Preview: Wild vs. Hurricanes
Talk about your dramatic wins.
The Minnesota Wild might not have a better win this season than their first, a 4-3 overtime decision Thursday night over the Chicago Blackhawks that featured a short-handed equalizer in the last 25 seconds of regulation and a game-winning breakaway goal from Jason Zucker.
“If this is how the year is going to be, I won’t have any hair left at the end of it,” Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau quipped.
With a two-point game in their pocket for the first time, the Wild try to push above .500 Saturday in a late-afternoon clash with the Carolina Hurricanes that finishes a three-game homestand.
Minnesota (1-1-1) came into the game against Chicago looking for offense. The Wild found it, outshooting the Blackhawks 46-30 after being outshot 82-51 in the first two games. They finally sustained puck possession and drove play.
Chicago goalie Cam Ward made a spate of outstanding saves that probably prevented Minnesota from scoring six or seven goals, yet the Wild were in danger of losing again after Mikael Granlund took a holding minor at 18:43 of the third period.
But Minnesota took advantage of the Blackhawks’ inability to maintain puck control. Eric Staal and Zack Parise pumped shots at Ward, who saved them both. However, defenseman Ryan Suter, who rarely ventures below the point on offense, got to the top of the blue paint and poked home a rebound to force overtime.
“Just desperation … just trying to get to the net and help out,” Suter said.
Zucker wrapped things up in overtime with his second goal of the night, capping one of the best games for anyone in the league during the first week-plus. He finished with three points, a plus-four plus-minus rating and put 10 shots on net.
He was a prime reason why the Wild tied their fourth-highest shot total in a game and equaled their second-most shots on goal in a home game.
“I wasn’t happy with how I played the first two games,” Zucker said. “I thought I had some good spurts. It just wasn’t good enough. I know the way I can play and tonight was much more like it. I think everybody would have said the same thing about the first two games.”
While Minnesota found some footing, Carolina (3-0-1) has been on solid ground from the opener, when it outshot the New York Islanders 46-20 but lost 2-1 in overtime. It has won three straight since then, including a 5-3 decision Tuesday night over Vancouver.
Under first-year coach Rod Brind’Amour, the Hurricanes have found their scoring touch, registering 17 goals, the third-highest total through four games in franchise history.
“We want to play that way offensively,” he said. “That’s the way we have to play. We have good talent, and we have to use it to our advantage. Now we have to get better at the other end. I think there’s a lot of room for improvement, which is a positive that we’re still finding ways to get wins.”