Now that’s some Minnesota Wild hockey!! It sure is a great feeling to beat the obnoxious Canucks on the road. The Wild did just that on Vancouver’s home ice 3-1 Monday night. With the victory Minnesota now has sole possession of first place in the Northwest Division and third in the Western Conference. The Wild won in Vancouver for the first time in over 4 years, they also have now won three straight games for the first time this season. Minnesota has also won three straight road games for the first time since November of 2010. Vancouver falls to 7th in the conference standings with a record of 13-9-6. The Wild are now 16-10-2 on the season and have now won 5 of their last 6 games. Damn, this one felt good. To see the Minnesota squad cruise into Vancouver and take the victory, not just hang on and barely escape with a win. The Wild stuck to their game plan and played a solid 60 minutes of hockey tonight. Pierre-Marc Bouchard is one of just four players on the current roster who were around for the last win in Vancouver. After the game Pierre-Marc Bouchard said of the win, “It felt good, it was a pretty important game. We came out ready to play.” The Wild took care of business against the Canucks. One area they absolutely dominated was face offs. Minnesota won 44 to Vancouver’s 21 that’s a ridiculous 68 % success rate. Wow! That kind of play on draws sure does cut down on your opponents puck possession along with their ability to control the game and the score. The Wild players aren’t afraid to get in front of a shot either as they blocked 21 shot attempts to just 5 for the Canucks. A key player for Minnesota was goal tender Niklas Backstrom. He started his 8th straight game tonight stopping 34 of 35 Vancouver shots. One brilliant save came at the 4 and half minute mark of the 2nd period as he stopped a Canuck shot while sitting on his butt in the crease. Bouchard praised Backstrom’s play saying, “Backy was awesome he made some key saves for us.” With the win Backstrom is 14-7-2 for the year. Right now the Wild are flying high, playing with confidence and have no fear of any opponent.
The Wild had three goal scorers on the night, Jonas Brodin, Charlie Coyle, and Matt Cullen. The Wild did get off to a good start, as they have been doing lately. Despite taking a pair of minor penalties in the first period, the Wild kept to their game -plan effectively neutering a struggling Vancouver power play. Vancouver would eventually score on the man advantage in the second period. That would end a zero for 36 streak of power play failures that stretched back to February 24th. Henrik Sedin would get the goal with Setoguchi in the box for hooking. The Wild came right back however, with a power play goal of their own to even the score at 1 apiece. Jonas Brodin scored on a blast from the point on a feed by Dany Heatley. The goal was Brodin’s second of the season and second in three games. The Wild now have three legitimate slap shot bombers from the blue line, Suter, Brodin, and Spurgeon. Bouchard kept the play in the zone and set up Heatley’s pass to Brodin leading to the goal. Bouchard has been hot since coming back into the lineup and has 5 points in the last 3 games.
The Wild would take the lead in the third period and not relinquish it. It was another goal from a rookie that put Minnesota ahead. With Kevin Bieksa and Henrik Sedin taking back to back penalties the Wild had 8 seconds of a 5 on 3 and nearly 4 minutes of power play time to work with. Rookie Charile Coyle set up shop in front of Roberto Luongo and tipped in a Stoner wrist shot from left point just inside the blue line. Just before Stoner’s shot, a huge play by Spurgeon kept play in the offensive zone and set up his pass to Koivu that led to the goal. The final score of the night would go to Matt Cullen. Cully is playing some incredible hockey right now. Along with his line mates, Setoguchi and Bouchard, they are one of the Wild’s best, game after game. Cullen scored on a nice passing play with Setoguchi and Bouchard picking up the assists. A poor decision by Canuck Keith Ballrd to attempt a check on Culen at the bluline led to the break. The give and go from Setoguchi to Cullen froze Canucks net minder Luongo and Cullen picked up his fourth goal of the year and 199th of his career. After the game Minnesota Head Coach Mike Yeo said, “When things mattered most, especially in the 3rd period, we were able to bring it to another level.” Despite Vancouver pulling the goalie for an extra attacker with 1:57 to play, the Wild would not allow another goal. The shots on goal total for the game favored Vancouver by 10, 35 to 25. The Wild had 8 players with at least a point tonight and no player had a minus rating! Spreading the scoring around and playing solid, responsible defense. It was just another game for Suter who led the squad in ice time with 29:11, next was his 19 years young defensive partner with 27:19 on the ice. The defense looked great all night long with no long stretches of bad shifts and giveaways.
The Wild played a solid road game tonight and are showing the rest of the Western Conference they are indeed a force to be reckoned with. It doesn’t get any easier though as the Wild travel to Detroit to face the Red Wings Wednesday evening at Joe Louis Arena. Detroit is just 1 point and two places behind Minnesota in the Western Conference standings. I’ll be back Wednesday morning with the game preview. Until then this is Scott Drain jumping up an down yelling, “LET’S GO WILD!!!!!”