Ahhh…it feels good to win a battle; it feels good to win the game!! The Minnesota Wild beat the Calgary Flames in overtime at the Xcel Energy Center Tuesday night, by a 2-1 final score. Battle is the word for this game. This divisional matchup featured two teams–separated by a single point in the standings–facing each other for the second time in four nights. There is little love lost between these teams. This was the third meeting of five this season between the Wild and Flames, and the second victory for Minnesota. A full house of 18,703 saw the Wild battle through penalties, missed shots, shots off the iron, sluggish play and more. When the dust cleared, the Wild had pulled off a 2-1 overtime victory. The win moves the Wild into a tie for 9th in the Western Conference–a scant one point out of 7th. The Western Conference is a log jam, with the difference between 3rd and 11th only five points. The term “must win” has, and will, continue to be the most over used term in hockey this season. Tonight was pretty close to that for the Wild.
Coming off a 3-1 loss to Calgary on Saturday, Minnesota Head Coach Mike Yeo decided it was time for some changes on the power play. The Wild’s production with the man advantage has been pitiful to date, and tonight’s output (1 for 6) wasn’t much of an improvement. It was, however, enough to win the game.
The first period for the Wild was largely forgettable, as many first periods this season have been. Minnesota was outshot 12 to 9, outworked throughout the frame and outscored 1-0. Alex Tanguay deflected a Mike Cammalleri shot from the top of the circle past Wild netminder Niklas Backstrom. Minnesota looked as thought they had tied the score shortly thereafter, but a review showed the puck did not completely cross the goal line. The second period showed the momentum swinging toward the Wild. In the second the Wild outshot the Flames 11-5, as Mikko Koivu hit a post and crossbar in addition to his four shots on goal for the night. Another Minnesota player who was hot, but unrewarded with goals, was Jared Spurgeon. The young defenseman racked up six shots on goal for the game, and nearly scored the go-ahead marker, only to be robbed by Joey MacDonald late in the game.
In the third period, the Wild again outshot the Flames–this time by a 9-4 margin. While the Minnesota power play was quiet, their penalty kill was not. After allowing the first goal of the game, the PK was perfect thereafter.The Wild killed a 5 minute major for elbowing to Charlie Coyle, and a double minor for high sticking assessed to Jonas Brodin. The Wild finally broke through, scoring with less than 5 minutes left in regulation. Jason Zucker scored the second goal of his NHL career, tipping home a slap pass from Devin Setoguchi to even the game at one goal each. Late in the game, Calgary Flame Mark Giordano took a penalty for smothering the puck with his hand; over a minute of that penalty time carried into overtime.
The Minnesota Wild would only need 27 seconds to score the OT winner. Zach Parise took a Mikko Koivu pass down low and went top shelf on MacDonald for the game winner. Parise’ shot came after Jared Spurgeon was robbed by Macdonald of what appeared to be a sure game winner. The Wild have little time to enjpy the victory, however, as they pack their bags and jet out west for back-to-back games with Phoenix and Anaheim this Thursday and Friday. They return home on Tuesday, March 3rd, to face the Edmonton Oilers.
The tinkering with the power play units by Coach Yeo showed some results tonight. Over the next few games, we will see if that is a trend, or just a flash in the pan. The Wild fired 30 shots on goal tonight, that’s three over their average this season. We’ll see if that is a trend or just a one game outburst. Coach Yeo has tried just about every line combination under the sun, and is now playing with the penalty kill and power play units. Now we will see if these changes will bear fruit. Over the course of the next road trip, the guys should have some time to gel, and hopefully develop some much needed chemistry.
After tonight’s action, Zach Parise said of the problems scoring on the power play and scoring in general, “It’s hard not getting frustrated tonight”. Head Coach Mike Yeo added, “The second and third period, that’s the fight that we need this year!” Tonight was a battle for your Minnesota Wild. A battle that saw them come out on top, and added two points to the season total. Coach Yeo wants the boys to battle, battle hard each and every shift and, tonight, we saw what happens when they do. Now, on to the next battle against the Phoenix Coyotes. Let’s Go Wild!