The Minnesota Wild’s win streak stands at 5 with a 3-2 victory over the Calgary Flames at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Once again Darcy Kuemper was solid in goal allowing 2 goals on 23 shots and raising his record to 11-3-2 with his 5th straight win. This 5 game regulation win streak is the teams longest since the end of the 2007-08 season. Minnesota also welcomed back Captain Mikko Koivu and defenseman Marco Scandella after stints on IR. The game also featured the first time the Granlund brothers played against each other in the NHL. The Wild’s Mikael Granlund had two assists and went 7 for 11 on the the faceoff dot while Calgary’s Markus Granlund picked up his first NHL point with an assist on a goal by Mark Giordano with 4 minutes left in the game. The Wild win brings their overall record to 34-21-7 and the team now trails Colorado by 8 points for 3rd in the Central Division. Minnesota continues to hold the top Wild Card spot in the Western Conference and Dallas is 7 points back in the second Wild Card position.
Once again a balanced scoring attack led Minnesota to victory. They got goals from the third line, a defenseman and the top line. The two teams play a somewhat lackluster and even sloppy first period before the Wild opened scoring at 9:02 of the second period. When Flames net minder Reto Berra misplayed the puck behind his net Matt Cooke swooped in and knocked the puck away, gathered it in and slid a pass to Kyle Brodziak. The centerman took the puck, went forehand to backhand and flipped the puck into the empty net before The Flames Berra could recover. That goal gave the Wild a lead until Mike Cammalleri tied the game with 3:19 to go in the second frame. The puck deflected off of the Wild’s Koivu as he blocked a shot by Calgary’s Dennis Wideman. Cammalleri collected the puck and sent a shot into the Minnesota net before Kuemper could adjust his angle. That goal would be the closest the Flames would come to a lead the rest of the game. While this was definitely not the Wild’s prettiest win, there was lots of sloppy passing, turnovers and inaccurate shooting, it was a win. In his post game comments Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said, “We wanted to get off to a real good start. We also said we wanted to get better every game. I don’t feel we got better in this game, but we can use this game to get better the next game.” Yeo is right. They need to work on what wasn’t good about this game and use it to get ready for Dallas who they lead in the Wild Card race by 7 points. Even more they need to get better before they play the St. Louis Blues, the top team in the Central Division with 86 points. The are tied in points with the Chicago Black Hawks but have the lead on tie breakers.
In the third period the Wild would take the lead for good on a power play goal by defenseman Jared Spurgeon. With the Flames Captain Mark Giordano in the penalty box on a hooking call the Wild’s top power play unit went to work. After some nice passing work Mikael Granlund connected on a pass to Ryan Suter who found an open Spurgeon at the left point. The Wild defense man wound up an sent a shot through traffic that beat Calgary net minder Berra cleanly into the upper right corner of the net. It was a pretty shot to end the second and last power play the Wild would have in the game. There were only three penalties called total in the game, a single goal tender interference call on Keith Ballard would be the only penalty taken by a Wild player all game. The Flames would take the other two, the second leading to Spurgeon’s goal. The first was a holding call on Calgary’s Mikael Backlund 4:28 into the second period. The Wild would take a two goal lead at the 14:44 mark of the third period. After Jason Pominville hit Mikael Granlund with a pass the Minnesota assist wizard sent a hard pass across the front of the Flame’s net from the corner. Meanwhile Zach Parise had moved into position on Berra’s back door with his stick on the ice and deflected the puck into the net before the Flames goalie could react. Calgary would not go away quietly this evening and closed to within a goal with 3:59 left in the contest. The Flames’ Granlund would earn his first NHL point after finding Mark Giordano with a pass that the Flames Captain would one-time into the Wild net. Despite pulling goalie Berra with over a minute remaining for an extra attacker the Minnesota one goal lead would stand and the Wild would win their fifth straight in regulation with confidence,
Mikael Granlund’s performance earned him recognition from the NHL Network as their #1 Star Of The Night. The Network would also honor Darcy Kuemper as the “Total Hockey Impact Player Of The Game”. This comes on the heels of Kuemper’s selection as the #3 Star Of The Week by the NHL. Since returning from the Olympic break Kuemper is 3-0-0, with a goals against average of 1.00, and a top level save % of .04. Over the Wild’s five game win streak he’s allowed a total of 6 goals. With Kuemper in net the Wild are playing with confidence knowing he’s going to be solid and even dominating. He sure doesn’t look like a rookie with his 11-3-2 record for the season.
The Wild now have an unusual luxury of a 4 day break before their next game and a win going in to those days off from games sure helps the mindset. That brings the team into Saturday and Sunday’s back to backs against The Dallas Stars and the St. Louis Blues. The Minnesota Wild are HOT right now and playing some of their best hockey this season. If they keep playing like this catching Colorado is a realistic possibility. I’ll be back Saturday morning with a preview of Minnesota Wild vs Dallas Stars. Until then this is Scott Drain shouting out for all to hear, “LET’S GO WILD, LET’S GO WILD!!!”