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This was a big game. Plenty of emotion to be had with the return of Brent Burns, the 1000th game for Matt Cullen, huge losing streak to get away from. Devin Setoguchi was a late healthy scratch against his former team for missing a team meeting today. You know, with his old teammates in town. Good idea.
To top it off, Max Jablonski, younger brother of injured high school player Jack Jablonski, was the honorary flag bearer. Max wore his brother's sweater on the ice, rather than the traditional Wild sweater the kids wear. The entire scene was very heart warming.
The starting lineups held the two reasons for the emotions, and it didn't take long for Wild fans to get their chance to celebrate. Cal Clutterbuck roofed a sniper of s hot from the left circle at the 12:56 mark of the first to put the Wild up 1-0. A nice pass from Casey Wellman, and a nice deke by Clutterbuck between two d-men gave him the space he needed to get the shot off, and he capitalized on the chance.
Shortly thereafter, during the first TV timeout, the PA announced Cullen's 1000th game, and the crowd rose to its feet to let him know the efforts were appreciated. The next timeout brought the fans' chance to welcome Burns home. The welcome was warm, but timid. A bit disappointing, to be honest.
As the period wound down, the Sharks were handed a long 5-on-3 power play as Jared Spurgeon apparently closed his hand on the puck, and then Kyle Brodziak took a slashing call. Dan Boyle made them pay very quickly, and the period would end in a tie.
The second period seemingly flew by, with an up tempo game from both sides. The refs continued to be very quick on the whistle with pucks around the goaltenders, which actually cost the Wild a goal. The really strange part was that he didn't blow the whistle, which led to Wellman jumping in late, scoring, it being called dead, and all hell breaking loose. Refs need to decide if the puck is dead or not and let the players know. Just a thought.
The Wild did score, however, as Justin Falk lobbed in a shot from the point that found Warren Peters who tipped it behind Niemi. Shocking how goals are scored by a guy crashing the net. Absolutely shocking.
The third period saw both teams find the net. For the Wild, the Sharks found it a few too many times. Giving up three goals in the final frame of a game you at least partially dominated for long stretches of time. Nick Johnson actually had the lead up to two goals, but Ben Ferriero pulled the Sharks back within one. Then Cullen scored (of course he did) as he and Casey Wellman crashed the net, restoring the two goal lead.
Then, the Wild seemed to quit. It was palpable. The Sharks scored two rather easy goals as the scoring threat from the Sharks reared its head. Th Wild defense absolutely quit on two plays, and Josh Harding had zero chance. After keeping them in the game, and playing out of his mind, the Wild owe him a pizza at least.
The game wound up tied through the OT, went to the shootout, and Cullen and Mikko Koivu took it from there. The Sharks picked some bizarre players to shoot for them, but so be it. Harding stuffed their shooters, and the Wild took home the win.
All in all it was a pretty good effort, until the last ten minutes of the third. For a team that needed a win... a win's a win. The happy story lines win out tonight, with the loss of Bouchard and the discipline of Setoguchi taking a back seat for one night.
They needed this one.
The Bennett's Chop & Railhouse of the Game:
- Matt Cullen (1G, +2, 6 SOG)
- Cal Clutterbuck (1G, 1A)
- Casey Wellman (2A)
- A-G-G-R-E-S-S-I-V-E. Can the Wild be aggressive, be-e aggressive? Until the 10 minute mark of the third, yes they were.
- Brent Burns returns. How do the fans respond? Muted. Kind of disappointing.
- With Scandella in Houston, does the defense get the message? To a point, sure. Those two quick goals showed they haven't got it yet, though.
- Can the Wild pull together a victory gift for Matt Cullen? Indeed.
- Will the newly discovered "goal" make an appearance tonight? Did it ever. Woof.