CHICAGO — Despite only giving up a 100-foot dump-in as a shot in the first period, the Minnesota Wild made life awfully difficult on themselves Wednesday night before pulling off a 2-1 victory over the worst team in the NHL at the United Center. After his older brother, Nick Foligno tied the score in the second period, Marcus Foligno delivered the Wild the win over the Chicago Blackhawks with a third-period goal.
Comically, at the start of the third period, Foligno skated up to Nick and referring to his fight with teammate Jarred Tinordi said, “It’s f—ing bulls—, I fight and you score. (TNT’s Darren Pang) was in the middle and he was dying laughing. I think it’s the first time we scored in the same game together. I’m happy for him. It’s tough but just one of those games I’m happy we got the win.”
Vinni Lettieri assisted on both the Wild’s goals, including linemate Jake Lucchini’s first in a Wild sweater and second in 20 NHL games. The win snapped a two-game skid by the Wild and extended their win streak over Chicago to 11 games.
“We had a good first period and then we came out and we got out-competed, out-executed, out-skated in the second period,” coach John Hynes said. “You can’t win hockey games like that. We had too many passengers, particularly in the second period. Third period, we were better. The good thing is we won the game, which is important, but we’ve got to be much better collectively as a group moving forward here.”
Top two lines completely MIA
The bye week and All-Star break was over. Nobody told the Wild’s top-six wingers who looked to still be lounging in the Caribbean. Kirill Kaprizov skated hard and had a couple of chances, although it would have been huge had he extended the Wild’s 1-0 lead to 2-0 on a second-period breakaway. Instead, Petr Mrazek thwarted the chance. But Matt Boldy was a total no-show. Just happy to be on the perimeter and soft on pucks. Marcus Johansson was consistently doing fly-bys of Chicago’s net instead of stopping on pucks or battling for position. Mats Zuccarello was coughing up pucks or simply fanning on shots. The four wingers combined for seven shots.
“We had too many guys, particularly up front, just not making enough push with all four lines,” Hynes said. “It’s concerning, for sure, that we come in after the break and talk about playing a consistent, reliable game; we do it for 20 (minutes) and then in the second period, whatever we decided to do was not the recipe to do it. … You never take anything for granted in the league. A win’s a win. Two points is important. Not all games are going to be pretty. But to me, it’s the mindset. It’s the mindset that we need to play with for 60 minutes, night in and night out, that gives us a chance to win. And tonight, it wasn’t long enough. We found a way, but it wasn’t the right recipe to give ourselves a chance to win every night. … Let me put it this way: We found a way to win the game, but in my opinion the standard needs to be much higher.”
Mrazek poke-checks Kaprizov on the breakaway! 😱 pic.twitter.com/NNXARzb2P2
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 8, 2024
Fourth line buzzes
No slight to them, but it’s not good that the Wild’s fourth line of Brandon Duhaime, Lucchini and Lettieri was by far the Wild’s best Wednesday. The trio buzzed seemingly every shift in the first two periods and frankly were the only three going. It was highlighted by Lucchini’s whistling goal that clanked the post, then caromed in and out off the TV camera in the back of the cage. Lettieri, who had been sidelined since Dec. 30, played for the first time in 16 games and made his presence felt with two helpers and a huge block in the final minutes to preserve the lead. Duhaime had his second assist of the season on Lucchini’s goal.
After the game, Filip Gustavsson raved about Lettieri’s block, saying, “He saved me. As soon as that puck left my stick, I was like, ‘Holy crap, this is not good.’ And then it’s just a panic mode, panic mode, and then Vinni, I think, Merms was also there in the net. Very fortunate that it hit Vinni there.
“It wasn’t pretty today. Second period was very bad for us. And then in the third, we just found a win to win today. It wasn’t pretty. It was not the best. It wasn’t what we should do.”
Beckman scratched, Lettieri returns, Brodin sick
Bill Guerin said Tuesday of Adam Beckman, “This is his chance,” but that chance wasn’t Wednesday. Despite the chance to throw him into the lineup, the Wild scratched the Iowa Wild winger. But with Pat Maroon sidelined four to six weeks following back surgery, Beckman should get games during this call-up. However, the way the Duhaime-Lucchini-Lettieri line played Wednesday, Beckman may have to wait unless he enters for Freddy Gaudreau, who hasn’t scored in 13 games.
In the meantime, Jonas Brodin wasn’t able to play as he’s recovering from the illness that has crept through the locker room for weeks. Newcomer Declan Chisholm’s debut is also on hold. The former Jets defenseman arrived Wednesday, but he hadn’t skated in 11 days because of the bye and All-Star break.
Wild’s Declan Chisholm excited to be clear of the Winnipeg D logjam, ready to shake off the rust
The Foligno brothers were asked if they would “gain inspiration from the Kelce brothers” and start their own podcast.
The response 😅
“None of us are dating Taylor Swift, our wives are hotter.”
— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) February 8, 2024
1. Vinni Lettieri, Wild: Returned to the lineup after a broken foot and assisted on two goals and saved one with a block with 3 1/2 minutes left. Maybe he was the reason the Wild won five of 15 games in his absence. Kidding, sorta.
2. Filip Gustavsson, Wild: Could have used a rocking chair in the first period, but he did everything to give the Wild a chance to win. He made a slew of clutch saves in the second and robbed Boris Katchouk in the third period on a breakaway. He made 20 saves.
3. Marcus Foligno, Wild: Scored the winning goal in the third period, had three hits and had a heavyweight bout with Jarred Tinordi.
Quotes of the Night
“Cliffy (assistant equipment manager Cliff Halstead) came in and asked me if I had a Sudoku on my blocker or something like that to keep me busy.” — Filip Gustavsson on how little action he saw in the first period.
“I was getting heckled in the box. So, it’s one of those things nine minutes in the box and his goal, I was like, ‘oh no.’ Just some fans (saying), ‘Your brother’s better than you.’ I’ve heard it all before.” — Marcus Foligno on being in the penalty box for five minutes in a period in which his brother scored.
“We gotta stop doing it. We’re really hurting ourselves when it comes to the mentality of the game. It’s just a mental thing. We’re trying to come into the zone and make dipsy-doodles and things like that. Let’s go direct. … It was just frustrating. We tend to do that lately and that’s kind of the problem with this season is just our let-ups. Enough’s enough. We gotta hold each other accountable. We gotta get ticked off. Our third period was better but we could have had a better lead going into the third.” — Foligno on what happened to the Wild in the second period.
“He was a difference-maker tonight, obviously with the fight, but I thought he brought energy, played to his identity. We switched him around on some different lines later in the game. He’s a real valuable member of the team; not only in the way he plays, but as you said, he understands where the team’s going, where it might need momentum, and he’s willing to do things that are difficult to do — and he’s an inspirational guy. He’s a voice in the room. He says the right things. That’s why he’s an assistant captain. He’s a real glue guy. When you look at the dynamic of a team, he’s certainly a leader.” — Hynes on Foligno.
“I saw it hit post. I thought it hit post, post and went out. The second post that I thought just it didn’t sound right. I had no idea and then when the horn went off, I was looking at (Dakota Mermis) and his eyes went like this and pointed at me and then I was like, ‘OK, yeah.’” — Jake Lucchini on play stopping when Toronto realized he had scored.
(Photo: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)