Filip Gustavsson, Wild penalty kill show improvement in shootout loss: Key takeaways vs. Senators

JOHANNESHOV, Sweden — In a game featuring two teams desperate for points, it was not a surprise to see a cautious, conservative approach between the Minnesota Wild and Ottawa Senators. After Erik Brannstrom tied the score 3:22 into the third period, neither team wanted to make a mistake and held on for a point. There also was little action during a mind-numbing overtime before Josh Norris solely scored in a shootout for a 2-1 Ottawa win. Filip Gustavsson was solid for the Wild and Marco Rossi scored the lone goal in the second period.

Here’s what else you need to know:

  • Rossi’s sixth goal of the season came with his parents, Michael and Claudia, in the crowd from Austria.
  • The Wild went 0 for 4 on the power play, including one in the third period.
  • Kirill Kaprizov played another nondescript game, registering zero shots and one attempt.
  • Ryan Hartman missed the game due to illness. Nic Petan made his season debut in his place and played on the fourth line. Vinni Lettieri was elevated to center the third line.
  • The Wild have lost four in a row (0-3-1) and 10 of their past 13. They are winless in three all-time games in Europe (0-1-1 in Helsinki against Carolina in 2010) and “host” Toronto on Sunday at 7 a.m. CT.

A rare good start

The Wild have tried everything to combat their season-long slow starts. They held meetings. They practiced. They took a day off. Coach Dean Evason seemed exasperated by the issue but vowed Saturday morning he had a “top secret” plan to have them ready. Well, whatever it was, it worked. It certainly helped that Gustavsson made a great save on a breakaway by Brady Tkachuk 27 seconds in. But the Wild looked like a competent, structured team overall, and took a 1-0 lead in the second period on a goal by Rossi. It was just the third time in 13 games that the Wild scored first. It made a big difference as Minnesota didn’t have to chase for a change.

An improved PK

There was nowhere for the Wild penalty kill to go but up, entering the weekend dead last as a unit after allowing a franchise-record five power-play goals last time out Sunday against Dallas. The coaching staff hinted at some tweaks to their systems and did heavy special team drills in their two practices in Sweden this week. It paid off. The Wild went 4 for 4 on the penalty kill, including killing off two first-period Senators’ power plays. They took a more conservative approach, not being as aggressive up top with their forwards. They made a tight box formation to protect the middle in front of the net, focusing on thwarting seam passes. The Wild were also better at blocking shots, including a big one by Marcus Foligno on a third-period power play.

Gustavsson looked like himself

Gustavsson, who has had a miserable start to his season after finishing second in the NHL in both goals-against average and save percentage last year, was solid, especially in the first two periods. He swallowed pucks, stopped a breakaway and robbed Dominik Kubalik in tight. Brannstrom tied the score early in the third period on a knuckling, rising slapper, but the only thing that should be blamed for that goal was a terrible line change by the Wild.

Three stars

1. Filip Gustavsson, Wild: Other than a third-period blemish, Gustavsson was solid with 30 saves.
2. Anton Forsberg, Senators: The Wild had plenty of chances to build on their 1-0 lead, but Forsberg made several clutch stops before assisting on Brannstrom’s tying goal. He made 24 saves.
3. Brock Faber, Wild: Was a stalwart all game long, making several big plays defensively in his own zone, being part of the Wild’s flawless penalty kill and having the primary assist on Rossi’s goal. He also had four shots.

(Photo: Jonathan Nackstrand / AFP via Getty Images)

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