Wrapping up the final matchup of a four game home series, the Minnesota Wild defeated the Calgary Flames handedly 5-1. This win marks their sixth in seven games and puts the Wild’s home record at a respectable 7-1-2 with a three game winning streak. Another strong showing from Minnesota goalie Josh Harding kept the Wild ahead against Flames goalkeeper Reto Berra coming off a NHL debut 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks.
Perhaps most notable from Tuesday’s win was the source of the Wild’s scoring – neither second liners Jason Pominville, Mikael Granlund, nor Nino Niederreiter earned a point on the night. Instead first liners Mikko Koivu (1-2–3), Zach Parise (2-1–3), and the newly returned Charlie Coyle (0-1–1) combined for seven points lighting up the faces of many Wild fans growing concerned about first line production.
Now, a lot will be made up Coyle’s return to the first line and the marked increase in scoring from Koivu and Parise against Calgary, but note that Coyle was not on the ice for two of these three goals. Parise’s first came on the Power Play in the 2nd period and his second tally on a four-on-four situation in the 3rd. As fellow GPW writer Ger Devine is wont to point out, the top line scoring on Tuesday should not be a surprise – regardless of whose at right wing. That said, Coyle was aggressive showing little to no restraint skating on a stable—though apparently painful—strained knee. He used his strong body to control play in the offensive zone and was opportunistic in the neutral zone leading to Koivu’s tying goal mid way through first.
Early in the game the Wild defense didn’t look it’s sharpest with Lance Bouma and Jiri Hudler driving up the middle of the Wild zone and combining for a goal. Both Keith Ballard and Clayton Stoner got caught watching the play instead of making one leading to an early Calgary lead (as my pal Andy Johnson at the Badger Fifth Quarter points out, Heatley is indeed backchecking). 4:17 later in the first period after a Charlie Coyle steal in the neutral zone that had Koivu chasing and fighting for the puck in the attacking zone, Zach Parise’s centering attempt left Koivu open to backhand his second goal of the season on a recovering Berra. The Wild’s first Power Play late in the first would be cut short 2 seconds in with Koivu being called for tripping up opposing center Matt Stajan.
The Wild’s second Power Play opportunity came at 5:11 in the second period after Lance Bouma was called for hooking on Keith Ballard. The Wild’s 25.0% PP (2nd in NHL) took advantage of a tiring Calgary PK unit that failed to clear the zone. A cross-zone pass from Koivu to Wild Defensemen Ryan Suter set up Parise on the backdoor to put away a Suter pass across the top of the crease. With that, Parise is currently tied for first in the NHL with 5 PPG.
The Wild went on to score three more in the third period. At 8:05 Justin Fontaine swung around from behind the goal showing incredible patience waiting for lane to shoot at. His through-traffic shot beat Berra five-hole with Matt Cooke screening the keeper and mucking up two Calgary defensemen. It was a great third line effort all around with Cooke and Brodziak getting assists. Only 33 seconds later a great feed from a breaking Torrey Mitchell set up Wild center Zenon Konopka for his first Wild goal and first point since December 16, 2011! It was a great night for Konopka who almost registered an assist after a beautiful feed to (a possibly startled) Mitchell earlier that period. The Wild’s final goal of the night was perhaps its most impressive of the young season. A driving Koivu left the puck with Parise at the point who crept up a bit before passing back to a driving Suter. Suter’s quick pass down to Koivu in front of the crease had Berra buying while Parise, skating in past the dot, took Koivu’s backhand feed for a wide open goal.
- This game could have easily been 7-1 considering Koivu narrowly missing a great look from Parise at 6:46 in the third and Konopka’s feed to Mitchell was pure gold
- The Wild’s PK was a perfect 4/4 on Tuesday. That said, the third PK was spent almost entirely in the defensive zone while Calgary put together some chances. The fourth, however, did not give up a shot on goal. The Wild now sit at 25th place in NHL at 77.8%
- Coyle looked good Tuesday night, healthy even. Makes you wonder how he’ll be playing when his knee isn’t bothering him at all.
- It was great to see Koivu and Parise connect for goals Tuesday night. Suter (0-2–2) played a huge part and Coyle was key for the night’s first goal. If Graninoville turns it on with a strong first line showing, we’ll be counting goals on more than one hand one of these nights.
- Josh Harding leads the NHL in GAA (1.09) and Save% (.951) and is 8-2-1 on the season. In case you were wondering, the closest GAA to Harding is 1.74 tied by Boston’s Tuukka Rask and San Jose’s Antti Niemi.
- Despite the early defensive mishap leading to Calgary’s lone goal, the Wild defense controlled their zone for much of the game. Jared Spurgeon was missing for part of the second but reappeared in the third period. Assuming everyone left healthy Tuesday night, I didn’t see any performances that indicated Dumba will be suiting up on Thursday…
- Following Konopka’s goal, Calgary forward Tim Jackman started the next face off by crosschecking Wild goal scoring leader Jason Pominville. He’d get 2, 5, and 10 for that act but not until after fighting Clayton Stoner. Mike Yeo spent some time staring down Calgary head coach Bob Hartley after that fiasco.
- It should be mentioned that Dany Heatley had a great game. He showed patience on the ice, creativity, and was annoying for Calgary. He both adjusted his play to fit the 4th line role and created opportunities for his teammates.
- Tuesday’s game marked the first time the Minnesota Wild have scored three goals in a period (3rd).