Wild’s Gustavsson brilliant, Faber scores first NHL goal: Key takeaways vs. the Panthers

Remember last season, when the Minnesota Wild gave up 20 goals in their first three games and 27 in their first five? Well, that shouldn’t be the case this season, after the tremendous goaltending display in Thursday’s opener against the Florida Panthers. In a 2-0 win at Xcel Energy Center, Filip Gustavsson stole the Wild a victory with a 41-save effort for the Wild’s fourth all-time season-opening shutout and their first since 2014. Brock Faber’s first NHL goal amounted to the winning goal and Joel Eriksson Ek scored a power-play goal and an assist. The Wild open a two-game road trip in Toronto on Saturday night.

Gustavsson posts masterpiece

How good was Gustavsson against the Panthers? Besides his 41 stops for his fourth career shutout, Gustavsson was a man alone on an island for large portions of Thursday’s game, especially early. According to Natural Stat Trick, the high-danger chance advantage for Florida at five-on-five was 11-2, and the expected goals were 2.04-0.58. Gustavsson was so calm in net from the outset and showed why he earned a new three-year contract in the offseason, with a $3.75 million AAV. Remember, he had the league’s second-best save percentage (.931) and goals-against average (2.10) last season, behind only Vezina Trophy winner Linus Ullmark.

Rossi loses first NHL goal

Poor Marco Rossi. He entered this season with 21 games without an NHL goal, and there are high hopes that we’ll see a better, more improved Rossi after a hard-working offseason spent in Minnesota. In the second period Thursday night, Rossi got to temporarily celebrate his first NHL goal on a pretty finish, after a fabulous setup from Freddy Gaudreau and a board-battle win by Marcus Foligno. But in a cruel turn of events, Panthers coach Paul Maurice challenged for offside and Foligno, who had gathered the milestone puck for Rossi, indeed was offside. Last February, Adam Beckman also had his first NHL goal erased after it was determined Ryan Hartman was offside.

Turning point

With the Wild getting severely outplayed in the first period, Faber stopped the gushing blood with his first NHL goal 7:54 into the first, after a terrific zone entry and feed from Matt Boldy.

Three stars

1. Filip Gustavsson, Wild: Just scintillating from the start. Gustavsson made 41 saves for the opening-night goose-egg.

2. Joel Eriksson Ek, Wild: In his first regular-season game since breaking his leg with five games left last season in Pittsburgh, the Wild’s best center scored a power-play goal (he had 12 last season) and an assist, blocked three shots and won 9 of 17 faceoffs.

3. Brock Faber, Wild: At just 21 years old and playing his third regular-season game, he scored his first NHL goal and the winner at that.

Quotes of the game

“I’m just surprised he could see without his glasses.” — Foligno, on Faber’s goal.

“It’s not going to be like that every night, that’s for sure.” — Gustavsson.

(Photo of Filip Gustavsson: Bruce Kluckhohn / NHLI via Getty Images)

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