The good news is the Wild scored three goals. The bad news is the Colorado Avalanche scored three goals, then went on to win in a shootout. For the first time in seven games, Minnesota scored more than a single goal. The three goal outburst raised their average goals per game to a whopping 2.0. The third one tonight, put them up 3-2 at the 11:56 mark of the third period. Colorado tied the score on a line rush just 46-seconds later at the 12:42 mark. After the game, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said it was a shame the team wasted a great game by Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley. That line accounted for two of the Wild’s three goals and added three assists. The loss moves the Wild to 6-6-2 on the season while Colorado snapped a three games losing streak, improving to 5-6-1 and closing to within two points of the Wild in the Northwest Division.
Neither team scored in the first, a period in which the Wild outshot the Avalanche 11 to five. Again, Minnesota had several quality chances but couldn’t quite close the deal. In the period, Zach Parise had five shots on goal equaling the Avs’ output. Colorado scored first at the 2:38 mark of the second period on a 2-on-1 that developed when Justin Falk was caught in the neutral zone. David Jones fed Aaron Palushaj who flipped it past Niklas Backstrom. Zach Parise tied the game little more than 6 minutes later on a beautiful wrap-around goal. The play started on a pass from Heatley to Koivu ,who put a shot on J.S. Giguere. Parise picked up the rebound, slipped around the net and scored his seventh of the season.
The Avalanche would retake the lead late in the second, on a goal by Milan Hejduk. He is the second-leading scorer all time against the Wild, picking up his second of the year, and 22nd of his career against the Wild. One interesting fact is that the first penalty of the game wasn’t called until over 30 minutes into the game. The Wild and Avalanche each had one power play in the second. The Avs scored, the Wild did not. This was also when Colorado woke up, outshooting the wild 15 to eight for the second period.
In the third period, the Wild broke through the one goal barrier. Fourth liner Mike Rupp scored his first goal as a member of the Wild, knotting up the game at two goals apiece. He took the puck on a feed from Mikael Granlund behind the net, and whacked away until it slid under the Avalanche netminder–a hard-nosed “dirty” goal for sure. The Wild would claim their only lead of the game later in the third, only to fall back to a tie shortly thereafter. Dany Heatley put in some hard work, bringing the puck into the zone, only to have it poked off his stick just before shooting. Koivu gathered it in and deposited the puck past Giguere on a quick backhand for the goal.
One nice thing to see, was the vast majority of the announced crowd of 18,822 stick around for overtime and the shootout. I’ve never understood how fans can leave a tie game in overtime just before a shootout. In OT, the Wild, as usual, outchanced their opponent. Niether team, however, could solve the others’ veteran goaltender. In the shootout, Mike Yeo selected Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu as the first two shooters. Both were stopped by Giguere, while Backstrom yeilded goals to Hejduk and Matt Duchene. A disappointing end to an exciting game for sure, but Minnesota did come away with a precious point for their efforts. After the game, Minnesota Head Coach Mike Yeo critcized his team’s effort in the loss, saying, “We need more consistency”, and “We were not prepared to play the right way tonight.”
The Wild now have the next two days off to practice and rest befor the mighty Detroit Red Wings fly into town for a game Sunday night. Perhaps some practice is what the boys need after playing their third game in four nights. Coach Yeo said the travel schedule is not an excuse, because it is the nature of a post-lockout season. On the plus side, the reunited top line of Koivu, Heatley and Parise produced and produced again. They were also responsible defensively, ending the evening a +6 as a line. I just hope the rest of the squad learns from their example. Another nice note on the game was Wild fan and player favorite, Andrew Brunette, dropping the ceremonial puck to start the game. He is the newly retired player and newly hired Hockey Operations Advisor for the Wild. He dropped the puck to a standing ovation, and exchanged hugs with players on both teams. Bruno will be a great ambassador of the game for the Wild, and I look forward to seeing him in this next stage of his career. GonePuckWild will have full coverage as the Wild face the Red Wings on Sunday, starting with the game preview. Until then…Let’s GO Wild!