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A moral victory. Something to build on. A solid effort. All of the cliches are there, but the standings still show a shoot out loss. The key word there is loss. The Wild are still winless in eight matches against NHL teams, and there only win came against the second to worst team in the SM Liiga. Plenty of positives, plenty of old negatives, only one point in the standings, and a long time to think about it.
Make the jump for the re-cap, the three stars, and the answers to the five questions.
Follow along with me, if you will. The Wild gave out hot under the collar. Big, hard, fast forechecks, getting feisty after whistles, throwing 18 shots on goals, 13 from the top line. They were, once again, out playing the Canes in every measurable aspect of the game. Cam Ward was the only thing standing between the Canes and a blowout. Mikko Koivu was a man possessed, Matt Cullen created multiple chances, and even John Madden's line was creating offense.
It all paid off when Andrew Brunette scored an Andrew Brunette style goal, tapping a rebound over Ward's right pad to give the Wild a late first period goal. As the team skated off the ice, every one had one simple question: Could they continue this pace into the second period, or would they come out flat as they have so many times in the past?
While the second period was not nearly as bad as it could have been, it was still not worthy of an NHL franchise. The most glaring mistake came when Niklas Backstrom tried to outrace rookie Jeff Skinner to a puck, despite the fact that two Wild defenders were right behind Skinner. There is no way the phenom could have made the cut back to the net, but with Backstrom now 45 feet or better from the crease, the play moved in front of the net, and despite getting back to the net, Backstrom could not get into position to make the save on Tuomo Rutuu, and the game was tied.
The Hurricanes would give the Wild 5 1/2 straight minutes of power play hockey to work with, including 30 or so seconds of 5-3. The Wild would do nothing with the time, and the momentum would swing further in favor of the Canes. The action in the period would end on a huge save by Cam Ward to stop a Martin Havlat breakway and preserve the tie.
The third would open with chip and chase hockey, until that magic ten minute mark. However, instead of turning on the jets as would fit the pattern, the Wild took two highly inadvisable calls, giving the Canes a huge 5-3 power play, which the Wild killed seemingly easily. As the period ground to a halt, Koivu took a hooking call as Rutuu fell behind the net, putting the Wild back on the PK to end regulation and begin over time.
The best chance of over time came on yet another Havlat breakaway on a beautiful pass from Cal Clutterbuck at the end of the extra period, but this time, Havlat received a brutal slash from behind across the right arm. The call should have been a penalty shot, but instead the Wild were given a 6.9 second power play to end the game.
The shootout went mostly as expected, and Skinner stole the show yet again, scoring the only goal to give the Canes another victory, and a very comfortable ride home with their shiny four points.
All-in-all, another disappointing game, with a handful of positives. All the moral victories in the world are not going to do much for an angry fan base, nor for the fast start the Wild so desperately needed. The Wild depart Finland immediately, come home for a week "off" before opening the actual home season on the 14th.
The Barker / Stoner combination was on the ice for the goal against.
Casey Wellman was held to just 6:43 TOI.
Hockey Wilderness Three Stars:
1. Cam Ward (41 saves, 1 GA)
2.Jeff Skinner (Game Winner in shootout, created multiple chances, 1A)
3. Mikko Koivu (8 SOG, 21:27 TOI)
1. Who is the hero for this team? Who is going to step up and put the team on their shoulders? Koivu did all he could, but I' not sure you can label a hero in a loss.
2. How do the Wild respond to this rather disappointing performance? They came out looking a team on a mission, but it faded fast. Something needs to change, and it needs to change very quickly.
3. Does Latendresse move back to the second line, or has he been Clutterbucked? At the end of the game, he skated on the line, but Clutterbuck played on it most of the game, and performed fairly well.
4. Which Wild player will be on the ice for every goal against this time? Only one goal against... so the question doesn't seem right to answer. Though Barker and Stoner did find a way to be out there.
5.Can Justin Falk continue to build on his impressive play? Falk is a beast. He is a top shut down d-man, and no one can convince me otherwise.
6.We're going to stick with this question until it happens: Can the Wild put together a 60 minute effort? Russo says they did, and I don't make a habit of disagreeing with him, but I disagree. The second period was flat, there were too many mental lapses, and the third period was a disaster.