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Wild surrender lead late, fall 3-2 to Blue Jackets in shootout

Kirill Kaprizov scored in the game to reach the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career.

NHL: Minnesota Wild at Columbus Blue Jackets
Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins (90) smothers the rebound of a shot from Minnesota Wild center Joel Eriksson Ek (14) during the first period Friday, March 11, 2022, at Nationwide Arena inColumbus, Ohio.
Russell LaBounty / USA Today Sports

COLUMBUS, Ohio — With countless opportunities to put the game away on Friday night at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, the Minnesota Wild couldn’t muster enough strength to deliver the knockout blow.

Not surprisingly, that came back to haunt Wild, as the Blue Jackets tied the game with 30.4 seconds left in regulation, then prevailed 3-2 in a shootout.

While the Wild gained a valuable point in the Western Conference standings, it was a frustrating loss given the fact they were the better team for most of the night.

“When we can’t finish them off, and they stick around, stuff like this happens,” said Mats Zuccarello, who scored a goal and added an assist in the game. “Just got to get back to it. Not a lot of days to dwell on it.”

In the immediate aftermath of the game, though, coach Dean Evason chose to dwell on the fact that the power play didn’t come through for the umpteenth time this season. If it scores at any point in the final 20 minutes of regulation, the Wild likely runaway from the Blue Jackets.

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“That puts the game away,” Evason said. “We got cute. We were throwing sauce passes. Just stay the course. Everything else we do the same things and we get on the power play and it’s like all of a sudden we’re going to reinvent the wheel.”

NHL: Minnesota Wild at Columbus Blue Jackets
Minnesota Wild center Connor Dewar (52) skates around the check of Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski (8) during the first period Friday, March 11, 2022, at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
Russell LaBounty / USA Today Sports

It was a slow start for the Wild as they struggled to stay out of the penalty box and fell behind 1-0 because of that. It started with a tripping minor by Dmitry Kulikov, continued with a hooking minor by Jon Merrill, and nearly went off the rails when Jordan Greenway got tagged with a double minor for high sticking.

In desperate need of a spark with Greenway in the penalty box, Connor Dewar provided just that for the Wild with arguably the best shift of his NHL career. On the penalty kill, Dewar raced into the offensive zone to retrieve a loose puck, used his body to pin it up against the boards, then drew a penalty to even things up.

“He played very well,” Evason said. “Everybody played well. You’d be hard-pressed to say somebody didn’t play well in a back-to-back game.”

Less than after Dewar turned the tide, the Wild drew another penalty to gain a 4-on-3 advantage, and Kirill Kaprizov promptly cashed in with a snipe to make it 1-1.

That goal helped Kaprizov reach the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career. It’s also the first time since the 2017-18 season that a Wild player has reached the 30-goal mark; Eric Staal had 42 goals that season, and Jason Zucker had 33.

With the Wild slowly taking control of the game, Zuccarello made it 2-1 midway through the second period. It was a highlight-reel goal from Zuccarello, as he maneuvered into the slot, then deflected a slapper from Jared Spurgeon into the back of the net.

That score held until late in the third period, when Zach Werenski tied game at 2-2 with a shot through traffic. That goal came with 30.4 seconds left in the game to force overtime.

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“There’s a lot of bodies,” said Kaapo Kahkonen, who made a number of big saves for the Wild before surrendering the tying goal. “Just unfortunate that got through and went in.”

Neither team scored in the extra session, prompting the Wild to decide things in shootout for the second straight game. This time, they didn’t come out on top.

As frustrated as the Wild were as they boarded the charter bus to the airport, they also know there’s been a lot of positives over the past few games.

“It was a good game for us today,” Zuccarello said. “We’ve got to keep building on that. If we play games like this we’re going to win more than we’re going to lose. Just have to keep it up.”

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