Wow. Down 5-1 at the end of the second period, the only people who thought the Minnesota Wild had a chance to come back were sitting in the home locker room. The Wild had never won after trailing by four goals, let alone trailing by four goals in the third period, to speak nothing of coming back from four down with just 14:00 left in the third period.
But ... when Kim Johnsson took the feed from Andrew Ebbett and Derek Boogaard and buried it, suddenly the previously silent Xcel Energy Center came to life. Then, less than a minute later, captain Mikko Koivu brought the crowd to its feet scoring from Greg Zanon and Andrew Brunette. With the score 5-3, 52 seconds after Koivu's goal, Dustin Byfuglien took an ill-advised high-sticking penalty, putting the momentum fully on the side of the Minnesota Wild. 28 seconds into the power play, just 1:20 after Koivu's goal and 2:12 after Johnsson's, Marek Zidlicky took a centering pass from Martin Havlat and fired a howitzer from up top that got under Cristobal Huet, and brought the game within one. Antti Miettinen was credited with the second assist.
The next ten minutes seemed to fly by until, with 1:33 left in regulation, Guillaume Latendresse drove an already loud, raucous crowd over the edge, tying the game on a slap shot from Eric Belanger and Owen Nolan.
The Blackhawks tried to stem the tide by picking things up in the overtime, but couldn't cash in on their four shots. After a scoreless overtime, the two teams headed into a marathon shootout. Koivu opened the scoring for the Wild, then Jonathan Toews and Latendresse missed. Patrick Kane evened things up, then Marek Zidlicky, Marian Hossa, Mittens, Patrick Sharp, Belanger, Kris Versteeg, Kyle Brodziak, Andrew Ladd, Cal Clutterbuck and Troy Brouwer all failed to score before Owen Nolan finally broke through and Josh Harding slammed the door on John Madden giving the Wild two incredibly improbable points.
Now, not to ignore the goaltending and defense, Niklas Backstrom was hung out to dry on numerous occasions, but did not exactly help his own cause, stopping only seven on 12 shots in the first two periods. Three of those goals were just about impossible to stop, that's how well the Blackhawks move the puck, but the other two, Backstrom should have had. Luckily, Josh Harding and the Wild offense showed up big in the third. Harding stopped all 13 shots he faced, then only allowed one goal in eight attempts in the shootout to get the win.
This was a massive win, big comeback aside. Back to back wins over Calgary and Chicago have to feel good for a team reeling after a little losing stretch. The key here is to not get down early against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday.
Please check out the game recap over at Second City Hockey.
- Can the Wild get payback for the Tuesday's loss at Chicago? And then some.
- The Wild dominated a superior team in the win over Calgary on Wednesday. Can they take what they learned from that game and put it into play tonight? Not until the third period, but then it all came together.
- Coach Todd Richards has put Havlat and Latendresse with Kyle Brodziak. These three have looked very good together. Will the chemistry work again? Two goals for Latendresse, but only one when paired with Havlat and Brodziak. But Marty did get two assists tonight.
- Erik Belanger is on a tear with eight points in his last eight games. Can he keep up this excellent play? One assist on the night, he now has nine points in nine games.
John Scott is once again in for Clayton Stoner. Scott hasn't been as solid here in mid-season as he was in October/November, as a result, his minutes (when he isn't a healthy scratch) have been pretty low, placing a bit of a burden on the other five defensemen. Will this trend continue or, by pairing him with Kim Johnsson, has Richards decided to even the load a bit and give Scott the help he needs? Scott was a -1 in only 10:29, but did get more time than Shane Hnidy. Johnsson was all over the ice tonight though and opened the flood gates with a goal in the third period.