March 10 – Day 147 – Hey, that was the Wild’s wildcard spot!

The Kings jumped out to an early lead on the Capitals, but Washington was able to level the game with three goals of their own in the third before giving up an overtime winner.

Three goals were scored in the first period, all belonging to Los Angeles.  Vincent Lecavalier’s was first, marked at the 4:52 mark of play.  His power play tally was assisted by Second Star of the Game Tanner Pearson and Alec Martinez (his 19th helper of the season).  Pearson continued his assisting ways 7:13 later, as he and Tyler Toffoli (his 22nd helper of the season) assisted Jake Muzzin to the Kings‘ second score.  1:21 later, Milan Lucic got involved with a goal of his own, assisted by First Star Jeff Carter (his 29th helper of the season) and Brayden McNabb.  That 3-0 score held not only to the end of the first period, but also through the second.

Washington got one back only 1:46 into the third with a little help from a Dwight King holding penalty that Third Star T.J. Oshie turned into a power play goal, assisted by Marcus Johansson and Matt Niskanen (his 24th helper of the season).  One goal became two 9:16 later, courtesy of a Nicklas Backstrom wrister, assisted by Alex Ovechkin and Oshie (his 22nd helper of the season).  Washington leveled the game with 3:22 remaining in regulation when Dmitry Orlov’s backhander found the back of the net, assisted by Justin Williams and Evgeny Kuznetsov (his 48th helper of the season).  The three-all score held to the end of regulation, so the Game of the Day witnessed its third straight overtime game.

Carter’s wrister at the 62:50 mark goes down as the game winner.  He was assisted by Lucic and Drew Doughty (his 31st helper of the season).

Jonathan Quick earns the win after saving 29 of 32 (90.6%), while Braden Holtby takes the overtime loss, saving 26 of 30 (86.7%).

Los Angeles‘ win ends the road warriors winning streak at five games and sets the DtFR Game of the Day series at 65-37-15, favoring the home sides by 29 points over the roadies.

Six games will be played this Thursday evening, beginning with Carolina at Boston at 7 p.m. eastern.  Dropping the puck at 7:30 p.m. eastern are three contests (Buffalo at Montréal, Winnipeg at Detroit [NHLN] and Ottawa at Florida), followed half an hour later by Edmonton at Minnesota.  This evening’s nightcap is New Jersey at San Jose, which begins at 10:30 p.m. eastern.

A third of tonight’s games will be contested between divisional rivals (Buffalo at Montréal and Ottawa at Florida), and  none are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs.

Colorado surpassed Minnesota last night with their 3-0 win against the Ducks, which certainly upset the Wild.  Let’s see if they can get themselves back into the playoff picture with a win over the Oil.

200px-Logo_Edmonton_Oilers.svgUnknown-2Tonight’s game will be Edmonton‘s third in the DtFR Game of the Day series, where they currently own a 0-1-1 record.  Their most recent game in the series was their visit to San Jose on January 14 when they fell 2-1 in a shootout.  Minnesota has been featured nine times before tonight, and own a 5-4-0 record in such games, with their most recent occurring March 6, a 4-2 loss on home ice to the Blues.

The 26-36-7 Edmonton Oilers are currently tied with Winnipeg for the distinction of worst team in the Western Conference (the Jets best them on games played), and are only four points better than Toronto, the worst team in the NHL.  Their offense ranks ninth worst in the league, but the defense has played even poorer, ranking fifth worst.

Even with Taylor Hall’s 249 shots, the Oilers have fired the puck 1995 times, of which 8.2% have found the back of the net for 167 goals (led by Hall’s 22 tallies), the ninth fewest in the NHL.  The power play follows suit, successful on only 16.84% of attempts for 33 power play goals (led by Jordan Eberle’s six extra man tallies), the sixth lowest rate in the league.

The defense has played even poorer.  Even with Andrej Sekera’s team leading 135 blocks, the Oil have allowed 2155 shots to reach 16-23-4 Cam Talbot and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.1% for 204 goals against, the fifth most in the league.  The best thing Edmonton does is kill penalties, as their 80.28% kill rate, which has allowed 42 power play goals against, ranks only 14th worst.

Edmonton‘s most recent game was March 8, a three goal shutout loss to the Sharks on home ice.  I’d like to say that Edmonton does more harm than good by winning even one more game this season, but they’ve consistently had early draft picks and have yet to show anything of it.  So, I guess what I’m saying is, who knows?

The 31-26-10 Minnesota Wild currently occupy sixth place in the Central Division and ninth in the Western Conference.  To get to that position, they’ve played the 10th best defense in the league, paired with the 14th worst offense.

Led by Jared Spurgeon’s 131 blocks, the Wild have allowed only 1922 shots to reach 25-22-5 Devan Dubnyk and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.8% for only 169 goals against, the 10th fewest in the NHL.  Although the overall defense has been solid, Minnesota‘s penalty kill has been atrocious.  Their 75.9% kill rate, which has allowed 40 power play goals, is third worst in the league.  It is slightly made up for by its offensive threat though, as the kill has six shorthanded goals to its credit (led by Erik Haula’s two shorties).

Even with Zach Parise’s team leading 188 shots, the Wild have fired the puck only 1958 times, of which 9% have found the back of the net for 177 goals (led by Charlie Coyle’s 21 tallies), the 14th fewest in the league.  The special teams have tried to make up some of the slack though, as their 18.96% success rate, good for 40 power play goals (led by Mikko Koivu’s nine extra man tallies), ranks 14th best in the league.

Minnesota‘s last game was their 4-2 loss to the Blues on Sunday, but that can be quickly erased with a win tonight.  Should they do just that, they will reclaim their spot in the second wildcard position.

Minnesota has already won this season’s series against the Oilers 2-0-0, with their most recent meeting ending 5-2 in Edmonton on February 18.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Edmonton‘s Hall (249 shots and  22 goals [six game-winners], 18 of which were at even-strength, and 35 assists, 29 of which were at even-strength, for 57 points [all lead the team]) and Minnesota‘s Dubnyk (four shutouts [tied for fifth most in the league]).

For Minnesota‘s sake, this shouldn’t be too much of a game.  As long as they can take care of Edmonton‘s slightly-decent penalty kill, they should be able to reclaim their position in the second wildcard.

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