Nino Niederreiter scored two goals and added an assist as the Minnesota Wild posted a 5-1 win over the Florida Panthers, sending the struggling Cats to a fourth straight defeat that keeps the club at the bottom of the Atlantic Division.
The Cats lone highlight, other than a couple of nice saves by James Reimer, came early when MacKenzie Weegar shot from the boards rebounded off Devin Dubnyk’s blocker right to Denis Malgin, who deposited it into the back of the net at the 2:20 mark. Frank Vatrano picked up the second assist on Malgin’s second of the season.
Eric Staal converted a beautiful saucer pass from Mikael Granlund with 4;31 left in the frame, extending the advantage to two, which may as well been ten given the Panthers long history of futility in St. Paul.
Any dream of a Cats comeback was quickly snuffed out early in the third as Zach Parise scored, from Niederreiter and Suter, 1:02 in when his shot came off the back boards after being blocked and somehow found it’s way through Reimer, who did a poor job of handling the puck.
Nothing really good to say after this one. The Panthers haven’t won in St. Paul since March 6, 2010 and didn’t come close to changing that last night. Aleksander Barkov was held without a shot on goal. Anthony Greco was -3 in his NHL debut. Much-maligned defenseman Mark Pysyk topped Greco’s negative mark with a -4 rating, while Mike Matheson matched it. The Wild only gave the Cats two power play opportunities and killed both off. And James Reimer’s goals against average grew from 3:36 to 3:47. So, all in all, about what many of us expected from a Florida road game in Minnesota. Up next for the Panthers is a Saturday night meeting with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who will be ticked off after a frustrating loss in Tampa, at the BB&T Center.