Minnesota Wild 3-2 Colorado Avalanche
For the enemy perspective, please visit Mile High Hockey
After a fantastic tribute for Andrew Brunette's 1000 NHL games, both the Avalanche and the Wild seemed to have fallen into a pretty deep lull in the first period for the first 15 minutes. Then at the 15:00 mark, Antti Miettinen opened the scoring with his 10th goal of the season, a pretty play set up by Matt Cullen and Brett Burns. However, the Wild immediately fell into a post-goal letdown as David Jones tied it at one just 11 seconds later, take the faceoff, driving to the net and burying it past Niklas Backstrom. The scoring wasn't done yet though, 40 seconds after Jones' goal, Martin Havlat showed why he's an all-star. With Paul Stastny draped over his back, Havlat took the puck from behind the net, drove to the front, spun and buried it past Craig Anderson. A combination of hard work and skill, Havlat's goal was just the kind a team needs after giving up a tying marker.
Matt Cullen proved how much the Wild have missed him the last couple games as he set up John Madden to put Minnesota up 3-1 and send Craig Anderson to an early exit. I was a bit confused by Anderson being pulled, especially when the pressure came early and often to Peter Budaj, but with a little help from the posts, he was able to stem the initial tide and not give up what would have been a back-breaking goal. Frankly, Budaj looked to settle the team down. They were scrambling a bit in their own end to try to protect Anderson who has been playing badly lately.
The third period got off early as David Jones once again found the back of the net for his second of the night (not including the one Chris Lee waved off when he deemed that Jones swept it in with his hand. I'm still uncertain whether he did it or Greg Zanon did, but we'll take it). After that, the Wild picked up the pace and after a couple chippy plays by Ryan Wilson and the Avalanche, Mikko Koivu was visibly bothered and spurred his team from the bench.
The chippiness wouldn't end, though. Wilson tried to fight Cal Clutterbuck, then Brent Burns, then later cross-checked Brent Burns three times in the back as Burns lay prone on the ice next to the net. Cheap by Wilson, no doubt, but both he and Clutterbuck showed great poise not to take the bait. Trading five minutes of either Clutterbuck or Burns isn't worth the gratification of a fight with Wilson.
Anyway, this was a win the Wild desperately needed. They showed great resilience in bouncing back every time the Avs showed any life and keeping the pressure on. They're currently tied for 8th place in the West with Calgary at 61 points. With a number of Western conference games coming up, it's imperative that the Wild maintain this level of play and continue to show the kind of effort they have over the past 9 games. This streak is making Chuck Fletcher's job harder each day, and I don't envy him in the least.
- The Wild have won three in a row at Xcel Energy Center and are 7-2-0 in the last nine games overall.
- Minnesota went 4-for-4 on the penalty kill and is 12-for-12 over the last four games.
- The Wild has won its last five games against divisional opponents and is 12-4-1 against Northwest foes this season.
- The Wild improved to 22-3-2 when scoring three or more goals and 24-2-4 when scoring first.
Hockey Wilderness 3 stars:
- Matt Cullen (2 A)
- David Jones (2 G)
- John Madden (1 G)
- It has been awhile since we saw the type of game we know Koivu is capable of. Does that change tonight? He was busting his ass to make a difference tonight, and while he didn't do it in the scoresheet, he did it with physical play and leading on the bench. But he has to be frustrated with his play lately.
- Can Brunette get involved on his big night? Bruno had the chance, but just didn't have the wheels to get to the loose puck with the yawning cage. Guess that's the story of his career. A beautiful play early on in typical Brunette style, in the dirty area, fighting for the puck and ringing it off the inside of the post, but with an empty net, just didn't have the speed to get the goal.
- Can the Wild show some killer instinct against a team that is down? Umm, that's actually an interesting question, because at times they absolutely did, then they fell back into stemming the tide, then back on the offensive. It was like they weren't quite sure how to go about the game after giving up the second goal to Jones. Frankly, it was a bit disconcerting until the big fight. That clearly pissed Mikko off, and he relayed that to the team in no uncertain terms. They then put the hammer down and never relented.
- Has anyone seen the beat writer from Denver? I'm worried. Well, as crowded as the press box was tonight, I would have to assume a beat writer could have been found.
- Wild fans have been vocal lately. Will they blow the top off tonight for Bruno? Good crowd tonight. Took a while to get back into it after the Brunette tribute because the first period was just so sluggish, but the crowd of 18,194 was roaring by the end.