The Minnesota Wild easily snapped the Florida Panthers five-game winning streak with an dominant 5-1 victory at Xcel Energy Center.
Florida got off to a decent start in the early going, which saw a fight between Michael Haley and Marcus Foligno, but quickly wilted to the bigger, more determined Wild and fell behind with 5:39 left in the opening frame when former Panther Matt Cullen lunged to knock in a juicy rebound of Jared Spurgeon’s shot from the point. Daniel Winnik drew the secondary assist, feeding Spuregeon after getting away from Nick Bjugstad in the corner.
The Wild really turned the screws on the unresponsive Cats in the second, out-shooting them by a huge 19-2 margin, and finding the back of the net three more times to put the game out of reach.
The 41-year-old Cullen struck again 1:56 into the stanza, this time redirecting Foligno’s deflection of Gustav Olofsson’s pass from the blue line past an absolutely bamboozled James Reimer.
With Cullen’s brace out of the way, it was time for Erik Staal to step to the scoring forefront. Staal went to the front to net the rebound of another Spurgeon drive for his first of the night at the 14:31 mark. Tyler Ennis picked up the second assist on the play. Harri Sateri, in temporarily for an injured Reimer, surrendered his first NHL goal.
After taking a pass from Jason Zucker that deflected off Keith Yandle, Ennis quickly dished off to Staal who beat Reimer this time with a rising wrister 2:39 later to give the Wild an insurmountable four-goal lead.
With Sateri back on for the third, the Panthers moved Vincent Trocheck up to the first line and finally got on the board at 3:40 when Jonathan Huberdeau buried a backdoor feed from the second line center. Aleksander Barkov collected the secondary assist with a pretty pass to Trocheck once the Cats gained the offensive zone.
Despite finishing with a 15-9 shot advantage in the third, the Cats would fail to dent Devan Dubnyk, who finished with 25 saves, a second time and Charlie Coyle completed the scoring with an empty-netter with 3:05 remaining. Spurgeon drew the lone assist on the goal, his third helper of the night.
Coming in hot, and rested, to open a five-game road trip, one would of expected a much better effort from the Panthers in this one. Instead, the Cats folded like a tent once the Wild, a team they beat eleven days ago, got going and looked perfectly content to accept yet another loss in St. Paul, where they have only won once in their history. The Panthers will need to get back to the formula they have used during the holiday homestand to avoid defeat in Boston, another place where they have historically struggled, on Thursday.
Highlights (courtesy of NHL.com)
Spiders & Snakes
- The Wild are 9-0-1 with one tie against the Panthers all-time at Xcel Energy Center. Can you say house of horrors?
- 41-year-old Matt Cullen doubled his goal output with the first two tallies against his former team. Cullen played 86 games for Florida in the early aughts.
- Harri Sateri stopped 13 of 14 shots in what was a very solid NHL debut. James Reimer played 36:34 before leaving for good with 23 saves on 26 shots.
- Zach Parise had three shots on goal and a takeaway in 13:35 TOI in his first appearance of the season. Parise missed the first 39 games after having microdiscectomy surgery.
- Minnesota native Nick Bjugstad had a rough night back in his home state. Bjugstad was the only Panther to post a -3 rating. This is not Da Beauty League, son.
- Erik Staal has 12 points (7G/5A) in his past 12 games and leads the Wild with 17 goals and 35 points.
- Jonathan Huberdeau has five goals in the past five games while Vincent Trocheck has 14 points in his last 14 outings. The duo leads the Cats with 37 points apiece.
- Hockey Wilderness has more on the latest bit of Wild dominance in St. Paul.