STOCKTON, Calif. – He may not leap tall buildings in a single bound and is surely not faster than a speeding locomotive, but goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen continues to look like Superman to the Iowa Wild, stopping all 35 shots he faced in a 2-0 extinguishing of the Stockton Heat. The shutout was his fifth in his last 11 games and his AHL-leading seventh overall. Josh Atkinson recorded assists on both goals to lead the Iowa offense.
The Wild started the contest with the early momentum, keeping the puck in the Stockton end for much of the first five minutes of the contest, but things changed quickly just before the five-minute mark. The Heat unleashed a relentless forecheck which was giving them sustained pressure in the Iowa zone.
Over a span of six minutes, Stockton fired nine shots on Kahkonen while Iowa had none on Heat goaltender Artyom Zagidulin. However, it was the play of the Wild netminder that kept this game scoreless. He made a number of brilliant saves, including just before the 11-minute mark when a cross-ice pass came to the other side of the net where Adam Ruzicka redirected the puck toward what looked like a sure goal, but Kahkonen was able to slide over and knock the attempt away.
The Heat had a 14-6 edge in shots at the end of the first period, but the Wild had weathered the early pressure and were tied. They were able to even out the chances in the second, getting some sustained pressure in the Stockton end. That would help them to score two goals in the span of just 17 seconds to take control of this contest.
The first came at 15:23. The Wild won the draw in the Stockton end. The puck was sent back to Atkinson, who fired a shot that went just wide of the net. Cody McLeod, who returned to the ice after a being out for over two months with an injury, gained control behind the net. He moved along the end boards toward the corner, then turned, making a perfect pass to Mike Liambas in the slot. Liambas blasted the one-timer by Zagidulin for his third goal of the year to put the Wild on top, 1-0.
Stockton won the ensuing faceoff, dumping it into the Iowa end. Atkinson gained control of the puck behind his net, feeding it to Keaton Thompson, who passed it ahead to Connor Dewar. That allowed him to breakout of the Wild zone on a 2-0n-1 break. Dewar entered the Stockton zone, stopping just above the right faceoff circle. Dmitry Sokolov headed for the net, but Dewar opted to fire a wrist shot that beat Zagidulin just over his arm for his sixth goal of the year, as the Wild quickly took command of this contest.
From there, it was all Kahkonen. Even when the Heat were able to maintain sustained pressure in the Wild end, the netminder was shutting down any attempt that came his way. He stopped 11 shots in the second and eight more in the third, giving him 35 saves on the night. The victory was his AHL-leading 25th of the season and he is 11-1-1 in his last 13 starts. The shutout lowered his goals against average to 2.08 (fourth best in the league) and his .927 save percentage is also fourth.
The Wild tied a franchise record, set in January, with their ninth victory of the month. Since the start of 2020, Iowa is 18-4-2. Their 36 victories are one short of the franchise record set last season.
The Wild will get a chance to tie that mark when they travel down the coast to take on the San Jose Barracuda on Monday in a early matinee contest. The puck drops at 1:00pm CT.
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