Anyone else thinking that Josh Harding may have made a statement tonight to management that they can look at moving Niklas Backstrom to Washington or Ottawa or Detroit?
If it weren't for Harding's heroics, and a mighty fine penalty kill, the Wild could have easily found themselves down three or four goals after being outshot 18-5 in the first period. While the Wild got out of that period with a clean sheet, thanks to Josh Harding and a wonderful penalty killing unit, the lack of offense, lack of puck control and the defensive pairings seemingly letting the Blackhawks move freely through the zone was a bit disconcerting. Wild fans online felt as if one Blackhawks goal would start an avalanche, seeing how tilted the ice was.
However, the Wild continued to kill penalties and clear the zone until half-way through the second, when Jonathan Toews took a Martin Havlat pass and easily tipped it past a sprawling Harding. The "not again" feeling took over. Yet, the Wild fought and clawed their way out of bad situation after bad situation in their own zone, only to take ill-advised slapshots in the offensive zone that were either blocked by diving defensemen or missed their mark.
Dan Fritsche, however, took the Owen Nolan role of deflecting a Pierre-Marc Bouchard shot into the back of the Blackhawks net, past Cristobal Huet. While it appeared to have been played above the crossbar, the folks in Toronto gave the Wild a break and declined to overrule the call on the ice, giving the Wild the tying goal.
After that marker, the ice really evened out, and the Wild were churning. After being badly outshot in the first period, the game was much more even during the second and third, and when Peter Olvecky notched his first career goal, as Josh Harding stopped everything the Blackhawks could throw at him, the Wild crept their way to a really satisying 2-1 win. These are the types of wins that the Wild need to eke out en route to a potential playoff berth.
Hockey Wilderness Three Stars
Josh Harding (45 shots, 44 saves)
- Peter Olvecky (1 G)
- Dan Fritsche (1 G)
Questions to Answer
- Which Wild team shows up? The one from Saturday or last week? Defensively? The one from last night. Offensively? The one from last week in the first period, but last night in the second and third. This team is just so damn inconsistent.
- Will Owen Nolan and Pierre-Marc Bouchard continue to play well together? Bouchard again factored into the scoring, getting the assist on Fritsche's goal, and Nolan created problems down low. But with Nolan going out injured, and Lemaire saying "It doesn't look good. We might have to call someone up." I fear that Nolan's presence down low and on the power play will be sorely missed.
- Can the Wild defense stop the surging Blackhawks attack? They stemmed the tide of onslaught after onslaught. Chicago's offense is unrelenting. My god, they are fun to watch.
- Will the Wild maintain their dominance over Chicago? Another game, another win over the Blackhawks. I don't know how they do it.
- Can the team get this road trip off to a great start, or do they set themselves up for a bad month? Take the good from tonight and last night and learn from it boys. Get hot now, please?
- Harding posted a career-high 44 saves.
- Harding had not won since a 6-2 victory at Nashville on Nov. 29.
- Peter Olvecky's game winning goal was his first career NHL goal.
- The NHL's top ranked penalty killing unit once again pitched a shutout, as the Wild went five for five.
The Game in Pictures