The Minnesota Wild handed the Florida Panthers a 3-1 loss at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN on Sunday afternoon. The loss was the second in two days for the Panthers after dropping a 4-3 shootout matchup against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday. To add literal injury to insult, Florida lost goaltender Al Montoya at 7:25 of the first period after getting elbowed in the head by Wild defenseman Marco Scandella.
Minnesota opened the scoring just 5:18 into the first period. Second Star of the night Zach Parise held onto the puck for a good 10 seconds skating around Florida's zone before feeding Charlie Coyle (19) in front of the net. Coyle tipped the puck high over Montoya's glove side for a 1-0 Wild lead. Ryan Suter earned the secondary assist on the play.
Scandella's assault on Montoya hardly seemed intentional. Scandella inadvertently skated into Montoya about two minutes after the goal, and the resultant elbow appeared to be nearly reflexive. Regardless of whether it was by design or by accident, Montoya lay curled up face down on the ice, requiring a visit from Florida's trainer before making his way to the locker room. Scandella got a two-minute minor for interference, while Montoya had his afternoon ended after making three saves on four shots. He didn't earn the ultimate decision.
Dmitry Kulikov and Reilly Smith led the Cats with three hits each through the opening frame, helping Florida lead Minnesota 14-hits-to-six. nine-of-16 Wild shots made their way through to Montoya / Roberto Luongo, while just six of Florida's 12 challenged their Twin Cities counterpart, Devan Dubnyk. Aleksander Barkov won four-of-seven faceoffs, while the rest of the team were less successful, winning just four-of-15. Florida had gone 0-for-2 on the power play, while Minnesota finished the period at 0-for-1.
Aleksander Barkov carried the puck around the boards, then lost it for a moment at the 7:34 mark of the middle frame. Jaromir Jagr recovered it, slid it to Jussi Jokinen, quickly to Barkov and back to Jokinen again, who fed it to a streaking Aaron Ekblad (12) to beat an out-of-position Dubnyk to tie the game at one goal apiece. The goal came on the power play for the Cats, who were benefitting from a Matt Dumba interference infraction. Unfortunately for the good guys, it was the only shot they would get past Dubnyk all day. He finished with 17 saves in total.
So the Panthers went one-for-one on the power play in the second period, somehow denying the Wild an extra-man marker despite allowing Minnesota four opportunities to take the lead back.
The teams were relatively even in shot generation, with the Panthers taking 19 to 18 for the Wild, and each team getting nine on target. Each team also had exactly five hits and 13 faceoff wins. Vincent Trocheck won seven-of-10 faceoffs during the period, while Smith added to his game-leading hit total with two more.
Erik Haula (8) scored the eventual game-winner on Luongo at the 10:29 mark of the final period. He chipped the puck away from Dmitry Kulikov in the Wild defensive zone, eluded Barkov then skated around Erik Gudbranson before going high over Luongo's glove side for a 2-1 lead. No Minnesota player assisted the gutsy play by Haula, who earned the First Star of the night. It was the only time anyone solved Luongo, who finished with the loss, 21 saves, the Third Star, and the best save percentage of the game, at .956.
Jared Spurgeon gave the Panthers a late chance when he skimmed the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty with under four minutes remaining in regulation, but Florida was unable to convert despite pulling Luongo for an extended six-on-four chance. At 18:13, Florida sealed it's own fate by committing a too-many-men penalty. Gerard Gallant pulled Luongo anyway, and the Panthers paid when Jason Pominville (10) slapped it into an empty net with the equivalent of a mid-range jumper at 19:21. Haula earned his second point of the day with the lone assist on the play.
Gudbranson was dedicated to bringing the pain in the third, dishing out four hits in under seven minutes on the ice. Minnesota totaled only three, as did all of the other Panthers excepting Guds. The Panthers couldn't really get their offensive engine started, getting only three shots through to Dubnyk through the period, out of nine attempted. Minnesota got nine-of-17 on Luongo during that same stretch. The Wild led in the dot, too, 11 wins to nine.
Chips and Dips
- Barkov (nine-for-nine), Trocheck (12-for-12) and Greg McKegg (four-for-four) all went 50% in the faceoff circle on the night, while Nick Bjugstad (in video, below) was successful only four times while losing 11.
If you still love the Panthers, and if you're reading this, then I know you do, then you should know the next time out they'll play the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday. After that, they'll finish up this road trip against the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday and the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday.