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Arg. What else can we say? This was a stereotypical 2009-10 Minnesota Wild game. They came out strong in the first period, making Bryzgalov make save after save, getting some serious scoring chances. They earned a hard fought goal when Latendresse buried a puck that should have been covered to put the Wild up 1-0 early.
As is typical however, the Wild let up a bit, and the Coyotes answered with their own goal, from Martin Hanzal, swinging the momentum away from the Wild, and causing the home team to pack it in for awhile. The forecheck let up, the defense let up, and it was left to the returning Niklas Backstrom to keep this team in the game. The Coyotes ended the first period out shooting the Wild and carrying all of the momentum.
The second period was one we have all seen countless times. The Wild defenders pinched at the wrong times, the offense tried to make too many passes, and even Guillaume Latendresse passed on a shot from three feet in front of the net with Bryzgalov pinned back in the net. A fairly obvious defensive break down left Matthew Lombardi all alone on the left face off dot, and he buried a beautiful wrist shot over Backstrom shoulder to put the Coyotes up by one. The period would end with the 'Yotes expanding their lead in shots, up by one, and the Wild looking lost.
Then comes the third period, and the Wild figure out that there are only so many minutes in a hockey game, and they begin to play hard again. They were forechecking nicely, winning battles, and then the unthinkable. Radim Vrbata put a weak shot off the side of the net which bounced back into Backstrom's rear end and into the net. It was just the type of fluky goal the Wild did not need to surrender.
After that, the Wild went back into complacency mode for a few minutes, before Martin Havlat made a sweet move off the face off, deked a 'Yotes defender out of his socks, and buried a goal to move them back within one. Of course, this woke up the rest of the team, the problem being there was less than 2:30 left to play at that point, and the Coyotes went into a prevent defense. The Wild did manage to tie up the shots at 31, but the 13 shots in the third equaled up to only one real chance.
After pulling Backstrom, the Wild could not control the puck long enough to put any heat on Bryzgalov, and lost the game 3-2.
The story of this game will be a showcase of everything the Wild have done wring all year. Team defense was lacking. There was little battle in the corners or for free pucks. Too much passing, not enough shooting. Defenders pinching in at the complete wrong times (ie when a forward is able to play the puck and instead a defender jumps in to play it and ends up giving up and odd man rush).
They did not deserve to win this one. A regulation NHL hockey game is 60 minutes. The Wild played about 23 1/2 tonight.
Hockey Wilderness 3 Stars:
1.Radim Vrbata (1G, 1A, 5 SOG)
2. Martin Hanzal (1G, 1A, 3 SOG)
3. Ilya Bryzgalov (29 Saves)
Five Questions to Answer:
1. How will Niklas Backstrom look in his first game back? He looked good. Highlight reel saves, goals given up were not soft. Team hung him out to dry.
2. Owen Nolan has been fantastic for the past week, can he keep it up? Looked like a non-factor tonight. He played hard, but his name was not called much.
3. Can the Wild continue their excellent play at home? Absolutely not. In my opinion, the fans deserve a refund for this one.
4. Does the Guillaume Latendresse - Martin Havlat pairing continue to make other teams look slow and anemic? This line, Mikko Koivu, and Backstrom are the only guys who showed up tonight.
5. Will the Wild power play drive the offense or be a momentum killer? Looked good at first, then killed the game.