Seems like the Wild learned the trick to solving their finishing woes ... find the guy with the hot hand. Today, that guy was Chuck Kobasew.
Once again, the Wild came storming out of the gate, attacking Avalanche netminder Craig Anderson time and again. They had six early shots on goal, only to be foiled as Kyle Quincey snapped home a nice feed from Colorado's rookie sensation Matt Duchene. 3:30 later, Owen Nolan got the Wild on the board as he took a rebound from a Greg Zanon shot, waited for Anderson to slide over, and wristed the puck underneath Anderson to tie the game at one. This was a big goal, because it slowed the momentum Colorado had gathered after the Quincey goal.
The second period started much the same way. The Wild came out hot, and Chuck Kobasew started his big day, scoring on a beautiful pass from Derek Boogaard behind the net. This was Boogaard's first point of the season, and it was much deserved, as Boogaard has been working hard with the puck and vying for position down low. Colorado, however, took advantage of the power play just 1:53 later as Paul Stastny tied the game at two. The Wild then went immediately on the power play and Kobasew got his second of the afternoon on a typical play from Andrew Brunette, finding the open man on the power play. Chris Stewart then tied the game again with just over 2:00 left in the period.
The third period, though, was all Minnesota. The Wild got the first seven shots of the period, then Andrew Brunette added to his team leading goal count taking a Mikko Koivu pass and burying it for the game winning goal. Greg Zanon was also given an assist on the Brunette goal, his second of the day.
The teams went back and forth, and it felt like Colorado might score at any moment late in regulation as they kept the pressure up until, with the extra skater on for the Avalanche, Greg Zanon blocked a pass, chipped the puck to Koivu who streaked down the left wing, with Kobasew crashing up the slot. Koivu smartly spun at the half-wall, centered it to Kobasew who turned, kicked the puck to his stick, and skating backward, slid the puck into the empty net for the hat trick, the second of his career.
It was nice to see the Wild get the two power play goals, and add to their power play streak. Prior to this week, the power play had been a momentum killer for Minnesota. It was also nice to see the offense pick-up Nik Backstrom, as he was rather shaky today, fighting off too many pucks, and giving up big rebounds.
Tomorrow should be a blast, as this was a tightly-contested game. The Avs took too many lazy penalties and the Wild were able to capitalize. I'm sure Joe Sacco will give the Avs a talking-to on the trip back to Denver.
See you tomorrow night.
Please read the game recap over at Mile High Hockey
Hockey Wilderness Three
Questions to Answer
- Will Guillaume Latendresse have an impact in his first game the way Andrew Ebbett did? Lats didn't factor in the scoring, but as the game went on, he got more and more involved in the play. He's a big kid, and once his linemates get comfortable with him, and once he parks himself in the low slot and crashes to the net, he looks like the kind of guy who can rack up the scoring down low.
- Can the Wild come out with a solid effort against Colorado, the way they did against Boston? Two really great efforts in a row. The difference between today and Wednesday? No Tuukka Rask, the Wild got a goal in the first period to get some momentum and they concentrated on finishing.
- Craig Anderson has been sliding back to Earth lately. Will that continue today? 4 goals allowed and was fighting the puck all afternoon (then again, so was Niklas Backstrom)
- Do the Xcel Energy fans suffer from Trytophan hangover, or will the building be energized? Hard not to be energized with five goals, but I didn't see enough hats on the ice after Kobasew's third goal!
- avalanche.nhl.com seems to overlook the next two games with the Wild. Will the Avs do the same? They definitely did not. This was a hard fought game. Tomorrow should be really fun.