The Minnesota Wild lost in overtime Saturday night to the Calgary Flames in the Saddledome. Another ugly 2nd period torpedoed the Wild’s effort tonight. They trailed 3-1 just 1 minute into the 3rd period but battled back with 2 goals in the last 10 minutes to tie the game and force OT. Calgary’s Mikael Backlund swatted a puck out of the air and into the net to take the extra point in extra time. The Wild have now taken at least a point in 3 of 4 games on this road trip going 1-1-2 and that means 4 of 8 possible points. Frankly, the Wild didn’t play well until the 3rd period. Minnesota got a shorthanded goal from Matt Cooke in the 1st and goals by Dany Heatley and Keith Ballard in the final frame to secure a point in the tight Central Division standings. Minnesota now returns home for a pair of games against the Lightning and Predators before the 20 day Olympic break.
After the game Heatley said, “A point’s a point, but It would have been nice to get two.” The Flames game plan became apparent early tonight. Punish Minnesota physically and shut down the line of Zach Parise, Jason Pominville and Mikael Granlund. For the most part the Flames did just that as the Wild’s top line all had negative ratings, Parise -2, Granlund -3, and Pominville -2, that’s a combined -7 on the night. Granlund and Parise did have the helpers on Heater’s 3rd period goal. That gives Team USA’s Captain a total 8 points in the last 3 games. The Wild once again had a bad start. In his post game comments Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said, “We have to rectify that, we have to make sure that we’re ready to start the game better and obviously play more of a 60-minute game.” Yeo added, “I just thought that defensively we were OK. Offensively we were very much on the perimeter, not gritty enough, not dirty enough. Took us getting down 3-1 to really start to develop that mentality and obviously it produced some results.”
While this was a tough pill for the Wild to swallow they did secure a point giving them a total of 64 which puts them 6 points ahead of Dallas and Nashville in the Central. They now however, trail the Avalanche by 10 points in the race for third. The Av’s won Saturday 7-1 against Buffalo. Wild Coach Yeo was pleased that his squad did gain at least a point saying, “Our guys at the end of a long road trip battled back when you’re down 3-1 with less than 10-minutes left and you can point to that as quite a positive.” Minnesota did get out shot heavily in the second, 18-4 after keeping it close in the first where Calgary had just a one shot edge 6-7. Heading into the third out shot 25-10, the Wild suddenly found their offense putting 12 shots on net, scoring twice, while the Flames could manage just 4 shots in the period. One of those shots by Calgary found the back of the net at the 1:00 mark of the 3rd. Mikael Backlund scored a short handed goal after teammate Lance Bouma took a penalty just 19 seconds in the period giving the Wild a chance to tie the game. A bad turnover at the Blue Line led to the goal. After the game Coach Yeo spoke about the Calgary goals saying, ”Every time we got the puck in the offensive zone we just threw it away, gave it to them, broke it out for them. Obviously when we’re playing our best, when we’re playing well, we’re strong on the puck in the offensive zone, we’re moving our feet and I didn’t see any of that in the early part of the game.”
The two bright spots in the first two periods were Matt Cooke and Darcy Kuemper. Matt Cooke out on the penalty kill with Charlie Coyle in the box for a delay of game penalty, picked up a loose puck and headed down the left wall before unleashing a massive slap shot that beat Flames goalie Reto Berra high in the right corner. The goal was Cooke’s 9th of the season. That tied the game a 1 but the Flames would score their 2nd of the game just 4:21 later. Keumper faced a lot of rubber in the 1st and 2nd period stopping 23 of 25 shots. After the early third period goal that put Calgary up by two, the Wild started to come to life. Dany Heatley cut the Flames lead to one with a power play goal with 9:29 to play. Heater was perfectly positioned at the side of the net and used some quick hands to put a loose puck up high before Berra could react. The goal is Heatley’s 10th of the season to go with 12 assists. It also marked the Wild’s third straight game with a power play goal. Minnesota was 1 for 4 with the man advantage while the Flames were 0 for 4. Some 5:24 later Keith Ballard would score his 2nd of the season after pinching in, picking up a rebound. and putting a wrist shot short side the just slipped by Berra and the post to tie the game at 3. The score would remain tied through then end of regulation. The Wild skated well in OT but the Flames Backlund would score his 2nd goal of the night with 2:35 left to play to take the second point. Calgary ends a 5 game home stand with their fifth straight victory.
Darcy Kuemper takes the loss dropping his record to 6-3-2 on the season. He totaled 28 saves on 32 shots Saturday, giving up just one bad goal. He tried to sweep a puck forward so he could glove it but instead missed it handing the puck right to a Calgary player who snapped it home. Kuemper continues to play very well and I expect to see him in net when the Wild return home and face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday. The four goals raised Kuempe’rs goals against average to 2.63 and his save percentage drops to .913.
Minnesota now needs to focus on their next game against a tough Tampa Bay squad that has 69 points, the 2nd best record in the Atlantic Division and the 3rd best in the Eastern Conference. I’ll be back with a preview of that game on Tuesday Morning. I’m sure the Wild will be gals to be on home ice, but they have to be careful to avoid a letdown as sometimes happens in the first game after a long road trip. Until then folks this is Scott Drain still believing and still chanting, “Let’s Go Wild!!”