DES MOINES, Iowa – The Iowa Wild looked like they would cruise to victory Saturday night, leading 4-1 with 90 seconds left in their contest. However, the Manitoba Moose scored two goals in 36 seconds, turning this into a nail-biter before Iowa was able to hold on for the 4-3 victory. Mat Robson earned the victory to move to 5-0-1 in his last six starts as the Wild won their fourth straight game at home to close out the first half of the AHL season.
At 8:40, Seth Griffin went off for hooking for the Moose. 18 seconds later, Sam Anas gave his team a 1-0 lead. Manitoba tried to clear the puck out of their end, but Brennan Menell was able to keep it in the Moose zone. He sent a pass across the blue line to Anas who moved down the boards about 10 feet before firing a wrist shot. The puck deflected off a Manitoba defender and in for the power play goal, Anas’ 14th tally of the season.
The goal was the 28th power play point of the season for Anas. He leads the AHL in that category.
Iowa had been outshot 13-12 in the first, but they totally dominated the second period, peppering Manitoba goaltender Eric Comrie with 18 shots, while Robson faced just eight. That helped the Wild to extend their lead to three.
The first goal came just after the 10-minute mark. Matt Register passed the puck ahead to Nico Sturm, who darted into the Manitoba end before feeding the puck to Gerald Mayhew as he crossed into the Moose zone. Mayhew sped in on goal, then lifted a wrist shot under the crossbar for his AHL-leading 30th goal of the season. That made it 2-0. With the tally, Mayhew became the first player in franchise history to reach the 30-goal mark.
A little over six minutes after the Mayhew goal, Will Bitten extended the lead to three. With Iowa on a power play, Dmitry Sokolov blasted a shot from the point that Comrie saved, but the rebound came to J.T. Brown, who sent it back to the point to Louie Belpedio. The Wild defenseman fired a slapshot that Comrie kicked aside once again, but the rebound came to Bitten, who made a nice move shifting to his left, then back to his right heading toward the corner of the crease to give himself some room. He then lifted a backhander over the netminder for his eighth goal of the year.
This game looked like it was all but over, especially considering how well Robson was playing. After Kaapo Kahkonen shutout the Moose on Friday night, Robson had kept Manitoba off the scoreboard for the first 51 minutes on Saturday, stopping all 28 shots he faced.
However, at 11:52, JC Lipon finally broke the drought. Straight off the draw in the Wild end, Mayhew blocked the shot. The deflection went back to Leon Gawanke at the point, who passed it across to Kristian Vesalainen at the right faceoff circle. He then made a great cross-ice feed to Lipon, who buried the one-timer for his ninth goal of the year.
The Moose were finally on the board. But, more alarming for the Wild, Mayhew was down. He would be helped off the ice and did not return.
Manitoba seized the momentum, controlling the action, but Kyle Rau looked like he had all iced the contest for Iowa. The Moose pulled Comier with about three minutes left in the game and the draw in the Iowa end. Manitoba won the draw, but the puck was loose and Rau simply lifted a backhander that wound up going the length of the ice and in for his 11th goal of the season. That made it 4-1.
Manitoba did not give up though. Trailing by three and with the man-advantage, they cut the deficit back to two with 90 seconds left in the game. With the faceoff in the Iowa zone, the Wild won the draw but were unable to clear the puck out of their end. Andrei Chibisov gained control, passing the puck across to Vesalainen just above the right faceoff circle. He fired a wrist shot that Robson seemed to have misjudged, as it sailed over his glove hand to make it 4-2. The power play goal was the first the Wild allowed in six contests.
Just 36 seconds later, Manitoba was back on the board. C.J. Seuss’ shot from the point sailed past the goal and off the end boards, but it bounced right out to Skyler McKenzie at the side of the net. McKenzie simply tucked the puck in for his ninth goal of the year, and suddenly the Moose were right back in it.
However, the Wild killed off the final 54 seconds of the game, as Manitoba would not get another shot on net. The Moose outshot the Wild, 36-35. Iowa was 2-for-6 on the power play.
Robson stopped 33 of the 36 shots he faced to move to 9-7-4 on the season. No Wild player had more than one point in the contest. Vesalainen led the way for the Moose with a goal and an assist.
The Iowa Wild enter the All-Star break with a 26-14-3-3 record. Their 58 points is second only to the Milwaukee Admirals in the Central Division and is tied for fourth in the AHL overall.
The All-Star Game is Monday night in Ontario, CA. The Wild will send Mayhew, Anas, and Menell to the mid-season classic. The game starts at 9:00 CT.
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