So close. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
Minnesota Wild 4 - 5 Montreal Canadiens (SO)
For the enemy perspective, please visit Habs Eyes On The Prize
For all the newcomers and visitors here, here is an explanation of why this game is important to me: I'm from New-Brunswick, Canada, Quebec's neighboring Province. By default, this makes most New-Brunswicker Habs fans. Where I live, in North-Eastern New Brunswick, the concentration of fans of Le Tricolore is even stronger because the region is predominately French. What does that make me? A very lonely Wild fan amidst a sea of Habs fans in New-Brunswick. I've seriously never seen another Wild fan in New-Brunswick. Ever. You can imagine how hurt I was when the Wild suffered their worst loss in franchise history against the Habs last year, 8-1. You can probably guess I was hoping for a better game... it certainly didn't start very well.
Stephane Veilleux and Ryan White square-danced 10 seconds into the game.. wasn't much of a fight, really. Then, the wheels flew off in a 5-minute span. Jed Ortmeyer high-sticked Aaron Palushaj in the face while skating to the puck (Seriously, Jed? Come on... Palushaj did not return in the game) and then, Falk followed by getting a penalty after getting caught flat-footed by Erik Cole, who is deceptively fast. Heck, Cole is one of the fastest skaters in the league. Anyhoo, the 5 on 3 yielded a goal to P.K. Subban, hence the birth of a Wild-Killer, he who had the first hat-trick the Wild have ever allowed a defenseman to score against them. The 5-on-3 would remain after the goal because the first part of Ortmeyer's double-minor hadn't expired yet. To make matters worse, Niklas Backstrom, who had been the only bright point in the game up to that point, seemed to have tweaked his groin trying to stop an Erik Cole shot. He had to be helped off the ice and replaced by Josh Harding, who also allowed a goal in the same powerplay, a beautiful feed by Scott Gomez to Lars Eller. That 5 minute fiasco had to be one of the worst starts I've ever seen. Luckily, the Wild would get a Matt Kassian goal, a career first for the Kassassin and the score ended up being 2-1 after one, which wasn't too bad, especially considering they went from being outshot 9-0 to being outshot 9-7.
The animosity between the teams in the first period was rather surprising, given these teams meet once a year, but understandable, seeing as both teams' season has been spiraling down the drain. Two very frustrated teams facing off equals fireworks. Ryan White and Chris Campoli tag-teamed to do one of the dirtiest things ever though: Campoli held Stephane Veilleux while White DROPPED THE GLOVES and pummeled him in the face. Unacceptable. White a 2, 5, 10 combo (why he wasn't tossed from the game is beyond me), and Veilleux and Palmieri were penalized. White's penalty gave the Wild a 3 minute powerplay when Palmieri's penalty was done. That powerplay drew another penalty, giving the Wild a 5 on 3 powerplay, which they carried into the second period.
The second period looked a lot more like hockey, as both teams toned the penalty-happiness down and started making some plays. Good ol' Brad Staubitz got a roughing penalty against his old team, unsurprisingly, but even les surprising was the futility of the 2 5 on 3 opportunities the Wild were given. Talk about anemic. There were many plays made by both teams, but Max Pacioretty scored another powerplay goal to make it 3 for the Habs for the first time in 92 games. He simply out-waited Marco Scandella and beat Harding with a wicked shot. Tempers started to flare again when Cal Clutterbuck had a knee-on-knee with Rene Bourque and Warren Peters, in a brilliant display of stupidity, crushed Alexei Emelin in the numbers. Unacceptable. The guy is fresh off a suspension, he needs to be gone. I'm done with Peters. Come to think of it, I'm done with Ortmeyer too. He took some stupid penalties too. Not much else happened in the period, except this masterpiece of a hit :
Alexei Emelin DESTROYS Erik Cole (his teammate). March 1st 2012 (via HockeyVideoHD)
In the third period, the nastiness continued with lots of post-whistle scrums, penalties galore and some hits. David Desharnais scored his team's 4th goal of the game off the rebound of a Max Pacioretty shot. 4-1, game over, right? It sure looked that way because the Wild couldn't seem to connect with any of their passes. Down, but not out is what they say. Matt Kassian, who we all know as the fighter who had just scored his first ever NHL goal, scored a second goal by burying his own backhanded rebound past Carey Price. Who would've thought Matt Kassian would be the main source of offense for the Wild? Well, it's kind of like in the end of last season when new-Hab Brad Staubitz went on a tear of his own. That goal happened with under 4 minutes to go in the game. Too little too late? Nope. Mike Yeo called a time-out shortly after the Kassian goal and removed Harding from his crease for the extra attacker with about 2:15 left in the game. Dany Heatley scored to make it 4-3 and suddenly, this turned into an exciting game. Max Pacioretty had a chance to bury an empty-net goal, but Kurtis Foster caught up to him and stick-lifted Max Pacioretty. Pac, for some unfathomable reason, decided to dive to try and draw a penalty, but the refs would have none of it. Afterwards, Price tried an ambitious pass to Tomas Plekanec, but the Wild intercepted it and Devin Setoguchi ended up tying the game with 8 seconds to go in the game! DEVINSANITY! ...Sorry about that. I'm ashamed. Seriously, I don't get all the Linsanity hype... or Tebow... really.
The game would head to an unlikely OT. The Habs didn't seem to want to try anything at all until the last minute or so in which they bombarded Harding, but the back-up stood tall and we were headed to the shootout. Without Koivu...or Christensen...or Backstrom...against one of the worst teams in the shootout, the Canadiens... No way to predict what would happen, but I predicted, before the game started, that the benching of Christensen would lead the Wild to lose in the shootout.
First up was Max Pacioretty, who was stopped by Harding nicely with a pad-stack. Next was Matt Cullen, who couldn't get it past Price. David Desharnais beat Harding with some deking magic. Harding almost stopped him with a poke check. Next was...Dany Heatley. Mike Yeo, why are you still sending Heatley? You have to know by now that he'll fail, right? Sure enough, he did almost the exact same thing as the last time he went: Skated very slowly, no deke, weak shot, yuck. Harding stopped Bourque to give the regulation hero, Setoguchi, a chance for some shootout heroics...what ensued was....painful. Setoguchi outskated the puck and when trying to turn to pick it up, he tripped himself up and I was surrounded by laughter courtesy of my friends and my family. Canadiens win.
What will be lost in the mayhem of Setoguchi's failed shootout attempt will be the fact that the Wild came back from a 3-goal deficit in the final 4 minutes. Also, while Setoguchi failed, he's the reason they even made it in the shootout, so it's hard to be too hard on the guy. Of course, why this had to happen against the Habs is beyond me. The Wild just don't like me, I guess.
Overall, good job on the stolen point Wild, but next time, try to play a full 60 minute game, will ya? Especially against the dead-last team in the East and dead-last team in the NHL (Columbus). When you look at every part of this game, it was actually quite ugly. Both teams seemed to have trouble making plays at certain points, some questionable acts for White, Peters, Clutterbuck and Campoli and some bloopers for both teams too. Anyway, another year, another loss, another season of laughing and jeering from my friends. At least it wasn't 8-1 this time, but did Seto really have to fall? Sigh.
The Wild are back in action tomorrow night against the Red Wings. Goody.
The Bennett's Chop & Railhouse Stars of the Game:
- Matt Kassian (First two career goals, sparked comeback)
- David Desharnais (G, 2A, SO winner)
- Nick Johnson (Career-high 3A, strong game overall)
- Can Tom Gilbert reward the faith some Wild fans have in him? Ummm... no. He was basically non-existant tonight.
- How Does Palmieri respond to a "first" line pairing? Either it's not his place or he just had a slow game. Didn't have much influence this time around.
- Does the Wild defense respond after a terrible game? Well, they didn't look all that better, but Falk and Scandella bounced back.
- Any chance one of the new guys actually, you know, contributes? If Kassian still counts as sort of a new guy, yeah. Veilleux stirred the pot very well though.
- Any pride to be found in Montreal? You'd have to think so. Took some character to bounce back. Of course, Montreal are one of the worst teams this year in terms of keeping leads in the third period.