Apparently the Wild want the fans to get more than their money worth at Xcel Energy Center. All three of the Wild's home games this season have gone into overtime, with the Wild winning all three.
The Hurricanes opened the game well, moving up and down the ice, controlling play and keeping the Wild from getting a shot until the 7:20 mark, including a shot-less power play, and only a Ray Whitney power play gave the Wild an opportunity to finally get into the groove. After Joni Pitkanen made a great play down low to feed Ray Whitney who slid the puck across the crease for an easy, but beautiful, Sergei Samsonov tap-in for a 1-0 lead on the power play, did the Wild start to apply pressure.
Tim Conboy took an ill-advised roughing penalty for punching Cal Clutterbuck well after the whistle after Clutterbuck crashed toward the net to get a rebound, then John Scott came in, pulled Conboy off Clutterbuck and dropped the gloves only to have the linesman send Scott away, breaking up the fight before it happened. Frankly, it was a crap move by the linesman. They were both ready to go, but by sending Scott away after he dropped the gloves the refs evened up the calls, sending Scott to the box for unsportsmanlike conduct. While skating 4 on 4 Aaron Ward was whistled for high-sticking, putting the Wild up 4 on 3, and Andrew Brunette did what he does best, scoring down low on the power play. This goal really sparked the team, and they started picking up the play.
On the next shift, it was clear that both Scott and Conboy were jawing in the boxes, as they dropped the gloves after the drop of the puck. The two former WCHA foes (Scott of Michigan Tech and Conboy of St. Cloud State) faced off and Conboy may think he's a bruiser (listed at 6'2", 210), but Scott (6'8", 258) destroyed him, connecting time and again, andConboy hung on for dear life, trying to protect his head. Scott received a rousing ovation from the announced crowd of 18,215.
Shots in the first ended at 9-9. The Wild were definitely carrying momentum into the second period. In fact, just 1:51 into the second period, Kyle Brodziak raced to a loose puck, beating the Carolina defense, making a slick move, dekeing around Cam Ward, getting him down and sliding the puck into the open net on the backhand. It was a fantastic move by a guy who had been providing energy all season for Minnesota. It was Brodziak's first goal as a member of the Wild and his first overall since March 27 of last season as a member of the Edmonton Oilers. Joni Pitkanen then silenced the crowd, taking another nice pass from Ray Whitney and beating a helpless Niklas Backstrom, knotting the game at 2. It was the second point of the night for both Pitkanen and Whitney.
The third period was back and forth, neither team really getting a lot of chances, but Carolina had the better ones, unfortunately for them, the Wild still had Backstrom. He was stellar tonight, making stops that most goaltenders simply could not make. It looked like things were heading toward a Hurricane victory until Pitkanen lost his head. He and Clutterbuck were skating up the ice trying to get back into the play when Cal must've said something to which Pitkaned took offense, because right in front of the Wild bench, Pitkanen hit Clutterbuck with a back elbow and the back ref raised his hands. Everyone in the arena saw it, Pitkanen committed one of the dumbest penalties I've ever seen. The Wild then took control on the power play, but couldn't get things to click and Eric Staal took a long pass after yet another Wild turnover, broke toward Backstrom, but Nik was once again up to the task, stoning him with less than a minute left. In the crowd, you could feel the points slipping away as Staal broke in on Backstrom, but Nik saved the game.
The Wild controlled play heading into the overtime, gaining momentum from the idiotic penalty on Pitkanen. It only took 1:55 for Greg Zanon to ring the post, the deflection to hit Clutterbuck in the face, then Cal dove across the open crease and, laid out on his belly, swung his stick at the puck and ....
Welcome back Cal. We missed you.
Tonight's game was a closely battled affair, in which Niklas Backstrom earned his salary, saving the Wild defensemen time and again, including robbing Eric Stall three times, with the biggest coming on a shorthanded breakaway with around a minute left in play.
Realistically, the 3-2 score shouldn't have been that close. Aside from Backstrom coming up huge time and again, the Hurricanes took 10 penalties, giving the Wild seven power plays, in which the Wild only scored once, and looked anemic on three others. I have to think this will get straightened out once Richards figures out who to have out there. Frankly, Shane Hnidy and Nick Schultz should never be on the power play. Those two were just terrible, and when they were paired together, the power play never clicked.
Time to take what the team learned from tonight and see if they can get their first road win of the season at Chicago.
Please read the game recap over at Canes Country
Hockey Wilderness Three
Questions to Answer
- Will the Wild look lethargic on the back-to-back? Well, if no shots until the 7:00+ gone in the period is lethargic, then yeah. Luckily they picked up play after Carolina scored..
- Can Petr Sykora's return help Martin Havlat? Umm, Havlat and Sykora were kept in check all night.
- Is putting Kobasew on the top line going to help Koivu find some space? Not only did Kobasew's effort and hustle give Koivu some space, but, combined with Clutterbuck and Brodziak, they sparked the rest of the team to start driving for the net.
- With no Steve Yzerman in the building, will Brent Burns relax and find his game? Burns looked better tonight, but still had periods of time where he would seemingly forget how to play defense. However, his offensive game was fabulous tonight.
- Since Kim Johnsson is out, who will take his huge minutes? Marek Zidlicky had 27:02 TOI, but the guy sitting behind me wanted him in the press box all night. Burns had 24:31 and Greg Zanon had 24:13 of stellar defensive play. He's a lifesaver for this team. Nick Schultz only had 20:49, but that was surprising, since it seemed like he was always out there.