Please visit PensBurgh for their take on the game as well.
Anytime the defending Stanley Cup champions play the Wild, it always scares the ever loving be-jeebus out of me. I mean, come on. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Sergei Gonchar, Jordan Staal, Bill Guerin, Marc-Andre Fleury... it could get ugly, and fast.
Not tonight. Tonight, Guillaume Latendresse cemented himself forever in the books of Wild lore. Tonight, the Wild played the new system and defeated the Penguins for the second time this season. Tonight, the Wild played the game they needed to, and were rewarded for it.
No real defensive gaffs, a strong, in-your-face offense, and a menacing fore-check. In the end, however, it was Latendresse that made all the difference with a goal and three assists. Lats was everywhere tonight. Power play, penalty kill, fore-check, back check, he was a machine out there.
The first goal of the game went to the Pens, of course, and the Wild did what they do best. Play after giving up the first goal. Belanger scored off of a beautiful pass from Lats just over half way through the first to tie it at one after one. At the beginning of the second, the Wild surrendered the go ahead goal, only to jump right back and answer on a Martin Havlat goal (extending his point streak to eight games), and giving another assist to Lats on yet another beautiful pass.
The first time the Wild led was on a shot from Latendresse that hit Cal Clutterbuck in front of the net and found its way past Fleury. There was little more excitement in the second until Max Talbot and the Sheriff both got roughing minors at the 20:00 mark, but there would be no fight.
Not to go down easily, the champs came out swinging and scored a goal from Mark Eaton to tie it at three. Just 1:04 into the third. Not one of Pittsburgh's goals came after the 4:00 mark of a period. Usually, early and late goals are killers. Tonight, Latendresse decided he did not want to go to OT, and decided to score his own goal this time for the eventual game winner.
The last play of note, however, was not a pleasant one. Cal Clutterbuck did what Cal Clutterbuck does and gave Sergei Gonchar a solid hit along the boards. Gonchar answered shortly after with a high hit that earned Gonchar a five minute major for, of all things, interference. There was even some chatter over at PensBurgh about supplemental discipline, but I am going to reserve judgment until I can see some different angles and replays. It certainly struck me as a dirty hit, but we shall wait for video.It certainly deserved the major penalty. To that, we all seem to be in agreement.
In the end, it was a huge win for a Wild team still in desperation mode against a very good team. Two points, in regulation, is something they should be happy with against any opponent.
Hockey Wilderness Three Stars:
1. Guillaume Latendresse (1G, 3A, GWG)
2. Sidney Crosby (2G, 1A)
3. Pascal Dupuis (1G, 2A)
Questions to Answer:
1. Is the Petr Sykora saga annoying anyone else? Seems as I wrote a post about how stupid the whole thing is, yeah, I'd say it annoys me.
2. Beat Calgary, beat Chicago, can the Wild get another win over a playoff team? Indeed they can. If they could just play this way every night, they could gain some ground.
3. Can Martin Havlat extend his seven game point streak? I didn't think he could, but he did. Eight game streak. Not to shabby.
4. Any chance Marek Zidlicky gets Sidney Crosby to drop the gloves again? Not tonight.
5. Will the boos raining down on Martin Skoula be deafening? He was a healthy scratch, so no boos for Skoula. Gonchar got his fair share, though.