This wasn’t the first time this season the Wild tasked the Jordan Greenway, Joel Eriksson Ek and Luke Kunin line with shadowing Oilers phenom Connor McDavid.
In the previous matchup, McDavid and wingman Leon Draisaitl were held pointless in a 3-0 win for the Wild on Oct.22.
And although the NHL’s top two scorers combined for three points Thursday, the end result was the same: a win for the Wild, this time 6-5 over the Oilers at Xcel Energy Center.
“I thought we did a really good job neutralizing them for as long as we did,” Greenway said. “It was a good goal [by McDavid]. I think we had a little breakdown. We aren't going to be perfect every night. On the flip side of it, we produced offensively. I think that was huge to help us out.”
Draisaitl converted on the power play on a setup by McDavid, but the two were mostly quiet Thursday. It wasn’t until 12 minutes, 49 seconds elapsed in the third that McDavid scored to tie the game at 4 when he found an open lane.
But the significance of the goal was downgraded once the Wild responded with two of its own: one by center Eric Staal and then the eventual game-winner from Kunin, which both of his linemates assisted on at 16:21 of the third.
“Last game we played them I thought we did a good job taking their time and space away,” Kunin said. “We tried to do the same tonight.”
Greenway, Eriksson Ek and Kunin weren’t the only youngsters to impress.
Defenseman Carson Soucy continues to emerge as a reliable force on the back end.
Against Edmonton, he finished plus-4 (tying a Wild rookie record) after helping shut down McDavid and Draisaitl and chipping in two assists – all while he continues to play on his off-wing next to Jonas Brodin on the team’s second pairing.
"He's made it easy for me,” Soucy said. “Lots of times, he goes back there, breaks the puck up by himself and we're going the other way. Obviously, still getting a little bit used to it on the right side, but he's made it easy for me.”
Center Ryan Donato pushed his goal streak to three games, a career-high, after scoring in the second period – his fifth goal in the last eight games.
“I'm a guy that always wants to have confidence,” Donato said. “I feel like I've always had it, but just to see them go in definitely helps. For me, it's just trying to stay patient, not trying to force anything to get those opportunities, just waiting and knowing if I do the right things, playing with guys like Zach [Parise] and Kevin [Fiala], with a great bunch of ‘D,’ good things are going to happen.”
And although he was tagged for five goals, netminder Kaapo Kahkonen improved to 3-0-1 this season and for his NHL career.
“I don’t think he was as sharp as he was in the first couple games,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “He didn’t get the rest in between that we’ve been giving him. There was a reason for that. But he came in and got the win. He’s 3-0-1 in the NHL. If you’re a Major League Baseball pitcher, you can have a 6.0 ERA [but] if you’re 8-0, you’re doing good.”