Minnesota Wild Game Recap: Hartman, Fiala team up to beat Edmonton Oilers 5-1

A season-ending match between two post-season teams always seems to create good hockey. With the Minnesota Wilds and Edmonton Oilers both confident of their postseason chances, Tuesday night saw a matchup in which Minnesota had the opportunity to prove to themselves that they can beat the Western Conference playoffs.

Since Minnesota is missing two defenders due to an injury, their healthy defender would be tasked with shutting down two of the best players in the NHL. Cam Talbot would start in the net and continue the exchange between himself and Fleury that has taken place since Fleury was acquired at the trade deadline.

Despite a loss to Colorado in their most recent game, Edmonton had won six in a row in advance. Minnesota also came in red-hot 10-1-2 in their last 13. With two crucial points on the line, the fans in St. Louis should Paul witness a good.

Minnesota came flying out of the gates, where the top line generated a couple of good chances. The second McDavid jumped on the ice for the second shift of the game, Edmonton also found a couple of good chances. On the next shift, Kevin Fiala came inches away from the opening goal. It quickly felt like the game was going to be the dynamic style that both teams enjoy playing.

Just over five minutes into the first, Freddy Gaudreau took advantage of an erroneous Duncan Keith turnover in the castle and patiently turned a short outburst into a 1-0 lead for Minnesota.

Edmonton showed no sign of going away. When McDavid returned to the ice, the GREEF line was caught for a minute and a half in the defensive zone. Fortunately for Minnesota, the attack ended when Edmonton took an unfortunate penalty for many men. Minnesota was unable to convert.

Much of the attention that came into the night was on Edmonton’s stars, but from his first shift, Kaprizov seemed keen to prove that he also belonged in that conversation. His and for that matter his entire first period was excellent.

The teams went into the first break roughly straight on shots, but Minnesota had several high-quality chances and a one-goal lead. Aside from McDavid’s line, Edmonton spent much of their time in their own zone. Unfortunately for Minnesota, they lost Jordan Greenway midway through the period to an upper body injury.

When Jost took Greenway’s place on the third line, the second period began. Minnesota did not wait long before they grew their lead. After getting the zone from a patient play by Benn, Kevin Fiala forced a turnover from an Oilers defender. After moving the puck to Kulikov, who then moved it to Boldy, Fiala got the puck back and increased the Wild lead to two. A beautiful effort, beautiful delivery, and most importantly, a beautiful goal.

After the goal, Edmonton put together a couple of offensive zone changes that threatened the Wild lead. Talbot kept all but one of the pucks in front of him. Luckily for him, the puck, fired by Kassian, found the crossbar instead of twine.

Edmonton’s defensive problems kept coming to the fore. This pass, right to the tape of Fiala, was lucky not to end up at the back of the net.

Kevin Fiala’s great period continued almost halfway through the period. When he entered the zone, he found a puck in the corner and quickly raised it over Koskinen’s nearest shoulder. With that, Wild rose to a 3-0 lead.

The impressive goals did not end there. Kaprizov stepped into the wall near the offensive zone blue line, over-muscle three Oilers and fed a wide-open Ryan Hartman. Hartman quickly raised the puck and put Wild up four.

Right after, Kaprizov was triggered and Wild went to powerplay up four. Although they created some good chances, they were not able to score.

Edmonton began to gain some momentum after Zack Kassian came around Benn for an outburst. Although Talbot saved, Wild got a penalty shortly after. On the powerplay, Edmonton generated several amazing chances. None of them were able to beat very solid Cam Talbot.

The second period was fantastic for Minnesota, where their lead grew by three. They were able to take advantage of Edmonton’s mistakes, especially from their defenders. Despite these mistakes, Wild simply managed Edmonton in all zones.

After Edmonton controlled the first few minutes of the third, Minnesota responded with their fifth goal. A point shot from Jordie Benn was found in front of the net by Hartman. With Zuccarello a point away from a franchise record in assists, it seems possible that it was reached on the game. The league will review it to be sure.

Five minutes into the period, Minnesota took on the night’s second powerplay. Unlike the first time, Edmonton found the back of the net. The wild joint shrank to four and Cam Talbot’s shutout was spoiled.

Edmonton’s frustration showed as the period went on. Evander Kane, after Kaprizov just missed a shot between the legs, cross-checked Kaprizov. He was greeted with a swarm of Wild jerseys, including Ryan Hartman, who refused to be separated from Kane. Minnesota got a powerplay from the fight.

Another penalty kick from Minnesota sent Edmonton to powerplay with 8 minutes left of the third. Unlike their predecessors, Edmonton was kept off the board.

When the final horn sounded, Minnesota earned two crucial points in a 5-1 dominance of Edmonton. After their recent problems beating Western Conference playoff teams, they had to be content with their performance. While Edmonton probably has the highest top talent in the league, the Wilds were able to use their handsome shutdown lines to neutralize the offense with steady strength. In addition, Cam Talbot continued his great stretch lately, allowing only one goal on nearly 30 shots.

Finally, a new statistic was born:

Burning questions

Boldy looked good in his return with two points against Kings. Can his line with Kevin Fiala and Frederick Gaudreau enjoy the Oilers’ bottom lines?

Yes, they could. Fiala scored twice in two games where the talent won. Boldy made countless great plays with the puck to control ball possession, including a brilliant play on Fiala’s first goal. Gaudreau also had a great game, especially on the defensive side of the puck.

Overall, the line proves the importance of secondary scoring. In the off-season, if lines other than Kaprizov’s line can benefit from better matchups, success seems much more likely.

Can GREEF limit the dynamic duo?

The GREEF line did a good job of closing the offensive powerhouses in Edmonton’s lineup. While Dean always maintains that he does not match lines, there seemed to be constant coincidences that the GREEF line and Brodin were on the ice when McDavid was. These coincidences proved to be useful, and completely shut down Edmonton’s attacks with steady force.

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