Minnesota Wild 3 - 1 Tampa Bay Lightning
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After a scoreless first period the Wild and Lightning came out on fire in the second period. Steven Stamkos did what Steven Stamkos does in creating a turnover and rocketing a shot past Niklas Backstrom at 5:53 of the second. That, however, would be the end of the scoring for Tampa Bay. Niklas Backstrom showed tonight why he is still one of the top netminders in the NHL. Time and again the Lightning would create chances or take advantage of turnovers and time and again Backstrom shut the door. Great to see Backs rebound after a really rough night last night. He's progressing back to his mean.
After the Stamkos goal, the momentum shifted entirely to the Wild the rest of the night. Aside from Dany Heatley, who had his worst game in a Wild sweater tonight with about 20 turnovers, a bad penalty and being seemingly unwilling to shoot the puck, the Wild showed great heart and effort and played within the system. The forecheck was aggressive, bringing two and three forwards into the offensive zone to force the play, then turned the puck over or forced the shots to the outside and delivered the headman on the breakout. Kyle Brodziak was alone on net twice but couldn't beat Mathieu Garon. Cal Clutterbuck and PIerre-Marc Bouchard also had solo chances, with Cal burying the puck past Garon for his 50th career goal from a Mikko Koivu assist. Pierre-Marc Bouchard gave the Wild the lead at 17:06 of the second period from Nick Johnson with a howitzer of a one-timer.
The Wild would then continue to counter-attack the Lightning rush in the third period, but still couldn't notch the insurance marker, no matter how great the opportunity. It wasn't until the Wild had at least four great shots on the empty net in the waning moments of the third that they were able to regroup and Mikko Koivu put the nail in the coffin from center ice, sealing the 3-1 win.
A great game between two very good, and much maligned teams. This one was fun to watch, even in the first period. The only issue I take away was Ryan Malone's accidental butt-end to the face of Darroll Powe, who left the ice bleeding. If the NHL tells us that players need to be in control of the stick, where was the call?
Turns out, all you have to do to get the Wild to play a game is to embarrass them in the game before it.
A great answer for this Wild team as they come back from a truly brutal performance last night, and shut down a very potent team. Niklas Backstrom's 32 save performance, many great saves, at least two on Stamkos, have got to have stat heads upset tonight. He certainly regressed. The three goals against in nine minutes yesterday are most certainly much more the norm, right?
Yeah. I'm bitter. So what?
The Wild played a solid hockey game on both ends of the ice. To a player, every guy was contributing... well, except for Heatley who had maybe his worst game as a member of the Wild. Bad passes, poor skating... it was painful to watch. Still, the team rallied around him, and brought home the W, and really, that's all that matters. Right? Unsustainable passive regressionist propaganda, no doubt.
The Bennett's Chop & Railhouse Stars of the Game:
- Niklas Backstrom (32 saves)
- Cal Clutterbuck (1 G, 1 A)
- Mikko Koivu (1 G, 1 A)
- Honorable mention to the Darroll Powe - Kyle Brodziak - Nick Johnson line. They were the best line on the ice tonight. Creating problems, creating chances, just couldn't convert. Great game tonight for the pluggers.
Remember, when you begin and end your night at Bennett's, you're the star! Easy parking, drink and food specials and a free shuttle to and from the Xcel Energy Center. Check them out at http://bennettschopandrailhouse.com/.
Wild Game Notes:
- The Wild has 10 November wins (10-4-0), tying the team mark for most wins ever in a month. Minnesota had twice before won 10 games in a month, the last time December 2009.
- Mikko Koivu's goal was his 100th career goal.
- Cal Clutterbuck's goal was his 50th career goal.
- Minnesota went 28 of 44 in face-offs tonight for 64%.
- How do the "new" players look tonight? Honestly, not super impressive, but not horrible. Let's let them get a couple games in, but I'm not a huge fan of putting Casey Wellman and David McIntyre out with Brad Staubitz.
- Can the Wild find some pride and end the skid? Damn right.
- Backstrom was not sharp last night. Does he find his game? Stopped 32 of 33 and stuffed one of the best in the game in Steven Stamkos twice at point blank range.
- Can the Wild slow down the "Big three" for the Bolts? The only point was Steven Stamkos on a rocket all alone. No chance to stop it, but the Wild did a fantastic job defending the Lightning tonight.
- A Wild win signifies regression back away from the mean, right? Right. Oy.