ST PAUL, MN - DECEMBER 17: Jarod Palmer #79 of the Minnesota Wild skates after the puck during the first period against the New York Islanders on December 17, 2011 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. This is Palmer's NHL debut. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Minnesota Wild 1-2 (so) New York Islanders
For the New York Islanders perspective, please visit Lighthouse Hockey
Scary game. severely depleted lineup facing a team with absolutely nothing to lose.
To quote Mike Russo from the pre-game: "I'm not sure this #mnwild lineup would fly in the preseason"
Well, after a scoreless first period in St. Paul ...
The Houston Aeros actually did pretty well holding off the Islanders (thanks in large part to continued stellar goaltending by Niklas Backstrom) until another in a long line of horrible boarding calls against the Wild found Warren Peters in the box and Backstrom somehow kept Matt Moulson off the scoresheet but couldn't get anyone in front of an Andy MacDonald rocket that found its way into the back of the net seconds after Peters came back on the ice. That call doesn't happen, that goal doesn't happen ... but Butterfly Effect and all.
Anyway, the Wild continued the season-long trend of allowing a large number of shots while not amassing a great number themselves. At the end of the second, they were down 1-0 while being outshot 24-9 (7 of those 9 belonged to Jarod Palmer and Jared Spurgeon). Now, that's not to say they didn't have scoring chances. Matt Cullen and Dany Heatley had several fantastic opportunities that found either a pass broken up down low or a shot wide of the cage. I kept saying that those two were going to get theirs because they kept on putting on the pressure and looked poised to score all night.
Enter the third period. Even the fans came out hot in the third. The noise in the third period and overtime was, at times, everything the X should be.
The team seemed to feed off the energy (and what, I'm assuming was a rousing speech from Yeo) and came out loading up on shots, possession and intensity. It all came to a head when Cullen and Heatley took the zone with Cal Clutterbuck in tow. Heatley fed Cullen whose shot rebounded to Clutterbuck who in turn roofed it from the goal line to tie the game at 1, while being dramatically outshot.
Both teams had chances late in the third, but the Wild owned control of the game in the third and overtime, creating numerous chances but couldn't score. Jarod Palmer deserved to convert on the best chance anyone would see all night in the extra frame, but the puck was between his feet and he couldn't get enough on it to send us home.
So, we head to the shootout where none of us liked our chances, and watching Matt Cullen, Marek Zidlicky and Dany Heatley shoot into Al Montoya's chest, it's an unsurprising 2-1 shootout win for the Islanders. Good for our friends on the Island. Not a horrible loss all things considered.
Interesting note. Mike Yeo took his time out really early tonight after a long shift resulting in an icing. He wanted to give his guys a break. It's interesting because he didn't do it just before Jonathan Toews scored in the third the other night in a similar situation. Nice to see him learning. Todd Richards didn't learn from those kinds of situations, and it cost the team and him. Love that.
Special Game Note: Tonight is Mike Doffing's last game as a member of the Minnesota Wild franchise. Mike has been an Al Shaver Press Box stalwart since 2005. Greeting each and every member of the media by face and name, every night begins & ends with a kind word from Mike. We would like to thank Mike Doffing for his kindness & infectious positivity & wish him well as he moves to Tennessee w/ Ford Motor Company. You can always judge an organization by how it takes care of those who take care of them. The Wild communications department has fantastic personnel, and seeing that they all gave Mike a personal note and his very own personalized, official Minnesota Wild sweater says a lot about how much he meant to this organization. To visiting team officials and all members of the media, Mike was the face associated with the press box, and he wore it well. Good luck Mike.
The Bennett's Chop & Railhouse Stars of the Game:
- Jared Spurgeon (26:47 TOI - rock solid)
- John Tavares (1 A, constant threat)
- Niklas Backstrom (35 saves)
- Honorable Mention to Jarod Palmer. Dude was everywhere, busting his butt in all zones, crashing the net, aggressive on the forecheck, making plays and taking shots. He deserved the winner tonight, but was snake-bitten.
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/.
- Can this ragtag band of players step up? They were overmatched, the shot totals show that. The play on the ice showed it, and against a playoff contending team it would've been ugly.
- How does Heatley look next to Cullen? Actually, these two were fantastic tonight. Both guys created plays, took their chances but couldn't finish. Luckily Cal was there to clean up the garbage. I like the pairing, and wouldn't have minded seeing Palmer get a shot with them.
- Palmer makes his NHL debut. Does he look out of place? Not at all. I'd like to see a few more games at this level.
thirdsecond line has been good all season. Can they find yet another level? Nope. Not tonight.
- Can Wild fans Occupy the X and make some noise? After they found their voices with a cacophony of boos at the end of the second, then the rousing ovation for the military family awarded with a Polaris ATV the fans kept it up the entire third period and overtime. Too bad it couldn't end with a W.