The Minnesota Wild faced the Calgary Flames at the Scotiabank Saddle Dome Monday night and survived taking a 4-3 win. The game got close at the end but started with Minnesota looking like they expected to win. The Wild needed this win and two goals by Jason Pominville, an early goal by Captain Mikko Koivu and one from Pierre-Marc Bouchard paved the way to victory. Three different lines scored goals tonight for Minnesota. The two points are huge for the Wild who face the Edmonton Oilers Tuesday at Rexall Place. The win let’s Minnesota keep pace with Vancouver who leads the Northwest Division with 54 points five up on the Wild. For the second game in a row the Wild scored first, on Koivu’s goal just 2:17 in. Minnesota put the Flames back on their heels with that goal forcing the Flames to play from behind all night long. The Flames did make the game close in the end scoring a desperation goal with 39 seconds to play with goal tender Joey MacDonald pulled. Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom pulled out the victory, his 21st of the season, tying him with Fleury of the Penguins for the NHL lead. Backstrom turned away 20 of 23 shots and will probably get the start in net Tuesday in Edmonton where his record is spectacular. The Wild’s defense played a good game, not a great one, with 3 goals by the lowly Flames in the third period. The best thing about tonight is the 2 points the Wild earned, allowing them to jump ahead of St. Louis into 6th in the Western Conference standings.
Matt Cullen returned to the Wild lineup and his presence was clearly felt. He returned to center a line with Devin Setoguchi and Jason Zucker. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said of the center’s return, ” Cullen didn’t look like he missed any time.” “It’s huge adding a veteran presence like that.” Cullen’s stat line for the night read 1 assist, 1 shot on goal, +2 for the game in 14:02 of ice time. A very nice return to action indeed. Another return to action was Charlie Coyle‘s. After being wrongly ejected from Saturday night’s game against Columbus after just 17 seconds of action Coyle’s presence was clearly a boost to the top line. With him occupying time and space in front of the Calgary goal he allowed his line mates space to work with the puck. Tt was a rebound of his shot that Koivu corralled and scored with. The Wild’s third line also looked a bit different with Kyle Brodziak, Jason Pominville and Pierre-Marc Bouchard as a line. I’d have to say that little experiment worked rather well with Pominville scoring 2, Bouchard with a goal and Brodziak adding 3 shots on goal along with an outstanding defensive effort all night long. The Wild held a 2-0 lead heading into the 3rd period with the goals by Koivu and Pominville, but gave up a goal to Calgary’s Jiri Hudler just 3:42 in, to see that lead halved. Bouchard struck for the Wild just 11 seconds later and Pominville restored the two goal margin 1:13 later with his second of the night. The quick reply to the Flames’ first goal is something the Wild have been lacking over the last 7 games. The Wild showed a battle level and intensity against Calgary that has been missing from other games lately. After the game Pominville said, “It’s nice to get rewarded like that. Most important thing is we payed a 200 foot game and got rewarded.”
Calgary made the game close on a pair of goals in the latter stages of the third period, but did not pose much of a threat to the Wild for most of the game. The Flames are a team that is playing out the string for the most part. They got a look at one bright prospect, as former St. Cloud State University standout Ben Hanowski scored a goal in his first NHL game. Hanowski put a rebound by Backstrom for the 2nd Calgary goal 11:19 into the final period. With the Flames out of the playoff picture, Hanowski should see some significant ice time the rest of the season. The final goal by the Flames’ came with less than a minute to play, when a pass found Mike Cammmalleri alone on the doorstep for an easy tap in. All in all a good night for the boys from Minnesota with 2 points gained and no serious injuries suffered, unless you count the chipped tooth and 5 stitches to the tongue Charlie Coyle suffered from a high stick late in the 2nd period. For once the infraction was called and the Wild enjoyed a 4 minute power play opportunity. Four goals from three lines and good defense that’s what the Wild need each game for the rest of the regular season. It’s win and you’re in time for Minnesota, take care of your games and the Stanley Cup Playoffs await.
The Wild have another game Tuesday in Edmonton but should be able to get a good night’s rest with just a 25 minute flight from Calgary to Edmonton. I’ll be back Tuesday morning with a look at that match up. Until then Wild fans GonePuckWild.com will continue to provide the Wild news and information you need. This is Scott Drain sleepily chanting, “Let’s Go Wild!”
Matt Cullen back in the lineup, plays two way hockey. Catalyst on the second line. Seto and Bouchard’s production nosedived after Cullen’s injury. Cullen will center Setoguchi and Zucker on 2nd line. 3rd line Brodziak, Pominville and Bouchard, Top liine Koivu, Coyle, and Parise 4th line Clutterbuck, Mitchell, and Rupp
Ben Hanowski in lineup for Calgary, SCSU Husky Captain. From the Frozen Four to the NHL in 4 days. 1sr NHL game.
Out of the lineup tonight as healthy scratches are forward Mikael Granlund, and defensemen Justin Falk and Nate Prosser. Zenon Konopka has a lower-body injury and didn’t travel with the team. Josh Harding is still on Injured Reserve as he receives treatment for multiple sclerosis.