Minnesota Wild Home Opening Win


Will Schiffler, Writer

The Minnesota Wild had an electric atmosphere back at home Tuesday, October 19, inside a sold-out Xcel Energy Center. After a two-game California road trip to start the season 2-0, the Minnesota Wild could play in front of their fans with full attendance for the first time in 18 months. 

Many eager Wild fans were able to see the man who brought life back to the Minnesota organization, Kiril Kaprizov. This off-season the Russian superstar signed a five-year, 45 million dollar contract to keep the 2015 fifth-round draft choice around. Wild fans were also able to see new additions to this year’s roster Tuesday night, including defensemen Alex Goligoski, Jon Merrill, Dmitry Kulikov, center Fredrick Gaudreau, and winger Brandon Duhaime. 

The home opener matchup against the division rivals, Winnipeg Jets, was nothing short of an exciting physical game. Just three minutes into the opening period, the Jets capitalized on a shot from Kyle Connor to take the lead 1-0. The lead was brief once Mats Zuccarello tied the game less than a minute later. The back and forth offense continued throughout the first, keeping both fan bases on their toes. Kyle Connors captured yet another goal in the first period to take a 2-1 lead to close out the period. The Wild drew a penalty to send them off to a powerplay to close out the last two minutes of the first period. This led to Joel Eriksson Ek scoring his first of the night. With a little over a minute remaining in the period, Marcus Foligno dropped the gloves with defensemen Brenden Dillion, after the center ice faceoff. Foligno got the best of the young defensemen in the fight while making a highlight reel punch, known as the “Superman Punch.”

The second period consisted of a fast-paced period with a lot of physicalities presented by both clubs. After a Minnesota minor penalty, Winnipeg’s Josh Morrissey scored on the power play for the Jets to take the lead once again. Throughout the first 16 minutes of the second-period Winnipeg goaltender, Connor Hellebuyck was finally beat by Mats Zuccarello for the second time on the night. 

The third period began dominated by the Winnipeg Jets, where they jumped to a 5-3 lead with goals on the power play by Pierre-Luc Dubois and an even-strength goal by Andrew Copp. Time was running out for the Wild when they drew yet another powerplay with a little under six minutes remaining in the period. That’s when Marcus Foligno cut the deficit in half on the powerplay. With under two minutes remaining and all of Minnesota’s top offensive threats on the ice Cam Talbot was pulled for an extra attacker. A lousy attack offensively led to a turnover where two Jets forwards went down on a 2-1 against Kevin Fiala and an empty net. The empty-net goal led to a 6-4 lead, and Minnesota was destined to drop their first game of the season at home. 

Coach Dean Evanson challenged the empty-net goal for possible offsides that occurred on the rush. After a few minutes under review and Minnesota fans storming out of the building, the call came back with a Winnipeg player offsides, which resulted in no goal. The Xcel Energy Center received a new level of intensity from the crowd looking to tie this game up to force overtime after the disallowed empty-net goal. After the center ice faceoff, Minnesota pulled goalie Cam Talbot once again to gain an extra attacker. With 59 seconds left in the period, Joel Eriksson Ek scored his second goal of the night to force overtime. 

With every fan in the building on their feet, Minnesota headed into the 3v3 overtime with all of the momentum. After three minutes of fast-paced overtime, Minnesota’s superstar Kiril Kaprizov put the Wild on the powerplay to gain a four-on-three-man advantage. Minnesota had Jared Spurgeon, Kiril Kaprizov, Joel Eriksson Ek, and Kevin Fiala on the ice for the power play, creating many opportunities for the Wild. After a big save by Hellebuyck, Winnipeg went down on a two on one, where Cam Talbot made a miraculous save, which led to a Minnesota three on one going the other way, featuring their top three forwards. Kaprizov fed the puck to Fiala, who gave it back to Kaprizov. Kiril then found Eriksson Ek on the backdoor of the net for a wide-open goal. The game-winning goal by Eriksson Ek also gave him his first career hattrick in front of a packed and excited Xcel Energy Center. 

After an exciting home opener win for the Minnesota Wild and a 3-0 start to the long season, Wild fans have high expectations for their team. Minnesota looks to win the remaining two games on their home ice before their three-game road trip, including division favorite, Colorado Avalanche. 

Three Stars of the Game:

  1. Joel Erikkson Ek – Three goals
  2. Mats Zuccarello – Two goals, two assists
  3. Kiril Kaprizov – Three assists