I now believe in alien abduction. It’s the only possible explanation for the difference between the team that lost resoundingly to the Blues on Saturday and the identical-looking team that showed up at the Xcel Energy Center earlier today.
The Wild skated a strong second and third periods in front of a career-best performance from goaltender Niklas Backstrom to send the Stanley Cup champions Boston Bruins to the airport licking their wounds. Backstrom was nothing short of amazing, making a career-best with the Wild 48 saves and allowing zero goals against. Shut. Out.
Gotta admit, from my seat high above the ice the first period looked to be a solo performance from Backstrom. No speed, no consistency, no energy from anyone in a green (Wild wore alternates) sweater. Then we started the second period…
An entirely new team took the ice. Passes were completed, defensemen were beat, and best of all, goals were scored. Minnesota native Chad Rau scored his second career NHL goal, beating Tim Thomas with a beautiful look fake that nobody…apparently including Thomas…expected out of such a young player. Dany Heatley and Cal Clutterbuck got A’s on Rau’s goal.
Amusing note #1: Rau’s goal today came as part of “Hockey Day In America”. His first goal came last month as part of “Hockey Day Minnesota”.
Not long after, Boston’s Chris Kelly went to the box for tripping, and the Wild ended up on the PP. No sooner had it started than it was over, with Matt Cullen putting the second (and final) goal of the game past Thomas to put the Wild up 2-0. Setoguchi and Spurgeon got the nod for assists.
Amusing note #2: Both goals today were scored by Minnesota natives.
The Bruins certainly didn’t give up…Backstrom faced 48 shots, and almost as many were blocked. Shawn Thornton tried to get his Bruins back into the game by taking on new Wild tough guy Matt Kassian. I have to wonder if he said, “Oops” after the 1:24 long fight ended. Yup. 1 minute, 24 seconds by Mike Russo’s clock. Thornton looked like he was ready to go down about four different times. Kassian just grinned; he was having fun. This guy’s for real, folks. Minnesota has an enforcer once more.
First win for the Wild since February 2nd. First home win for the Wild since Hockey Day Minnesota back on January 21st.
I have to note this…the last game I attended in person? January 21st. The Wild have never lost a game with me in attendance unless I’m with my friend Brian, no exceptions either way. I’m there and Brian is not? Perfect winning record. I’m there and Brian is there? 100% losses. Buddy, pal, I’m sorry, but you don’t get to go to any games with me anymore unless we have a playoff spot LOCKED.
Obviously he wasn’t there today.
By the way, although I bleed Wild colors it was fun to watch Tim Thomas in the net. Loss or not, the guy is an amazingly athletic goaltender.
Next up are a few days off, then a tough road back to back against the struggling Florida Panthers and the perennial pests otherwise known as the Dallas Stars.
Quick note, some other great news from the Wild front office after the game today. Center Kyle Brodziak has signed a 3 year, $8.5 million contract with Minnesota. Brodziak is an excellent blue-collar player, and obviously management agrees with me.