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This one did not start out looking like it was going to be a good night. Out shot at one point 16-0, the Wild were down 1-0 early when Nick Schultz put an elbow into Josh Harding's head. Things looked... bleak. Another trip to the Shark Tank, another beating at the hands of the Sharks. It was written in the stars.
Matt Hackett came into the game, and the Wild took it to the Sharks. Hackett stoned chance after chances on a four minute power play for the Sharks. Things seemed to be looking up. Then, Mikko Koivu scored on a Dany Heatley rebound, tying the game with just under 2 1/2 minutes to play in the first. The system had worked, and Wild fans saw that the team wasn't going to go down without a fight. That, right there, at that moment, would have been enough for everyone.
Instead, the Wild had other plans. A power play very late in the period would give the Wild room for a pretty passing play (shocking) and a finish from, of all people, Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Twitter says it was Butch's first PPG since 2008, and quite the goal it was. High, far corner snipe.
That would be all she wrote for the scoring in this one. The story after that was all Hackett as the Sharks put 93 shots toward the net. Not all of them hit the net, but the shots were taken nonetheless. Chance after chance was turned away from Hackett, including several very nice glove saves, a two pad stacker not often seen in the NHL, and several very good, very key saves along the way.
Given that Hackett was not given any prep time, it was his first NHL action, it was against a team known for high powered offense, and the effort he put in tonight, he is the story of the game. That is not a question.
Still, the entire team deserves huge credit for sticking with the system, keeping the shots out side, and continuing to take it to the Sharks for the entire game. It was an impressive effort for a team that no one would have looked twice if they got absolutely blown out.
Instead, they leave HP Pavilion with a win, and another big two points. As of tonight, they sit atop the NHL by three points over the Penguins. First regulation win for the Wild in San Jose since 2006. 2006? Just typing that makes me feel old.
Big win in so many ways.
The Bennett's Chop & Railhouse of the Game:
1. Matt Hackett (34 saves, 0 GA, First NHL win)
2. Mikko Koivu (1G, 1A)
3. Pierre-Marc Bouchard (PPG, GWG)
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/.
- Can the Wild keep the offensive juggernaut off the board? Not entirely, but Hackett did.
- Is tonight the night the intimidation in California ends? Indeed it is.
- Does the standing and watching stop? It looked like a watching kind of night, but they figured it out eventually.
- Top line for the Wild has been very good lately. Does that continue? Absolutely, though Setoguchi left the game pretty early.
- Do the Wild follow the teachings of the Church of Yeo, or go off on their own? Followed it to a T. Well done.