Strong goaltending from Harding and a (finally!) strong offensive effort by the Wild led to a nail biter of a win tonight for Minnesota at home against the San Jose Sharks.
It was a slow start for the Wild as they were unable to put any consistent offensive pressure on the Sharks to start the game. A so-quick-of-a-play-it-was-surprising goal from Cal Clutterbuck riled up the team and the crowd to put the Wild on the board in the 1st period.
Unfortunately, the Wild went on the PK not long after when defenseman Jared Spurgeon closed his hand on the puck after it got stuck in his glove. That penalty may have been forgivable (especially since Spurgeon played a top-notch game as usual for the rest of the evening), but Kyle Brodziak’s inability to control his temper less than halfway through the PK was not. Brodziak took 2 minutes for a brutal two-handed slash, giving the Sharks a 5 on 3 with a predictable result. Score: 1-1.
Warren Peters scored for the Wild in the 2nd period, getting the only goal in those 20 minutes. That’s when life got…stressful.
Nick Johnson put the Wild up 3-1 on an almost identical shot to Clutterbuck’s earlier goal. It should be noted that Johnson was playing on the top line tonight due to Devin Setoguchi being out for a disciplinary scratch. Johnson looked good up there…really good.
The Sharks returned the favor not long after to make it a 3-2 game. Then Matt Cullen, playing in his 1000th NHL game, got a dirtyfilthytrashygarbageheap of a goal to put the Wild up by two. I’ve been saying all season that the Wild need to get more garbage goals, and this one was great to see. Excellent effort.
Unfortunately, the defense did not take their cue from the front liners, and the Sharks tied the game up with two goals in 22 seconds. It was ugly, folks. Really, really ugly. Utter defensive collapse.
Into OT we went, and the ugliness continued. It may be one of the few times this season I’ve actually looked forward to a shootout, as the OT was just that bad. Luckily, Josh Harding stood on his head and did both his job and Zanon’s job (losing his guy, giving the puck up, in OT, when you need a win? Really, Greg?) to keep OT scoreless, and into the shootout we went.
The shootout tonight was short and sweet. Cullen – goal. Harding – save. Koivu – goal. Harding – save. Wild win.
More in-depth discussion tomorrow (I’m too happy that we won to drag myself down talking about Shamascam, so more on that piece of work tomorrow as well) as the Wild have a day off, but some quick notes.
– Zanon needs to be SCRATCHED. He was awful. Scandella meets a drunken Zidlicky awful.
– Speaking of scratches, Devin Setoguchi was a bad boy. He missed a mandatory meeting, and got scratched against his old team as punishment. Oops.
– Offense was much more solid tonight, including the power play, but the defense…whew, what a smell. They stunk, with the exception of Spurgeon and (mostly) Schultz. Bad positioning, slow to react, rotten coverage. Harding saved. their. butts.
– Niemi was not in top form tonight for the Sharks. The Wild should thank him…he looked downright listless out there.
– Really bad news on Pierre Marc Bouchard. He’s back out with concussion symptoms.
– Sharks defenseman and former Wild player Brent Burns has learned some new tricks…like hitting from behind. Dirty player. I never thought he was that great when he wore a Wild sweater, now I have an actual reason to dislike him.
– Former Wild forward Marty Havlat was an injured scratch for San Jose tonight, so he did not return to the Xcel’s ice.
CORRECTION: I originally had Johnson’s goal listed as making the score 3-2. Just a tired slip of the finger, it was 3-1 after that goal. Correction made inline above.