How Sweet it is!! The Minnesota Wild beat the Detroit Red Wings handily tonight 4-2. This makes the first time Minnesota has beaten the Red Wings in regulation at Joe Louis Arena since January 3, 2006. The Wild are putting the rest of the Western Division and the NHL as a whole on notice that they are for real. With tonight’s victory the Wild are on a 4 game win streak and 7-3-0 in their last ten contests. They also put some more distance between them and the rest of the Northwest Division. With a 36 point total, they are up 2 points on Vancouver, 8 on Edmonton, 10 on Calgary and 12 on Colorado. The Red Wings have a 33 point total to go with their 14-11-5 record. Perhaps the best quote before the game came from tough guy and face off wizard Zenon Konopka, “Last time here(Detroit) we were trying to win. This time we are expecting to win.” That was a pretty ballsy statement from the Wild’s enforcer, but the Wild did just that. They slayed the dragon tonight with a solid effort by all involved. They remained disciplined for the most part and took advantage of Detroit miscues, scoring 4 goals as they never trailed in the game. Ten players for the Wild had a point or better in tonight’s game.
Devin Setoguchi continues to have the hot hands for Minnesota. He scored 2 goals giving him a 5-game point streak, 7 goals over his last 5 games, and 18 points over his last 19 games. The pair of goals are the 17th time he has done that in his NHL career. He opened the scoring for the Wild just 2:04 into the game burying a Matt Cullen feed. The second assist went to a re-energized Pierre-Marc Bouchard. PMB now has a total of 9 assists to go with 3 goals on the season. He also has a personal 4 game point streak with 2 helpers tonight. Bouchard has recorded at least a point in each game since being a healthy scratch in 3 consecutive games. Matt Cullen had an assist tonight giving him 13 points in his last 13 games and his 5-game point streak continues. The line of Setoguchi, Cullen and Bouchard has been the Wild’s best line lately, with timely goals, hard forechecking, and disciplined play. Watching tonight’s game I was struck by the poise and tenacity Minnesota showed throughout. I’m just about to the point that I expect the Wild to score first each game. Minnesota did just that and more Wednesday night, with a goal just 2:04 into the 1st period. Despite being out shot 18 to 5 in the period the Wild defense and net minder Niklas Backstrom kept the Red Wings off the score sheet. Backstrom would finish the night with 36 save on 38 shots. Backy didn’t allow a Detroit goal until nearly 1/2 the game had elapsed. Gustav Nyquist capitalized on a Jared Spurgeon turnover at the Red Wings’ blue line, skating in fast on a breakaway and beating Backstrom low with a wrister. That brought Detroit to within a goal. Prior to the Nyquist marker the Wild picked up a goal by Kyle Brodziak while on the power play. That was the first of two power play goals the Wild would score on the night. The second goal with the man advantage was of Devin Setoguchi‘s second of the game as well. Seto did what the wild need to be doing each and every game, getting to the front of the opposition’s net and stay there. Setoguchi popped in a rebound of a Dany Heatley shot. The Wild were moving the puck around fairly well on the power play, something they had been struggling to do as of late. The pair of power play goals raises Minnesota’s success rate to 18.6 % and into the top half of the NHL in that category. Special teams for the Wild were hot on both sides of the puck as they held Detroit to 1 goal on 5 power plays. The Wild’s penalty kill ranks 5th in the NHL at 85.6 %. Minnesota captain, Mikko Koivu, scored the eventual game winning goal his 7th of the year, at 10:49 of the 2nd period. The first assist on Koivu’s goal went to Zach Parise, 8 points in last 7 games. He’s 3rd on the team in points with 11 goals and 12 assists totaling 23 points this season. Rookie Charlie Coyle had the second assist giving him 3 goals and 3 assists on the year.
The Wild had just 19 shots on goal for the game, but they made the most of their scoring chances beating Detroit net minder Jimmy Howard for times by the end of the second period. The loss drops Howard’s record to 12-8-4 while Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom moves to 15-7-2 this season. With the 15 victories he is second among all NHL net minders. Backstrom now sports a .917 save percentage to go with a 2. 32 goals against average. He looked very comfortable out there tonight turning aside 36 of 38 shots. The two that managed to elude Backstrom were scored on Nyquist’s break away and Drew Miller‘s goal with the goalie pulled late in the 3rd period. While Detroit had 36 shots the majority of them were from the perimeter, as the Red Wings had trouble getting past the Wild’s tenacious defense.
Minnesota’s defensive pairing were once again difficult to play against. The Suter-Brodin combo helped keep the top Detroit lines off the score sheet all night long. Wild defensmen scored 2 points on the night with the usual suspects adding to their assist totals. Suter and Spurgeon each had an assist on Kyle Brodziak‘s power play goal 3:51 into the second period. Suter’s helper gives him 24 points on the season and ties him with Mikko Koivu for the team lead. Spurgeon now has 3 goals and 5 assists ranking him 3rd in points by defensemen and 9th place overall on the Wild scoring list.
The Red Wings had an apparent goal over ruled during the opening period. The referee ruled that the puck had been played with high stick by Miller before Jordan Tootoo poked in the rebound. Because the high stick infraction stops play at that point the goal was not reviewable, much to the chagrin of the Detroit crowd. An ugly incident occurred during the second period when Niklas Kronwall laid a dirty hit on Wild rookie Charle Coyle. Kronwall caught Coyle looking down and laid him out with a hit that had the initial point of contact being Kronwall’s shoulder to Coyles head. Kronwall also seemed to leave the ice, jumping upward into Coyle to start the check. Some how the ref saw it as a high sticking double minor putting Kronwall in the box for 4 minutes. I fully expect that dirty hit to be reviewed by the NHL Department of Player Safety. Kronwall should be on the receiving end of phone call from player safety head Brendan Shanahan. When that is done expect to see a 1-2 game suspension handed down to Kronwall.
Tonight’s victory was Minnesot’s second of the season against Detroit, tying a team record. The Wild looked great tonight,, they are playing with confidence and grit that has been lacking in years past. For the first time in several seasons the Wild have more than a single top scoring line. Head Coach Mike Yeo has the luxury of being able to roll four lines time and time again. Next up for the Wild is a Saturday game against the San Jose Sharks. The team flies home late tonight and the players have the day off tomorrow before they return to practice on Friday. The Minnesota Wild are laying an exciting, gritty, and speedy brand of hockey as of late. As a fan it’s a heck of a lot of fun to watch them play right now. Minnesota is playing with a mindset that they can beat any team in the NHL on any given day. An attitude like that along with the skilled players on the roster should continue to provide fantastic results game after game this year. Ill be back on Saturday with the GonePuckWild.com game preview for the Wild vs Sharks matchup. Until then this is Scott Drain yelling with excitement, “LET’S GO WILD!!!”