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Chances. The story of tonight's game will be the chances the Wild had. While scoring chances are an unofficial stat, and thus I have no actual count, the Wild had to be close to 20 or so.
After one, a scoreless game, despite 25 total shots on goal, 15 by the Wild, all 15 of which seemed to be great chances. Edmonton goalie Jeff Deslauriers and Josh Harding were both absolutely on fire, prompting friend of the blog TylerDurdenUMD to ask if perhaps Deslauriers was using a performance enhancing good luck horseshoe stored in the nether regions.
The second period was prototypical Minnesota Wild second period hockey. Yawn. Boring. A few chances either way, but neither team had much going for it. Shots dropped to just seven each, and fans everywhere were thankful when it was over.
As is the norm in these parts however, the third period would not disappoint. Mittens scored just 3 minutes in, giving the Wild their second one goal lead of the game, and setting up a drama filled final 17 minutes.
Around the 11 minute mark of the third period, the refs used their x-ray vision to see the puck underneath Josh Harding, allowing Marc Pouliot to kick at Harding's pad and knock the puck free and into the net to tie the game at two. In the next few minutes, the momentum had clearly swung to the Oilers. In what will turn out to be a highlight real save, Harding over played Pouliot coming down the right side, Pouliot dumped the puck back in front of the net and JF Jacques had a shot at a wide open net. A sprawling Harding robbed Jacques with a glove save for the ages.
However, that would be all she wrote for Hards. He was in clear pain after that save, and Anton Khudobin would make his NHL debut after working his way up from the ECHL Florida Everblades. Khudobin showed some serious poise coming in after two and half periods of sitting on the bench and thrown into a tie game.
Latendresse put in his 18th (18th!) goal of the season to make it 3-2. Khudobin then came up with a couple big saves on a very quick power play for the Oilers, and momentum had swung back, yet again, to the Wild. They kept the pedal down, kept pressure off of the rookie goaltender, and sailed away with a much needed win after Lats and Martin Havlat showed more of their chemistry on a pretty give and go to make it 4-2.
Khudobin credited with his first NHL win after coming in with a tie score. Fun night had by all, I would hope.
Our friends down in Houston and Florida have got to be proud of their boy tonight. 9 saves on 9 shots in a completely unenviable position to help an NHL club secure a victory. Welcome to the big leagues, Anton.
Hockey Wilderness Three Stars:
1. Josh Harding (23 Saves)
2. Martin Havlat (2G, +3, 6 SOG)
3. Guillaume Latendresse (1G, 1A, +3, 6 SOG)
Honorable mention (because I can) - Anton Khudobin (9 Saves, Win)
1. Can Lats and Havlat keep up their solid play? Boy howdy. Three goals, assist, +6, 12 SOG?
2. How are the Oilers so bad? Well, let's see. Penner went home a few weeks ago, they have no goaltending, they have no defensmen, and they have no ability to score.
3. Can the Wild offense pick it up back home again? Indeed they can. Looked really good tonight. Even strength, power play, all of it. Beautiful.
4. How is Josh Harding going to look? Stellar. But, he's really hurt now. Not cool.
5. This is a must-win game. If the Wild lose this game, it's time to sell. What say you? They won, so it delays the conversation, but vote is still to sell. Not the farm, but sell some pieces.