to play until he was scheduled to have surgery.

The Family of Slain Mendota Heights Police Officer Scott Patrick
(courtesy of @mnwild on Twitter).

Before the start of the game, the Minnesota Wild honored slain Mendota Heights (MN) Officer Scott Patrick. (Officer Patrick was killed on July 30 while conducting a routine traffic stop). Officer Patrick’s widow, Michelle, was joined by the couple’s two daughters (Erin and Amy). The Wild presented them a team-autographed jersey with his badge number. Michelle, Amy, and Erin were also joined by Officer Patrick’s two closest friends and co-workers Bobby Lambert and John Larrive. Scott Patrick was a 19-year-veteran of the Mendota Heights Police Department. Michelle, Amy, and Erin led the crowd with the “Let’s Play Hockey” call before the opening face-off. Michelle Patrick stated to a local media outlet "... the opportunity was a good chance to show the community the family is doing OK. She says it means a lot for the team and fans to recognize what her family is going through, which she says continues to be a long journey." (

The Penguins' Thomas Greiss and the Wild's Zach Parise
When I was starting to write this blog post, I had made the assumption that Marc-Andre Fluery was going to be starting last night's game (against the Wild, he's 0-5 with a 3.76 GAA and .853 sv %). Shortly before the game, I found out that Thomas Greiss was getting the start. He was 1-2 against the Wild heading into last night's game with a 2.36 GAA and .917 sv %. Darcy Kuemper made his first career start against the Penguins. 

The Penguins were going into this game with a league leading average of 4.1 goals per game, while the Wild were averaging 1.8 goals against (which was the league's lowest). 

Then the puck was dropped....

The Wild got themselves into trouble early, especially in the neutral zone. The Penguins forced the Wild to ice the puck three times early in the first period, and committed several turnovers. The Wild were not playing the up-tempo and fast-paced hockey we had seen in the first ten games of this season. Despite the sluggish play of the Wild, they still managed to out shoot the Pens 6-5 in the first period. The only scoring came very late in the first period when the Pens' Nick Spaling tallied his second goal of the season with 53.9 seconds left.

The Wild's sluggish play continued into the second period. Brandon Sutter notched the second Pens' goal of the game 2:08 into the second period. Chris Kunitz scored to make the score 3-0 with 4:32 left in the second. That goal was scored five seconds into the Pens' first power play of the evening. Kunitz's goal marked the first time this season the Wild have had a 3-goal deficit in a game. All three of the Pens' goals came as a result of turnovers by the Wild. The Wild still managed to out shoot Pittsburgh 13-12 in the second period. 

The Star Tribune's Michael Russo stated in his blog that the "Wild executed poorly for 40 minutes and for the first time this season couldn’t play 'fast hockey' because of difficulty getting through the neutral zone." (Flat Wild bumbles, tumbles vs. Penguins, 11/5/2014,  

The Wild tried to get back into the game in the third period and had come out of the gate out-shooting the Pens 9-1 for the first 12:16 of the period. Nino Niederreiter put the Wild on the board with his first career short-handed goal at 10:42 of the third period--snapping the Pens' scoreless streak at 205 minutes and 28 seconds. (Marc-Andre Fluery had two shutouts in the Pens' previous two games).

With 3:05 left in the game, a very controversial and blown call was made when Mikko Koivu's goal was called off. The refs claimed the reason why the goal was waived off was because of interference by Mikael Granlund on Pens' goalie Thomas Greiss. In watching the replay of the incident several times, Granlund was pushed into Greiss by defenseman Kris Letang, therefore making it incidental contact. Where the refs made the mistake is that the whistle should have been blown when the "interference" was spotted and not allowing play to continue for several seconds--allowing Koivu to get the puck past Greiss.  The refs stated that the call was "not reviewable" and could "not be overturned," even though the Wild's broadcast did show a shot of the situation room in Toronto and it looked like they were reviewing that play--and spent a couple of minutes doing so. 

Nino Niederreiter stated this after the game, "it’s obviously very frustrating, definitely very big, because I thought it should have been a goal,” 

Patric Hornqvist scored an empty goal to make the score 4-1 in favor of the Pens at the 18:26 mark in the third period. The Wild ended up taking their first home loss of the season, even though they managed 34 SOG, compared to 22 for the Pens. 

This was a very frustrating game for the Minnesota Wild. Jason Pominville was quoted in the Pioneer press, stating, " ...We were in our zone and didn't give up much, but it felt like they controlled most of the play and we weren't able to generate as much as we usually do." (Chad Graff, 11/5/2014). Ryan Suter added,  "I think we took for granted just being at home," defenseman Ryan Suter said. "We've had a lot of success here. We came out flat and we thought we just had to show up to get the win, and that's obviously not what happened."

The Wild were without Zach Parise for the third period, for what has been disclosed as an "upper-body injury" and he will not be on the road trip for the next two games at Ottawa and Montreal. It also looks like the Wild will also be without Matt Cooke and Jared Spurgeon for this road trip as well. The Wild's depth in their line up is going to be tested on this up-coming two game road trip. 

I usually would not include some kind of meme in a blog post like this. However, I did find this particular one very appropriate...

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