In the film Planes, Trains and Automobiles, John Candy and Steve Martin is a story about the ultimate trip from hell. A man decides to be nice and give a lift to a shower ring salesman so he can get back home for Thanksgiving. The salesman is obnoxious and tremendously accident prone and just about all that could go wrong, does. Hopefully the Minnesota Wild have better luck this time around as they travel to Ottawa. A few years ago, the team also had a back-to-back after having played in Montreal the night before but as the team made its way to Canada's capital the truck with the majority of the players' equipment caught fire destroying it all. The team's equipment staff rushed to local hockey shops in Ottawa to buy whatever they could, while another group back in Minnesota rushed off new sweaters and some other gear they had back at Xcel Energy Center. The players played the game in brand new, unworn equipment and their lack of comfort was shown with a sub-par effort. If there are no distractions like that, the Wild should be able to have a better game against an inconsistent Ottawa team.
Both clubs are coming off of ugly losses, and both are making their way back to Ottawa as the Senators played in Philadelphia last night. The Wild have not had a lot of success on the road, and whether its just not quite being ready to play mentally or physically the results speak for themselves. With both teams coming off losses like they are, it could make for a spirited if chippy game. Will the Wild have better luck this time?
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1st Period Thoughts: The game started out with not nearly as much pace as last night in Montreal. The Senators were giving the Wild more time and space and Minnesota would try to take full advantage of it. Minnesota would work the puck deep and get a quick shot on goal that forced Craig Anderson to make a save less than 20 seconds in. The game would steadily ramp up in intensity as the period went on. Minnesota would earn a power play as Jared Cowen was tagged for interference as he hauled down Jason Pominville. The Wild's power play had an auspicious start as a long pass by Ryan Suter back to the point where Pominville fanned on it and Clarke MacArthur would track it down and he'd make a pretty between the legs pass to Kyle Turris who got off a quick shot that Josh Harding thought he had stopped but the puck would trickle over the goal line to make it 1-0. It was the first shorthanded goal given up by the Wild this season. The Wild still had lots of power play time left so they went back to work where they'd tie it up with a dose of persistance as Ottawa was really trying to harass the puck carrier. A great cross-ice pass by Zach Parise to Pominville would elude the stick of Anderson who had hoped to poke check the pass away but instead it was the Wild sniper unleashing a quick shot that found the twine. Pretty play and good for Pominville to get that little level of redemption. However the Senators were throwing their weight around, as Cory Conacher lowered the boom on Matt Cooke that earned rousing cheers from the home crowd. The Wild did not appear to have much of a response and I saw more than a few occasions where Wild players were getting tossed like rag dolls on the ice. The Senators would re-take the lead as Erik Condra worked the puck into the Wild zone and as it would be directed on goal, Harding would make the initial save but the Senators kept hacking and pushing and Clayton Stoner would get thrown to the ice by Derek Grant who got the puck to move just enough for Mika Zibanejad to tap the puck in, 2-1 Ottawa. Minnesota would try to answer back and they'd create a few opportunities but it was always one and done and the Wild would trail by one going into the 1st intermission. I thought the Wild needed more energy and physicality from its 3rd line, and overall the team needed to be a little more ornery in and around its own crease. Minnesota was outshot 18-6 which goes to show you they have a ton of room for improvement. I thought they could stand to be a bit more selfish with the puck and take their chances to put it on goal instead of looking for the perfect set up. Jason Zucker had an ok 1st period, making some things happen with his speed.
2nd Period Thoughts: Minnesota would regroup and play more of a counter punching style as the Senators tried to keep the game fast and physical. The Wild's calm approach would be rewarded as Dany Heatley would chase a puck down low drawing a loud chorus of boo's frome the home crowd as he dished it over to Justin Fontaine who got tripped up and Heatley swept up the biscuit and sent it to Jonas Brodin on the point. Brodin had lots of time and space and he'd wind up and tee up a slapper that beat Anderson who looked away from the Wild defenseman just as he was winding up and did not seem to see the puck until it was too late. 2-2 hockey game. Minnesota would keep pressing the attack and Mikko Koivu worked the puck down low to Heatley and he would try to pass the puck but ended up fanning on it and he'd swing again and ended up seaking it just between the leg pad of Anderson and left post and just like that it was 3-2 Wild. Predictably the Senators were a bit shaken by the Wild's quick strikes so Ottawa's Chris Neil tried to get his team going by fighting with Clayton Stoner. Stoner had a reach advantage but Neil had the edge in strength and both pugilists were swinging away with some wild punches with few really landing. Neil would take control and wither Stoner with a few punches as he pulled Neil down with him to the ice. The Wild were clearly driving the Senators nuts as Minnesota's tenaciousness along the wall would draw a penalty as Mark Boroweicki hit Nino Niederreiter from behind. On the power play the Wild would appear to add to their lead as a big shot by Parise drew a rebound that was pounced on by Koivu who stuffed it home. However after the officials talked it over they ruled no goal saying Koivu kicked it in. A goal review would agree and the Wild would still have another 1:45 to work with on the power play. The Wild moved the puck ok, and had a few more chances but Andersin made some big saves. The Senators would try to work for the equalizer but Harding made some tremendous saves as he had lots of black jerseys coverging on his crease each time. The Wild would earn a late power play as Derek Grant high sticked Jonas Brodin. However the Wild's power play was really nonchalant and this lack of focus nearly boomeranged into another shorthanded goal as Zach Smith raced into the Wild zone. Ryan Suter would drop to the ice hoping to disrupt his chance ans Smith would pull off a toe drage before firing a shot off the right post and out. Smith thought he scored as the Wild lucked out big time. Despite carrying most of the period, the Wild had to feel as though it escaped with the lead . I thought the 4th line of Zenon Konopka, Heatley and Fontaine was the Wild's best line. Mathew Dumba again appeared to be on the ice whenever Ottawa really crashed the crease, coincidence? I think not.
3rd Period Thoughts: Minnesota started the period with about 36 seconds of power play time and the Wild would use it to put a few shots on goal but Anderson was able to steer them away. The Wild would end up taking an early penalty as Heatley was given a pretty weak hooking call considering how much they had been letting things slide throughout most of the game. Either way the Senators were going on the power play. On the power play the Senators moved the puck quickly but the Wild were scrambling and able to keep Ottawa off balance so they could not really generate much in the way of shots. Good active sticks did a good job of disrupting passing lanes and Minnesota would escape with a big kill. The Wild were sort of playing rope-a-dope and the march to the penalty box continued as Jason Pominville took a lazy hooking penalty as he held up Kyle Turris with his stick after overskating a puck. The careless play would have big consequences as the Senators struck quickly on the man advantage as a long range shot was blocked out into the slot where Milan Michalek snapped a quick shot by Harding to make it 3-3. The Senators were feeling as though momentum was in their favor and they continued to press the attack. Marco Scandella had some great small little efforts to break up the Senators' rush. Minnesota was staying patient and Jared Spurgeon would join the rush up the ice and he'd charge towards the crease as Koivu carried it in, drawing Ottawa defenseman Marc Methot towards him as he beat Anderson with a laser of a wrist shot to give the Wild a 4-3 lead with less than 4 minutes to play. The Wild would tighten up defensively as the Senators seemed to be on fumes down the stretch. Scandella made some great plays to protect the puck and clear the zone and the Wild would hold on for the 4-3 victory.
Josh Harding got some help from the iron, but he also saw a ton of shots as he stopped 34 shots in the win. Harding had to be sharp near his crease as the Senators were really storming the crease looking for rebounds. Defensively I thought the Wild got a great game from Ryan Suter and especially Marco Scandella who was an absolute rock back there. Scandella didn't panic under pressure and he made smart clears of the zone when the team needed it most. The penalty kill was overall pretty strong at key moments, and even though it did give up another power play goal it wasn't due to poor execution or a lapse in defensive coverage. Dumba continues to be a turnover machine.
Offensively, the Wild got contributions from a wide variety of places in the lineup. Most notably, the Wild got some offense from the 4th line of Heatley, Konopka and Fontaine. They really got the the comeback going. They did so with hard work and simplicity. The Wild would strike back on the power play after giving up a potentially demoralizing shorthanded goal early. Mikko Koivu seems to be finding his groove and a 3-pt night including the game winning goal can only be a good thing for the Wild. Much the same can be said for Dany Heatley who chipped in his 2nd goal in as many games as well as an assist. He silenced the hostile crowd with his goal, which at the time gave Wild its first lead of the game. Jason Zucker was ok in his return but passing the puck in a few situations where he was in prime position to score will do little to make a case to keep him up with the big club.
The pushback the Wild lacked in Montreal occured this evening as they found ways to score goals and create pressure in the offensive zone to make things a bit easier for Josh Harding. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo was beaming after the game giving major kudos to Mikko Koivu, and the "leadership of this team." He also gave credit to Heatley and Pominville for raising their game. The win puts the Wild, currently, tied for first place in the NHL. Now the Wild have to ready themselves for a whole other level of hostility in Winnipeg on Saturday.
~ The Wild roster tonight is as follows: Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Charlie Coyle, Dany Heatley, Zenon Konopka, Justin Fontaine, Kyle Brodziak, Matt Cooke, Nino Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker, Jason Pomnville, Ryan Suter, Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella, Jared Spurgeon, Clayton Stoner and Mathew Dumba. Darcy Kuemper backed up Josh Harding. Nate Prosser and Torrey Mitchell were the healthy scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game as selected by TSN 1200 were: 1st Star Mikko Koivu, 2nd Star Clarke MacArthur, 3rd Star Jonas Brodin
~ Attendance was 16,642 at Canadian Tire Centre.
Wild Prospect Report:
RW – Adam Gilmour (Boston College, H-East) ~ Boston College would play crosstown rival Harvard tonight in non-Conference play and the Eagles would blitz the Crimson 5-1. The Wild's budding power forward played on the 2nd line along with Patrick Brown and Quinn Smith where he registered 3 shots on goal and was an 'even' rating.
G – Stephen Michalek (Havard, ECAC) ~ As you read in the little update about Gilmour, the Havard Crimson got blitzed 5-1. Unfortunately that came at the expense of Stephen Michalek who was between the pipes for all 5 of the goals. Michalek (1-3-1) had 29 saves in the loss.
C – Anthony Hamburg (RIT, Atlantic) ~ Hamburg now anchors the 4th line for the RIT Tigers. On Tuesday, the Tigers battled to a 5-2 loss at the hands of Atlantic Hockey rival Canisius. The Phoenix, Arizona-native had a shot on goal and was a -1.