Minnesota Wild 4 - 0 Phoenix Coyotes
The Minnesota Wild, led by Marek Zidlicky's two goals and one assist, combined with Niklas Backstrom's 24 saves, shutout the Phoenix Coyotes 4-0 in front of 18.568 at the Xcel Energy Center Thursday night. After a slow first period with little action, Zidlicky started the scoring in the second with a pretty feed from Marc-Andre Bergeron in the high slot. The two teams battled back and forth until 4:17 remaining when Andrew Brunette scored on a beautiful no-look feed across the low slot from Zidlicky. In the third period, the Wild scored their third power play goal, 3:10 into the frame. Erik Belanger notched one on an absolutely gorgeous tic-tac-toe passing game with the man advantage. As time wound down, there was 1:07 left as the Wild ended the scoring with yet another power play marker. It was Zidlicky's second of the night on a bomb from the point.
The power play really saved the Wild tonight, as without the man advantage, I wasn't impressed with the offensive output. Lemaire's line juggling didn't impress. The thought was to add more punch to the offense. Well, there weren't a large number of even-strength chances tonight. The best chances came either on the power play or the two shorthanded opportunities on which they should have cashed-in.
Cal Clutterbuck continues to wreck havoc on the ice, though tonight he has as many minutes as penalty minutes. Umm Cal, I understand throwing down when someone goads you on, but next time think of your PT. Oh, and although the other guy didn't take his helmet off, you should still drop yours if you wear a visor. Gretzky was correct there.
It's certainly fun to watch this team when they're clicking, and my goodness did they look good on the power play. Every single time they gained the zone with the man advantage, you assumed they were going to score. It was just outstanding. Now, if only they can do that once in a while on even strength.
Also, Kevin Porter, you should be absolutely annihilated for running Backstrom. That was a cheapshot and the fact that the ref was staring right at you as you bowled him over full speed doesn't change that fact. That was absolutely out of line, and someone at Toronto should be calling you to tell you so. That was a very, very dangerous play. Jerk.
Oh, and welcome back Owen Nolan and Brent Burns. It was nice to have you out there. Burnsie, feel free to stay up front as long as necssary, so long as He Who Must Not Be Named continues to stay out of the post-game analysis. He's doing a fantastic job right now.
Hockey Wilderness Three Stars
- Marek Zidlicky (2G, 1A)
- Niklas Backstrom (24 shots/24 saves)
- Marc-Andre Bergeron (1G, 1A)
Questions to Answer
- Will the line shuffle work out? Well, actually even strength didn't impress me tonight. Yeah, they drew seven penalties, and had decent pressure, but that didn't transfer to a lot of solid scoring chances. So, I'd say it was neither effective nor did it hurt.
- Does Burns get burned out playing both winger and defense tonight, his first action in over a week? Didn't seem like he was really putting on pressure in the third period. Part of that might have been all the special teams play, but it might have been that he was tired. He had 18:07 of ice time tonight.
- Will these two teams (1st and 3rd in the conference in goals against) put up as many together as the Pens did last night (7)? No, and frankly, if it weren't for the power play chances for the Wild, I don't think this had the makings of a 4-0 game. The power play was just that dominant.
- Can Bryzgalov get his first career win against the Wild? Nope!
- Will Peter Mueller shine in front of the hometown crowd? Mueller had 17:04 of ice time tonight, and was on the top line with Olli Jokinen, but never really got going, with as many shots on goal as penalty minutes (2).
- Tonight was the 9th straight victory over Phoenix.
- Phoenix was 0-for-6 on the power play, and is 2-for-28 in its past five games.
- Backstrom is 43-0-3 when leading after two periods. He's also 8-0 against the Coyotes with a 1.13 goals-against average and three shutouts.
- Marek Zidlicky notched his third career two-goal game and first since February 11, 2006 vs. Columbus.
- The Wild has outscored its opponents 15-7 in the second period this season.
What the team is saying
"Our special teams has been really good," said Jacques Lemaire, who spoke to his team prior to the game about spreading out while on the power play. "And this is why we have the points we have now, because, five-on-five we [haven't scored] a lot of goals so far."
"I think this was one of the best games for us this season, to play the whole 60 minutes of hockey. We didn’t give them anything. Our PK was really strong today. We got a lot of penalties, but they killed them. I think that’s a sign of a good team." -- Niklas Backstrom
"That was for my wife. That's what I do over my career. I was on my own for two months. All by myself. It was a big game for me." - Marek Zidlicky
On the power play. "Sometimes when the players don't know what they're doing, it works." - Erik Belanger
What others are saying
"It was a good, old fashioned butt-kicking. It was almost like an NHL group vs. a junior team. Four-0 was flattering. If it wasn't for Bryzgalov it would've been 8-0." - Wayne Gretzky
"It comes down to the power play," Phoenix captain Shane Doan said. "We had some opportunities. They capitalized on theirs and we didn't on ours. That was the difference in the hockey game."
The Game In Pictures