Minnesota Wild 2-1 Philadelphia Flyers
To say the Wild were outplayed, outworked and outhustled in the first period would be putting it lightly. Were it not for very solid goaltending by Anton Khudobin in his first NHL start, Minnesota could have easily found themselves down big, early. The Flyers led in shots 14-3 at one point, and ended the first period 17-7. Luckily Khudobin was there to stem the tide, and the defense really came to his aide. It was a solid defensive period, though the breakout lacked, in a big way. Scoring started when Cal Clutterbuck took a pass from Owen Nolan and wristed it past Michael Leighton. Somehow, Nolan wasn't credited with the assist, but he made the play happen. Unfortunately, the Wild really let up immediately following, and the Flyers tied the game at 1, just 16 seconds later as Dan Carcillo (I know, right?) took the pass and beat Khudobin on the backhand from a rebound.
The second is where the Wild took over. They started to pick up the puck in transition and take the play to the Flyers, both physically, and by applying pressure in the offensive zone. Owen Nolan found the back of the net from Eric Belanger and Kim Johnsson. That would be all Khudobin and the Wild would need to beat the Flyers.
Tonight's story was all Khudobin, all the time. The Russian rookie was fantastic when he needed to be. His 38 saves tied a season high for Wild goaltenders, and he has now won his first two games with 47 saves on 48 shots. If Niklas Backstrom doesn't recover from the flu and Josh Harding's hip doesn't heal soon, he'll be the guy. Wade Dubielewicz hasn't proven he can do it, so it's up to Khudobin. He's off to a solid start so far.
Minnesota is a dramatically different team when playing in front of the Team of 18,000. They work harder, play more aggressively, take more chances and seem to get the bounces. The key down the stretch will be taking that effort on the road. They need to win at a better than .600 clip to get into the playoffs. Can it happen? Sure. Will it happen? Not if they don't improve the road games.
Hockey Wilderness Three:
- Anton Khudobin (38 saves)
- Cal Clutterbuck (1 G)
- Owen Nolan (1 G)
Guillaume Latendresse is the leading scorer on the team with 18 goals, 10 at home. Can he find the back of the net again? Afraid not, but his pairing with Havlat creates problems for other teams each and every shift.
- How will Anton Khudobin look in his first NHL start? 38 saves, one goal, his second win. Very niiiiice.
- Will the Wild go with seven defensemen? If so, how will this affect the offense? Richards changed his mind just before the pre-game skate and went with six, sitting James Sheppard and John Scott.
- Biggest pain tonight, Daniel Carcillo, Scott Hartnell or Chris Pronger? I really dislike all three, but Hartnell's 4 PIM wins. Luckily the Irish God of War destroyed him.
- The Wild are 6-1-1 in the green sweaters. Can they find magic again? Indeed they did!