ANAHEIM, Calif. — It’s been an awkward past few days for the Wild as they have patiently waited for the puck to drop.
While the NHL opened its season on Tuesday night — the Pittsburgh Penguins played the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning; the Seattle Kraken debuted against the Vegas Golden Knights — the Wild were just wrapping up a team building trip in Duluth. They arrived back in the Twin Cities on Tuesday, had the day off on Wednesday, and practiced on Thursday before flying to the West Coast.
Needless to say, the Wild were more than ready for their season opener against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night at Honda Center.
“Just watching games the excitement builds,” captain Jared Spurgeon said before the game. “We are raring to get going.”
In the end, Marcus Foligno played hero, scoring the game-winner with 7.2 seconds left to lift the Wild to a dramatic 2-1 win.
Both teams piled up the scoring chances in a scoreless first period with the Wild outshooting the Ducks 15-10 in the frame. Nick Bjugstad had arguably the best chance for the Wild with a backhanded flip front of Ducks goaltender Anthony Stolarz to no avail. Jared Spurgeon also had a clapper from the point that Stolarz gloved down with relative ease.
The only reason Stolarz was playing in the first place was because All Star goaltender John Gibson missed the game with a lower-body injury. Fortunately for the Ducks, Stolarz was up to the task for most of the night.
As for Cam Talbot on the other end, he made some big saves for the Wild in the first period, none bigger than his denial of Rickard Rakell on the doorstep.
The biggest thing to come out of the first period was a fight late in the frame as Foligno annihilated winger Max Jones with a series of haymakers after a getting cross checked in the back after the whistle.
When the dust settled, Foligno and Jones both got tagged with respective 5-minute majors for fighting and 10-minute misconducts. In addition, Foligno, who got cross checked to start the dust up, also got called for interference, which put the Wild on the penalty kill.
Naturally, the Ducks capitalized on the questionable call, with winger Jakob Silfverberg scoring on the power play early in the second period to give his team a 1-0 lead.
That score held until late in the second period when the Wild finally leveled the score at 1-1. Kevin Fiala got the goal on the power play after a pretty pass from Mats Zuccarello. Kirill Kaprizov also tallied an assist on the sequence.
That set the stage for the third period where Talbot literally saved the game for the Wild with an incredible sprawling save to deny veteran center Ryan Getzlaf in close. That kept the score tied entering the final minutes of play and set the stage for Foligno to play hero in the waning seconds.