Minnesota Wild 2 - 1 Pittsburgh Penguins
So, one lucky bounce and one deflected pass to a wide open Matt Cooke 10 second apart in the first period was all that separated the battle between the top offensive team and the top defensive teams in the league. In otherwords, a stalemate. Thanks to Marek Zidlicky, yet again, the Wild got out of the Igloo with the 2 points and have to feel good about where the defense stands, surviving the march of the Penguins (see what I did there?). Pittsburgh's high-power offense was kept in check by a solid defensive performance by the Wild, an yet another otherworldy outing by the top goaltender in the NHL in Niklas Backstrom.
Hockey Wilderness Three Stars
- Niklas Backstrom (25 shots/24 saves)
- Dany Sabourin (25 shots/23 saves)
- Marek Zidlicky (SO winner)
Questions to Answer
- Can anyone contain the quick, young talent of the Penguins? Apparently so. Color me shocked.
- Will Burns be up or back? A little of column A, a little of column B.
- Will the Wild try to skate with the Pens, or bottle them up? East v. West, which style will win? Sounds like the West previals.
- Will they stop Evgeni Malkin, who has a 13-game point and assist streak? Malkin was hemmed up all night long, with the Wild in his back pocket. Great job last night shutting him down and keeping him off the scoresheet.
- Will Cal Clutterbuck pass out in his own vomit tonight, on this, his 21st birthday? Well, no updates on his drinking forays, so we'll assume all went well.
- Check out what the Pens faithful had to say over at Pensburgh.
- Pittsburgh had won its previous five at home
- Minnesota has won its last four in Pittsburgh and is 4-1 there
- Backstrom stopped all three Pittsburgh shooters (including Sidney) to improve to 8 for 8 in shootouts and 3-0 this season.
What the team is saying
"You look at their lineup and look at their players. To keep them to one goal, that's a big effort. You always want to compare yourself against the best teams out there, and you try to get up there. Your team gets confidence when you beat them." - Niklas Backstrom
"Our goalie was great," Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said. "I think he's the one that gave us the two points."
"I felt as a whole team, we played really, really strong against them. We gave them no time," Kim Johnsson said. "We talked about that before the game. We gave them no time with the puck."
"They've got two of the top-five players in the world. When you play well against them, you feel good. As a whole team, we played really strong against them. We gave them no time with the puck." - Johnsson
"Obviously Nik is coming big in front of the net, making big saves, key saves, all of the time," said checking wing Stephane Veilleux. "He gives us always a chance to win a tight game, and everyone is playing good around him. That's what good teams do."
What others are saying
"We had opportunities, for sure. A lot of teams play well defensively. We've played Jersey enough to know our game doesn't change, we're still going to get chances if we do the right things." - Sidney Crosby
"It was a tough bounce. The puck was bouncing, coming toward my blocker and I opened up a little bit and it bounced again and by the time I squeezed my legs, the puck was on its edge a little bit." - Dany Sabourin
I won’t insult your intelligence and say the Wild was superb tonight. This team right now couldn’t shoot a puck in the Mississippi River from the Hennepin Bridge (and they didn’t actually score a goal in 65 minutes tonight), but defensively, this team is sick (31 goals allowed in 16 games, four allowed on the penalty kill). - Michael Russo
The Game In Pictures