In a special matinee edition of Minnesota Wild hockey, the plucky little team from St. Paul welcomed the Colorado Avalanche to Minnesota for an especially important divisional tilt. These inter-divisional games are very important in the standings, and although it did turn into a 3 point game in the end, the Wild were able to gain the extra point with both Charlie Coyle and Chris Stewart scoring in the shootout to give the Wild the victory.
The Wild kicked this thing off pretty early as they came out skating hard and pressing the issue with the Avalanche. After a dump in, Eric Staal was in on the forecheck and was able to gain control of the puck. This led to some good extended offensive pressure finishing up with Staal pushing the puck out to Jason Zucker from behind the net. Zucker was in a tight spot in the slot but managed to fire a puck past Jonathan Bernier and put the Wild up 1-0 just 1:13 into the contest.
The Wild continued to put forth a strong effort, leading to Nail Yakupov getting flagged for hooking Marcus Foligno. That’s when the wheels came off. A diving Gabriel Landeskog poked a puck past a diving Mike Reilly and it was off to the races. J.T. Compher skated in on a breakaway and was able to beat Alex Stalock to tie the game with a short-handed goal. This one turned the tide of the game and the Avalanche just started bringing the pressure.
Reilly would figure into the Avs 2nd goal just 5 minutes later when he pinched up to the defensive blue line to try to get in the way of a loose puck. Carl Soderberg would get there first and pushed the puck off the wall right to Blake Comeau who skated in with all kinds of room since Reilly was out of position and put his shot right under Stalock’s glove to give the Avalanche a 2-1 lead.
The ice felt tilted a little more in the favor of Colorado for much of the game, but the Wild did look a lot better through spots in the 2nd period. They were skating hard and not giving the Avalanche much time at all but they were spending an awful lot of time on the defensive side of the puck at the same time. Both teams would finish the middle period with 11 shots on goal, but only 1 of those shots would beat either netminder.
Nino Niederreiter would continue his hot streak after returning to the lineup from a high ankle sprain when he scored his 9th goal of the season, 5th on the power play, and continued his now 8-game point streak. A lot of credit to Nino for sneaking in on the weak side where he was left all alone, but Mikko Koivu made a phenomenal no-look pass through traffic right to Niederreiter’s stick. Nino 1-timed his shot into a gaping net and tied the game up 2-2.
The Wild were not able to muster up much in the 3rd period. With just 3 shots on goal the ice belonged to the Avalanche who got some great chances and a nice breakaway even, but Alex Stalock shined bright and kept the Wild in this game to help them steal the 1st point as this game would go to overtime. In overtime, it was the Jonathan Bernier show. The Avalanche controlled the puck for a bit but were not able to get a shot on goal in the extra frame. The Wild peppered Bernier with 6 shots on goal in OT after basically laying an egg in the 3rd period. They got some great chances too. Staal in all alone with more time than you’d know what to do with but Bernier was the size of a Mack Truck in goal.
Bruce Boudreau changed up his OT starting lineup, going against the grain with 2 defensemen in Matt Dumba and Jonas Brodin along with Mikko Koivu to take the draw. It was a nice change of pace, but a rare faceoff loss for Koivu gave the Avs possession to start OT and The Wild were not able to muster up much until Zucker came out on the ice with Staal and Ryan Suter. Try as they might, the Wild were just not able to get one past Bernier in OT, so we headed to a shootout.
Koivu, Charlie Coyle, and Chris Stewart would shoot for the Wild in the shootout. Koivu went to his patented forehand-backhand move but was denied while both Coyle and Stewie would score to wrap things up for the Wild and gift them the extra point after a 3rd period that left you thinking the Wild’s goose was cooked.
Quick turnaround for your Minnesota Wild as they will head down south to faceoff against Mikey Yeo and the St. Louis Blues. With 33 points in 22 games the Blues are 2nd in the NHL standings, just 1 point behind the Tampa Bay Lightning. It will be a tough test with travel on the road on the 2nd night of back-to-backs, but the Blues will also be a little tired as they play the Nashville Predators Friday night. At least the Wild will have a few extra hours of rest over the Blues.