The Minnesota Wild defeated the San Jose Sharks 2-0 Saturday afternoon at the Xcel Energy Center in front of a sellout crowd of 19,358 vocal fans. That is the 2nd largest crowd to ever cram into the “X” for a Wild game. The Wild are smoking hot right now on a 5 game win streak during which they have scored 20 goals while holding their opponents to just 10. Minnesota net minder Niklas Backstrom recorded the 27th shutout of his NHL career and first of the season as he turned away 33 San Jose shots this afternoon, upping his record to 16-7-2 on the year. The Wild are now 18-10-2 on the season good for 38 points and third place in the Western Conference. With the loss San Jose is in 8th place tied with the Columbus Blue Jackets at 32 points. Minnesota is starting to distance themselves from most of their Northwest Divisional foes. They are tied in points with Vancouver, 9 points in front of Edmonton and fully 12 points ahead of both Calgary and Colorado. The Wild are playing some of their best hockey of the season right now, showing a high level of confidence going into each game. This is an exciting time to be a fan of the Minnesota Wild. They are scoring goals, rolling lines and winning on a regular basis. Heck, they are even putting together significant winning streaks!
Minnesota’s special teams are getting the job done on both sides of the puck. Including this afternoon’s victory the Wild have scored a power play goal in 9 of their last 10 games. Their penalty kill is also clicking, shutting out the Sharks on 4 power play chances. The Minnesota penalty kill is ranked 4th in the NHL at 86.2%. San Jose Head Coach Todd McClellan said, “Special teams let us down. It’s not that we were horrendous in those areas, but they beat us in power-play and penalty-kill situations,” The Wild went 1 for 4 with the man advantage and for all practical purposes 2 for 4. The first goal of the game came just after a power play expired with Wild Captain Mikko Koivu throwing a tape to tape pass from left to right, cross ice from high above the left circle to a waiting Parise in the right circle. That pass was one timed past Sharks goalie Niemi into the upper right corner of the net by Parise. The goal was his team leading 12th of the season to go with 12 assists for 24 total points, good for third place on the Wild points list. The second assist on the goal went to Ryan Suter for his 25th of the season. Minnesota’s second goal of the afternoon was a power play marker coming just 1:17 into the 3rd period. Jared Spurgeon picked up his 4th goal of the year launching a rocket from near the blue line. Ryan Suter had the initial assist on this goal while Koivu had the other. The assists gave Koivu and Suter 19 and 24 assists respectively on the season and the two remain atop the Wild’s point standings with 26 each. Niemi took the loss for the Sharks moving his record to 12-8-5 for the year. The Wild and Sharks have two meetings left this season, April 3rd and 18th at the HP Pavilion.
After the game Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo praised the play of Backstrom saying, “He made very difficult saves look easy tonight.” Yeo also praised the power play units, ” Certainly we’ve found some units that we like and both units are scoring for us. To me the biggest thing is we have a shoot first mentality.” Backstrom’s biggest save of the night came after Clayton Stoner hauled down Andrew Desjardins as the Shark skated in on a break away. The ref gave Desjardins a penalty shot that Backstrom confidently made the save on. It was just that kind of day for Backstrom, he never lost his cool or sight of the puck throughout the game. The Wild net minder’s confidence was infectious with the rest of the team feeding off it. There’s not a team in the league the Wild are afraid of right now.
Minnesota has a busy week ahead as they travel to Dallas twice for games on Monday the 25th and Friday the 29th. in between they entertain the Phoenix Coyotes at the Xcel Energy C enter Wednesday night the 27th. They wrap up the week at home on Saturday the 30th,s
with a game against the defending Stanley Cup Champion LA Kings. The Kings game is the back half of a back to back set of games, one of 9 for the Wild this season.
This afternoon was an exciting game as the winning streak keeps on rolling. GonePuckWild.com will be here with you every step of the way as the Minnesota Wild fight for playoff position. Until next time this is Scott Drain joyfully chanting, “LET’S GO WILD!!”