The Minnesota Wild beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 tonight at the Xcel Energy Center. It was a comeback win for Minnesota, down 2-0 early in the second. The Wild won on goals by Dany Heatley, Jason Zucker and Torrey Mitchell all coming in a great second period. This was the first time the Wild have rallied from two goals down to beat Detroit since the teams’ first-ever meeting (12/27/00) at Joe Louis Arena. Detroit falls to 7-6-2 with the loss, while the Wild move to 7-6-2 on the year. Even more important, Minnesota moves into a tie with Detroit in the Western Conference standings with 16 points.
It was a night of firsts for the Wild. Goaltender Darcy Kuemper got his first win of his NHL career. He wasn’t even scheduled to start! Kuemper found out he was in net minutes before the game, when it became clear Niklas Backstrom would be unable to go due to flu symptoms. Kuemper is now 1-1-0 in the NHL, making 29 saves on 31 shots tonight. Head Coach Mike Yeo said, “The way he responded was terrific”. For the Red Wings rookie netminder Petr Mrazek, it was his first NHL loss. He yielded 3 goals on 24 shots, all three in the second period. The next first was the first NHL goal for Jason Zucker, playing in his first game for the Wild this season. Zucker’s goal came on a 2-on-1 break with Setoguchi. Zucker came flying down the right side and fired a shot under the arm of Mrazek for the score. After the game, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said of Zucker, “He knows he’s a shooter and he’s here to be a shooter.” That is something the pass-happy Wild need more of on the team. Zucker had two shots on goal and 11:09 of ice time. Another first for Minnesota was the first NHL game for Johan Larsson. He looked strong in his debut for the Wild, recording two shots on goal in 14:02 of ice time. By the way did I mention, This was the first time the Wild have rallied from two goals down to beat Detroit since 2000!!
The first period for the Wild was largely forgettable, the last 10 minutes especially. Things looked bleak for Minnesota when Detroit sniper Pavel Datsyuk, who missed the last game with an upper body injury, scored just 20 seconds into the second period, making it a 2-0 game. The Wild, however, came roaring back, scoring three goals in just over four minutes to take the lead for good. The first came from (where else?) the top line of Dany Heatley, Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu. Some hard work by Parise kept the play alive, Jared Spurgeon kept the puck in the zone, and Heatley blasted one home. The second goal was Zucker’s. The third came off a faceoff win by Mikael Granlund that went to Torrey Mitchell, who slid a backhander 5-hole for the goal–his first as a member of the Wild. That wrapped up the scoring, as both rookie goaltenders stuffed several great chances by each side. Cal Clutterbuck alone had 4 magnificent scoring chances negated by the Red Wings’ Mrazek. The best opportunity for Detroit to tie the game came on a 4-minute double minor high sticking penalty to Devin Setoguchi. Minnesota’s penalty killers were up to the task and, along with Kuemper, they killed it off. Even with the goalie pulled in the last minute, Detroit could not muster the tying tally.
Next up for the Wild are the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday. Luckily, Minnesota has a couple of day to rest and practice before flying to Edmonton on Wednesday. With the flu bug going through the Wild locker room, that’s a very good thing. The win tonight was a big confidence builder for Minnesota. Let’s hope they keep the momentum rolling as they face the 6-5-3 Oilers at Rexall Place. A rousing come from behind win for the boys tonight! LET’S GO WILD!!