Minnesota Wild 1 - 2 Anaheim Ducks
This was a big game for the Wild. Make sure you record this, because it will apply for each and every remaining game on the schedule. The Ducks? They've been on fire lately, getting only 2 regulation losses in the last 17 games before tonight. The Wild have been on the exact opposite of fire, ice-cold. If there was a game to turn things around, this was it.
First period was uncharacteristically boring between two teams that don't very much like each other. Dany Heatley started the scoring in this game with a tip-in on a great Marek Zidlicky pass on the powerplay (More, please). While Kyle Brodziak won't get an assist for it, the pass wouldn't have made it if Brodziak wasn't it front of the net bothering defenseman Toni Lydman. After that, there was some back and forth, but not too many shots. The Ducks were held shotless for the first 9 minutes, getting their best chance when they hit the post and lost the puck in a sea of defenders lying down in the crease. Matt Kassian and George Parros had a much-anticipated bout, but it was more of a hugging match with a few punches here and there. Meh. Shots ended up 5 apiece after 20 minutes, 1-0 for the home team Wild.
The second period featured some prime chances from the Wild's first line, which was buzzing all night, some brilliant chances by Darroll Powe, tonight's winner of the Snake-bite trophy, and a Ducks onslaught in which none of the shots ever seemed to make it through to the net. Blocks and deflections galore. That's not to say Josh Harding had a boring night. He did a good job in his first game since the ugly collapse against the Nashville Predators in late January. There was a slight injury scare as Matt Cullen left the ice gingerly after a big hit by Francois Beauchemin, but the spunky veteran was just fine and back on the ice a few shifts later. One of the turning points of the game was a huge penalty kill by the Wild at the end of the period when Carson McMillan got a double minor for high-sticking on Nick Bonino. They successfully killed the first three minutes before the period ended. The score remained 1-0 for the Wild, but the Ducks were flying.
The third period was the complete opposite of the first two: Extremely exciting. Lots of chances by both teams, animosity, energy and some great goaltending. Niklas Hagman broke the tie when he got the puck after an uncharacteristic turnover by Mikko Koivu and shot it past Harding. The puck trickled in and Zidlicky didn't get there in time to stop it, but it kind of looked like he could've. In his defense, the puck did look like it would slide wide, but you have to make sure. Corey Perry broke the tie by beating Marco Scandella, back from his AHL trek, clean, much like he did all night, and all of a sudden the Wild were trailing 2-1. Another turning point in this game came when the refs seemed to have missed a call when Erik Christensen looked to have been hooked, although to me, it looked more like a flop, and the Ducks drew a penalty on the counter-attack, much to the dismay of the fans at the X who were looking to get a Wild powerplay. The Wild killed the penalty, but referee Dennis LaRue caught a nasty slapped dump-in up high and fell to the ice. The fans were amused and saw it as an occasion to cheer to show their displeasure towards the refs for ''missing'' a call.
Now, I've been told to get off my high horse by some Wild fans for this for some reason, but a ref catching a slapshot like that is no cause for celebration. Cheering when someone gets hurt is not cool. Ever. Refs are only human, they'll miss some calls. It's a fast-paced game, there's a lot going on. Live with it.
The Wild had some golden opportunities when Harding went off to the bench for the extra player, but they weren't able to bury the puck, so 2-1 Anaheim was the final score, giving them a 0-4-1 record in their last 5.
What started out as a pretty low-shooting game turned out to be a great goaltender's duel between Jonas Hiller and Josh Harding. Impressive, solid saves by both netminders. Once again, the rotten offense steals what should've been a victory though. No excuse to keep losing games when leading after 2 periods. They used to be so good at keeping those leads. Harding sure isn't to blame, but he has to be hurting right now, as he can't seem to buy a win.
The playoffs are looking mighty distant now when they looked so certain at one point.
Heatley scored his 6th goal in the last nine games. 19 goals makes him one short of his 7th straight 20-goal campaign. It was also the 5th time he scored the first goal of the game for the Wild, tops on the team. He also became tops on the team in PP goals with his 6th and goals at home with his 11th.
Kris Foucault is the 13th rookie to dress for the Wild, as well as the 38th player. Both, if I'm not mistaken, are NHL-highs right now.
Zidlicky's powerplay point was his first since November 8th. That's right, POWERPLAY SPECIALIST Zidlicky hadn't had a powerplay point in 3 months. I don't care about the bad powerplay, the injury and the scratches, that's just ridiculous.
Wild have 5 wins in their last 26 games. Yup.
Ducks had their first win when trailing after 2 periods tonight.
Wild have scored 1 goal in 5 of the last 6 games...the other one was a 2 goal performance.
The Bennett's Chop & Railhouseof the Game:
- Jonas Hiller (17 saves, many key ones.)
- Corey Perry (GWG, 6 shots)
- Josh Harding (Heroic performance, no offensive support. 23 saves.)
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 athttp://bennettschopandrailhouse.com/.
- How does Scandella look in his return? Horrible. Yeesh. Out of sync the entire game.
- Any chance the Wild shut down the big 3? Perry got the game winner, entire line had lots of shots.
- Harding in net. Does it matter? He did all he could, but when 2 goals is too many for a goalie to allow, it's not really his problem.
- Is Foucault a boost or just another warm body? Just a warm body. Didn't really notice him.
- Anyone ready to play actual hockey yet? Pretty good defensive performance, but 18 shots against a not-so-good defense is unacceptable.