After a thrilling come-from-behind win against the best team in the East, the Boston Bruins, your favorite hockey club is returning to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Minnesota Wild got help from the Columbus Blue Jackets, the very team they eliminated last season to squeak into the 8th and final spot last year, as they defeated the Phoenix Coyotes during the second intermission of Tuesday's game.
The Wild were scuffling a few weeks ago as they were trying to stave off an implosion of epic proportions. The team was trying to convince themselves that this year was different. Mike Yeo even came prepared to dismiss that question that was never actually asked by the media members. Since a team meeting on an off day in the desert, the Wild turned things around by coming from behind to win with a return to the stingy defensive structure that helped propel the team through the first few months of the season. Minnesota held the Coyotes to just 2 shots all 3rd period and didn't surrender the first shot on goal until just after the 18 minute mark.
Following up the win in Phoenix, the Wild were able to hang with a physically tough opponent in the Los Angeles Kings. After getting battered and beaten through two periods in which they lost Nino Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund, and even Zach Parise for a short 5 minutes, the Wild dug deep and found a way to beat Jonathon Quick at Staples center. Ilya Bryzgalov, whom emerged from the depths of despair (Edmonton Oilers), came in to the organization to stabilize an extremely volatile goaltending situation, made big save after big save to lead the team to a victory in the City of Angels.
The Wild kept rolling on into Chicago to take on the banged-up Blackhawks. The Wild used the youth movement and got gigantic goals from Charlie Coyle and a game-tying goal from Erik Haula with just under two minutes remaining to force overtime and salvage a big point as the Dallas Stars missed an opportunity to catch up in the standings.
Next was the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins had locked down the second seed in the East earlier that day as Boston clinched the top spot with a Saturday matinee win. The Pens looked hardly motivated and the Wild took care of business on home ice, thumping the Pens 4-0.
As disinterested as the Penguins were, the final road game of the regular season was against anything but a disinterested team. The Jets were just less talented. the Wild was only able to find the net once behind Mike Hutchinson as Bryzgalov stood on his head in a 1-0 shutout victory.
Then Tuesday night happened. 18,893 fans went ballistic when Ryan Suter tied the game in the final minute of regulation with the extra attacker on. Mikko Koivu's signature backhand shelf shootout winner then sealed the deal as the Wild clinched the top wild card spot in the West. It wasn't easy for the Wild as they had face the hardest schedule of any team in the chase. The Wild players, the Wild coaching staff, and the Wild front office have earned the opportunity to play playoff hockey in Downtown St. Paul for the second straight season. Celebrate it fellas!