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Kahkonen’s big game with Minnesota
Nov 20, 2020, 6:08:00 AM

Kahkonen’s big game with Minnesota

Kaapo Kahkonen delivered in his NHL debut as he made 32 saves to lift the Minnesota Wild for a 3-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils in 2019. The team finally came to life and was 5-2-3 in their last ten games during that time, making Kahkonen’s debut really worth watching.

The big win

Minnesota’s Ryan Suter drained a game-winner early in the third period to beat the Devils and finally grab a win for the team. The team has choked third-period leads in their last two games that time. For the first time, the team has managed to hold on for the win.

Zach Parise gave the Wild a 1-0 lead just 5:30 after the opening faceoff. He rebounded a power-play by Suter and was well beyond goalkeeper Louis Domingue’s (Calgary Flames) reach. The Devils managed to tie it after Jesper Boqvist (New Jersey Devils) drained his first NHL goal.

Boqvist shot from the top of the right circle. That goal was disputed as the NHL claimed that it should not have been counted. It seemed that it came off the stick of Wild’s centre Luke Kunin. The officials took a look at the tape and ruled it good by 12:44.

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Since New Jersey’s Wayne Simmonds high sticked the puck in the neutral zone and then played the puck in the attacking zone, a missed game stoppage event occurred’, the league said in a statement released during the third period. ‘Minnesota’s challenge should have resulted in the New Jersey goal being disallowed’.

The late turnaround

Jordan Greenway then notched a goal for the Wild, it was a crucial goal to break the tie midway through the second period. But the Devils answered back as Kyle Palmieri scored his ninth goal of the season when he redirected a power-play pass from Taylor Hall.

This then set up the events for the Wild’s winner in the third. Ryan Hartman won in the faceoff as Ryan Donato looked for someone to pass to. Suter was wide open in the left circle and drained a shot over Domingue.

His shot gave the Wild their win despite missing Devan Dubnyk for the fifth consecutive game. Kahkonen has been nothing short of impressive that time. He was named to the AHL’s first all-star team along with Sam Anas and Brennan Menell. He also received the top honours for being the AHL’s top goaltender for the season.

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The aftermath

This win over the Devils proved to be a crucial win for them in the long run. It allowed them to get a spot in the NHL’s qualifying round as part of the Return to Play Plan in the season. The Devils missed the playoffs along with seven other teams in the league.

Kahkonen was drafted back in 2014, he tallied a league-best 25 wins, having a 25-6-3 record along with a .927 save percentage and league-leading seven shutouts last season. This was the second straight season that Kahkonen has led the AHL in shutouts en route to being the first goalie since Martin Biron in 1997-99.

Being a young star in the making seems that it would be a great task at hand for Kahkonen, but a brighter future awaits him as long as he keeps going at the same pace.

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Words: Paul Daniel Flores

Image: PA