Pierre-Marc Bouchard scored the 100th goal of his career, which was also the game winner against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Tuesday evening at the Xcel Energy Center. The Wild came into the game on a two game road losing streak. They ended the evening in sole possession of first place in the Northwest Division with seven points. The loss drops the Blue Jackets to fourth place in the Central Division, tied with Nashville. The Wild gutted out a win, despite a parade to the penalty box in the third period. Niklas Backstrom held on for the win, facing 10 of the 17 shots he faced in the final stanza. Prior to the game, Wild defenseman Marco Scandella said the keys would be “Outwork them, get pucks behind their defense and shoot when we get there.” Sounds like a recipe for success doesn’t it?
In the first period, the Wild outshot Columbus 8-5 and scored a pair of goals just like the recipe said. The first came, of course, from the Wild’s top line. Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley and Zach Parise, along with top defensive pairing Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin, worked the puck down low. Suter passed the puck to Brodin, who fired a shot in on net to the right of Mason. Koivu gathered up the rebound, circled around and backhanded the puck toward Parise, who was camped out right in front of the crease. That became a goal as Columbus netminder Steve Mason had the puck carom off his leg and into the net. A couple of minutes later, former Wild 2007 1st round pick Colton Gillies and Wild penalty kill specialist Darroll Powe exchanged words, which led to exchanging punches. Minnesota seemed to get a lift from the fisticuffs as they continued to press with the majority of the action in the Columbus zone. Someone other than Parise, Koivu and Heatley scored for the Wild at the 18:21 mark when Tom Gilbert fired home a Koivu shot that deflected off of Steve Wisnewski directly to Gilbert’s stick. The Wild went to the locker room up 2-0.
The Wild charged out in the second period, starting off with a 1:42 carry over power play. The Wild would carry the action until past the 10 minute mark when a Marco Scandella mistake led to a Blue Jacket breakaway. Wild defenseman Tom Gilbert put on an extra burst of speed to break up the play and rescue Backstrom with a brilliant display of quick thinking and good defensive play. The Wild outshot Columbus 15-3 in the second, but not before a late goal by Mark Letestu made it 2-1.
The start of the third was, not unlike Sunday against the Blues, also the start of a parade to the penalty box by the Wild. Darroll Powe’s boarding call at 2:56, followed by a Mikael Granlund tripping call at 7:25 that led to a power-play goal by Jack Johnson that tied the game at 2-2. The parade continued with a Gilbert delay of game call and the control seemed to be slipping away for the Wild. Then the magic happened, Justin Falk sent a huge, cross ice pass to Torrey Mitchell standing near the blue line. Mitchell slid the puck to a charging Bouchard who dashed toward goalie Mason and sent a wrister top shelf in the left corner of the net. Score 3-2. Not long after, Bouchard would have another break and be awarded a penalty shot after being hooked relentlessly. This time, Mason was up to the task and the score remained the same. The crowd of 17,548 couldn’t breathe easy as Parise took a holding call with 3:47 to play. One last penalty kill, 1:23 of 6 on 5 with a pulled goalie and the Wild took the victory. They had won game #500 played on Home Ice. After the game, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said this game is what happens when players,” go out playing minutes, playing them the right way. This is the kind of stuff that brings a team together.” He added about the team when playing with a lead, “Certainly we have to be more aggressive”. There’s no time for the Wild to enjoy this victory, however. Game number 501 at the Excel brings the unbeaten, 6-0, Chicago Blackhawks to town. As Coach Yeo said “Another Big test tomorrow”. He’s right and GonePuckWild.com will have pre and post game reports on all the action right here for you. Let’s Go Wild!