Minnesota Wild 2 - 1 St-Louis Blues
For the enemy perspective, please visit St. Louis Game Time
3 straight wins for the Wild against the mighty Red Wings and Canucks. How would they fare against a less frightening, but still not to be taken lightly, Blues team? There's always been some excitement when games against the Blues roll along. They always make for some great, close hockey and it's a budding rivalry that would be cool to see blossom in a favorable alignment situation.
First period was a teeter-totter battle, with both teams getting looks, but most ended up either blocked or thwarted by cut passing lanes. Harding and Halak only saw 5 shots each, but it was a period full of energy plays, quick plays, forechecking, heck, it was textbook end-to-end hockey. Pretty enjoyable overall. The only penalty went to Carlo Colaiaiaciaicoaciaociaocovo, but, of course, the Wild did absolutely nothing with the extra man.
The second period is where things got a bit more agitated. After Marek Zidlicky negated a powerplay on a very poor effort to go across the blueline, Nate Prosser blocked a shot, which looked quite painful, but also caused a 2 on 1 break for Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley. Koivu to Heatley, and he makes it trickle in for a 1-0 lead. As Prosser was skating off, limping, he saw the goal and went to celebrate his first NHL assist since his first NHL game. That's right, he got a well deserved assist for blocking a very hard shot. Attaboy. Guillaume Latendresse then picked the puck away from Alex Pietrangelo after he tried to clear the puck he received from Dany Heatley, who had done a good job getting to center ice and dumping it. Latendresse walked in alone and beat Jaroslav Halak for his second goal in as many games and gave the Wild a 2-0 lead. The end of the period got quite chippy with Darroll Powe and Scott Nichol duking it out and Jamie Langenbrunner, Roman Polak, Jason Arnott, Kyle Brodziak, Marek Zidlicky and Nick Johnson all getting roughing penalties a few minutes later.
To add to the joke, three seconds into the third period, Guillaume Latendresse and David Backes exchanged some gentlemanly words as Backes got a double minor for cross-checking and Latendresse got a minor for slashing. I believe Reaves served the second minor for Backes, so that's count'em, 6 players in the box for the Blues, 5 for the Wild. That's quite droll. The Blues came into the 3rd with a lot more intensity and rage, but Harding answered the call almost every time, surrendering his shutout bid to Jamie Langenbrunner with 2 minutes to go in the game after a big mess in front of him couldn't be cleaned up. A very stressful 2 minutes ensued has Halak had left his cage for the extra attacker and the action was solely in the Wild's defensive zone, but the Wild survived the late Blues onslaught to win 2-1, their 4th consecutive win.
This win can be attributed to two things in particular: relentless forechecking and amazing defending. The Wild were all over the puck, they had a never-say-die attitude with the puck, meaning even if they got beat, they pestered the puck carrier to no end, causing many a turnover. The defensemen were great, taking care of the garbage in front, save for that one occasion in which the Blues scored, and they blocked shots like crazy, blocking half as many shots as Harding himself did. One of those blocks even turned into an assist.
All in all, we can be proud of our boys tonight. It seems things are coming together and while it was closer then we would've hoped, they suddenly have a very respectable 7-3-3 record after starting 3-3-3. 3 regulation losses in 13 games is fabulous when you think about it. All of a sudden, the Wild are one of the top teams in the league, and they deserve it after the bevy of one-goal games they've been in and beating Detroit twice and the Canucks once in their current 4 game stretch.
Enjoy your #8 in the league Minnesota Wild, Wilderness.
Next game is Tuesday against our good friends, the Calgary Flames.
A few facts:
Me first: Three of Dany Heatley's four goals this season were the Wild's first goal of the game.
Home sweet home: Big Bear Guillaume Latendresse has 22 goals in 43 home games since becoming a member of the Wild. He has 9 goals in 35 away games in that same period.
Killers in the zone: The Wild have killed all 14 of their penalties in the 4 game winning streak.
Penalty party: At one point, Minnesota had 5 men in the penalty box, St-Louis had 6. PIM were Blues: 19, Wild: 17
Getting crowded up here: Speaking of crowded places, Matt Cullen, Devin Setoguchi, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Dany Heatley and Mikko Koivu are all tied for the team lead in points with 8. Guillaume Latendresse is following them with 7 but leads the team at +6.
Closer, closer: The Wild lead the league in one-goal games, improving to 5-2-3 in those situations. That's right, 10 of 13 games have been one-goal games. Yowzers.
Hard to beat: Josh Harding has now improved to 4-0-1, 0.965 SV%(leads the league), 1.18 GA. He's saved 164 of the 170 shots he's faced. His 4 straight wins ties a career high and in that streak, he has posted a dazzling 0.75GAA and a 0.977SV%. Going for another one? Yeo says Niklas Backstrom will probably start Tuesday against the Flames, but we'll see what develops.
Eye of the tiger: Over the last two games, Matt Cullen has won 25 of 32 faceoffs, for a huge 78%. This plays a big factor on a team that had started quite horribly in the faceoff circle.
Foursome: The Wild have now won 4 straight for the first time since a 4 game stretch between January 2nd and January 8th.
Deadlocks: The Wild were tied after the 1st period for only the second time this season.
Head start: In the last 10 home games against the Blues, the Wild have scored the first goal in each of them (7-3-0)
Worst defense in the league: Before the game, the Wild were tied for 2nd in the league in GA. 1 GA tonight means they'll stay near that number. Also, the Wild blocked a whopping 16 shots tonight. They suck.
Bryan's little girl: To those of you who don't follow the Wilderness crew on Twitter, first of all, GET TO IT, second of all, Bryan's little girl, who had fallen from the top bunk of her bed during the game, went to ER and it turns out she has a swollen nose and a cut lip, and nothing more. Bryan thanks you for the concern. Now go follow us on twitter:
@hockeywildernes (one s), @nathaneide , @ReynoldsSBN, @BubbleWild48, @elisebutler, @Danccchan, @BruceCiskie, @msconduct10.
The Bennett's Chop & Railhouse Stars of the Game:
1. Josh Harding: 30 saves, 1GA, making a serious case for a 5th straight start. Will he get it?
2. Guillaume Latendresse: GWG, 3 shots, all over the net. The big man was using his smooth hands well. mmmm
3. Nate Prosser: We've got to give it to him for that gutsy block that resulted in an assist on the game's first goal. He was quite good defensively all night long.
Remember, when you begin and end your night at Bennett's, you're the star! Easy parking, drink and food specials and a free shuttle to and from the Xcel Energy Center. Check them out at http://bennettschopandrailhouse.com/.
- Fourth start in a row for Harding. Does he look sharp again? Hell yes. 30 saves, 1GA.
- The Wild are in a groove and playing well, does that continue? Of course it wasn't quite as memorable as the win against the Nucks, the Wild played solid, but seemed to have either run out of gas towards the end or let the Blues run them over.
- Can the top line get in on the fun tonight? Each got a point, Heatley and Latendresse with the goals, Koivu with an assist. Don't break them up, Yeo, it's working. The second line is also very good.
- The Church of Yeo is in session, can the players keep the faith? They stuck to the game plan all game and offered a solid 55 minutes.
- Marek Zidlicky showed up last game. Can he make it two? Looks like the Nucks game was a fluke as far as he's concerned. Absolute non-factor, even made some particularly dumb decisions.