Top line shut down but balanced scoring continues fueling Wild

Sarah McLellan, Star Tribune
·3 min read

LAS VEGAS – A goal or two from the line would have been timely and might have led to a different result, but a pointless night for the Kirill Kaprizov, Victor Rask and Mats Zuccarello trio revealed a new development for the Wild.

The team can produce without those three being catalysts.

For the first time in six games, the Wild's most dangerous line of late came up empty-handed in the 5-4 overtime loss to the Golden Knights on Monday at T-Mobile Arena but the Wild offense wasn't hurting.

Actually, the team was rolling in the second period when it scored all four of its goals.

"Every line has defended pretty well and allowed us to get out of our zone and play some offense," center Nick Bonino said.

Clearly, the Wild is better off when its go-to scorers are involved and executing; again, one successful shot from either Kaprizov, Rask or Zuccarello might have flipped the script. Kaprizov, in particular, had looks, getting three shots off.

But scoring depth is still vital to the Wild and a reason why its 31 goals since Feb.18 when the six-game win streak that expired Monday started are the most in the NHL.

"Our movement's been great," said winger Jordan Greenway, who scored the Wild's first goal for his first tally in nine games. "Our cycle game's been great, and we're doing a lot of good things. We're not playing in our D-zone a ton. That makes things a lot easier."

What might have boosted the Wild's offense was a power play, but the team never received a single advantage – a rarity in today's NHL. Vegas, however, had three and converted twice.

"I can't remember a real blatant one," Bonino said. "I don't know if Zuccy got [high-sticked] at the end. But it's tough for teams to play a perfect game. I think you can probably find something in there if you look hard enough."

Another factor could have been the shorthanded forward group.

Center Ryan Hartman took only two shifts in the third period and didn't play the rest of the way. Coach Dean Evason didn't have an update on Hartman's status after the game.

"We tried to double up Kirill there in the third, which he can handle it, and then we were going to shift to some other people," Evason said. "But anytime you have some momentum and you're rolling and people are all playing the right way, you get a little bit out of sync, for sure. So yeah, I'm sure that hurt us."

A close game that required extra time lived up to the hype of the matchup, with the top two teams in the division squaring off for the first time this season.

And the fans in attendance only added to the atmosphere, which felt playoff-like.

Round 2 is Wednesday.

"The fans obviously gave a little more buzz to the game, and it was nice," said Marcus Foligno, who had two goals in a three-point effort. "It's a tough loss, but we'll be better next game."