Having won five of six games, the Minnesota Wild are looking to keep those winning ways going when they play host to the struggling San Jose Sharks on Tuesday.
On the heels of their 4-2 road victory over the Seattle Kraken on Saturday, the Wild will hit the ice in St. Paul, Minn., intending to solidify their hold on top spot in the Central Division.
It was a strong victory in response to a sub-standard performance in Minnesota’s lone defeat during this stretch — a 3-2 setback at the hands of the Vegas Golden Knights a couple of days earlier.
“We’re a resilient team,” goaltender Cam Talbot said. “We always talk about if you lose one, you don’t lose two. If you lose two, you definitely don’t lose three. We’re very confident with our game.”
Helping the Wild’s cause of late are the contributions from supporting-cast players. The Wild attack is undoubtedly led by the collection of elite forwards in Kirill Kaprizov, Mats Zuccarello and Joel Eriksson Ek, but the team is flourishing because of players like Ryan Hartman, who leads the team with seven goals, and last game’s hero, Rem Pitlick.
Pitlick, who was claimed off waivers from the Nashville Predators prior to the season, netted his first career hat trick to pace them to victory. With his performance, he became just the 31st player in league history, and first ever Wild skater, to score his first NHL goal on the same night he notched his first hat trick.
“It’s hard to put into words,” said Pitlick, who played college hockey at the University of Minnesota before turning professional. “Obviously it’s super exciting to get the first one, and then three? I’m just super grateful. It’s a lot of energy, but I think it comes back to I just feel super comfortable to be back in Minnesota.”
The Sharks are heading in the opposite direction. After a surprisingly strong start to the campaign, with four straight victories out of the gate and wins in six of its first nine contests, San Jose has just one victory in five outings, with the latest a disappointing 6-2 road loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday.
“We turned (over) so many pucks. It was amazing how many 3-on-1s, 2-on-1s we gave up,” forward Tomas Hertl said. “It was absolutely amazing.”
The Sharks should have received a huge boost in Colorado, with seven players all returning to the lineup after being sidelined amidst a COVID-19 outbreak that swept through the team, but they fell short against an Avalanche team missing a couple of its top players due to injury.
“There were some guys that looked like they hadn’t played in a long time,” said coach Bob Boughner, who was also away from the team due to illness. “You would like to have a little spike when you get some veterans back in the lineup. Those guys all played OK for the first few shifts, but as the game went on you could tell fatigue set in. There were things that were just uncharacteristic.”
Therefore, everybody expects a better outing in Minnesota after having knocked off the rust.
“It’s nice to be back, especially after that tough time,” forward Timo Meier said. “I think we started off well, we took a lot of penalties and it kind of takes away the momentum. I think overall we didn’t work enough, and we played sloppy. That’s what cost us.”
–Field Level Media