With some healthy bodies back, Wild destroy Ducks in 7-3 win
ST. PAUL — It’s amazing how fast things can change in the NHL.
It felt like the sky was falling on the Minnesota Wild last week as they battled through a host of adversity, namely star winger Kirill Kaprizov going down with what looked like a serious injury that had the potential to keep him out long term.
To make matters worse, the Wild were already without captain Jared Spurgeon, top center Joel Eriksson Ek, star defenseman Jonas Brodin, No. 1 goaltender Cam Talbot, and depth winger Nick Bjugstad due to injuries with veteran defenseman Alex Goligoski and wingers Jordan Greenway and Brandon Duhaime in COVID protocol.
And while the Wild are still without a number of those players, they started to get some healthy bodies back in the lineup on Friday night at Xcel Energy Center, and promptly ran the Anaheim Ducks out of the building in a 7-3 win.
All of a sudden the Wild have won three straight games as they continue their climb back up the Central Division standings. More importantly, they look every bit like the Stanley Cup contender they did earlier this season.
With nearly a week since their last game, some outsiders were worried that the Wild might look a little bit rusty against the Ducks.
Instead, they got out to a fast start thanks to a goal from winger Kevin Fiala. He accepted a cheeky pass from rookie winger Matt Boldy early in the first period, then dangled in front before putting the Wild up 1-0 with a snipe from in close.
That was the beginning of a long night for goaltender Anthony Stolarz.
With the Wild in control, Kaprizov started to put his fingerprints on the game, creating a scoring chance out of nowhere with a shot through traffic. With the puck bouncing near the goal line, veteran winger Mats Zuccarello scooped it up and found center Ryan Hartman, who buried a shot to make it 2-0 in favor of the Wild.
Though the Ducks cut the deficit to 2-1 with a goal from winger Max Comtois off the rush, Kaprizov responded with a highlight-reel sequence, winning a board battle, then dropping a no-look pass to Zuccarello, who did the rest to make it 3-1.
Neither team found the back of the net in a back-and-forth second period before absolutely lighting up the scoreboard in the final 20 minutes of play.
It started with Boldy finding the back of the net 30 seconds into the third period to make it 4-1, then continued with Zuccarello scoring off the ensuing faceoff to make it 5-1. A couple of minutes later, center Victor Rask stretched the lead to 6-1 to effectively chase Stolarz from the game.
Understandably, the Wild took their foot off the gas for a few minutes with the big lead, and the Ducks got a goal from winger Derek Grant to cut the deficit to 6-2 and a goal from rookie center Trevor Zegras to make it 6-3.
For good measure, star defenseman Matt Dumba tacked on a goal for the Wild down the stretch to finalize the score at 7-3.
Not bad for a team that appeared to be going the other direction a week ago.