The good news is that the Wild still have sole possession of a playoff spot. The bad news is that the Dallas Stars just got a point closer to taking that spot for themselves.
Even an early PP courtesy of perennial pest Steve Ott couldn’t get the Wild an easy goal tonight. Everything they got, they worked for. Although I’m firmly against trying to spin losses as moral victories, the effort from the boys tonight at the start of the game was not that bad. The speed and energy level left much to be desired as the game went on, but they…for the most part….stuck to the system and were rewarded by staying in the game. Had Dallas netminder Kari Lehtonen not been very much on his game, this would have been a runaway night for the Wild and Dany Heatley in particular.
Heatley was all over the ice tonight with shot after shot. Unfortunately, none of them found twine. Only Kyle Brodziak found the back of the net for Minnesota, and that came in the third period. It was a tying goal, as Dallas was up 1-0 on a PP goal by Ribeiro late in the second.
Once the game went to a shootout, a collective groan went up throughout the State of Hockey, and for good reason. Niklas Backstrom has many strengths in net, but shootouts aren’t among them. Backs was beat by Eriksson and Benn, while Lehtonen denied Erik Christensen and Jared Spurgeon (?!?!? I know, I know). Matt Cullen scored the lone shootout goal for the Wild.
Christensen (aka “Crusher”) had a solid debut for the Wild overall. There was rust evident, but he hadn’t played a NHL game since December; I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. He had some great backchecking action and obviously knows Yeo’s system.
Marek Zidlicky returned to the lineup tonight in place of the injured Clayton Stoner. I’m going to disagree vehemently with the Fox Sports North team on this one, and say that the Wild should have played the injured Stoner instead. Zidlicky is an offensive defenseman who refuses to shoot the puck. Hmmm…that doesn’t really make him an OFFENSIVE defenseman, then, does it? Personally, I’d look for Mike Lundin to return soon.
The biggest problem tonight was energy. About 15 minutes into the second period, the Wild looked like they were going on a romantic skate around the pond. The only things missing were piano music and hand-holding. I don’t know if it was fatigue or mental lapses, but you cannot win hockey games chasing people around the ice…especially if you never catch them! The energy level needs to step up ASAP. Games are 60 minutes long.
The Wild meets Columbus next for what will hopefully be an easier two points (sorry, but it’s the truth). They then get to host the Canucks; Vancouver vs. Minnesota is always good for the highlight reel.