The Minnesota Wild shutout and shut down the Pittsburgh Penguins by a 4-0 final score. No, that’s not a typo, the Minnesota Wild actually battled their way to scoring four goals against a team with the 8th lowest goals against average of 2.47 in the NHL. They beat the #2 team in the East that has piled up 49 regulation wins and 103 points. The Minnesota Wild took control of the game early on in the opening period and never relinquished that momentum. Ilya Bryzgalov had a brilliant game raising his record to 5-0-3 and remaining unbeaten in regulation as a member of the Wild. He faced only 20 shots spaced out well with 8 in the first,5 in the second and 7 shots in the 3rd period. Minnesota Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo was impressed with Brygalov’s s game saying, “Let’s not forget you always need saves every game. Let’s not forget that save he makes in the 2nd period of a 2 to nothing hockey game. Every team that wins hockey games sometimes those are the forgotten saves. It’s 2 nothing, if it’s all of a sudden 2-1, if they make another one after that? Well that gives us a chance to make it 3 nothing and obviously it’s a much different game 3 nothing to 2 one so those are huge moments.” Yeo continued saying, “But even the way he started the game, we were pretty good defensively but they had a bit of a push right from the start, they had some shots but he just setteled everything right down. He looked so calm and in control and the team definitely feeds of of that.”
The Minnesota Wild, with the victory, have increased their lead int he Western Conference Wild Card race to 5 points over the Dallas Stars and 6 points over the Phoenix Coyotes. The Stars still have 1 game in hand over the Wild and Coyotes who both have 4 games remaining on the schedule. If the Wild can earn a victory Monday night in regulation or OT they will be guaranteed a place in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Saturdays win was truly a team effort with goals coming from the 1st, 3rd, and 4th lines. Erik Haula opened the scoring just 1:42 into the 1st period as he raced into the offensive zone and around a Penguin defender and backhanded the puck past Pittsburgh goalie for his 5th goal of the season. The Minnesota Wild had a total of 9 players register at least 1 point. The second goal of the opening period came from the stick of Captain Mikko Koivu, his 11th of the season. His tally at the 8:47 mark with assists from his linemates Zach Parise, his 24th and Charlie Coyle, 17th. Finally!! The Wild, who have been producing fast energetic starts lately, were rewarded with 3 first period goals. Yes, 3 goals by 3 different players in the 1st period by the Minnesota Wild, it’s great to see the Wild finally convert on the plethora of chances they’ve been producing early in games. That third goal from 4th liner Stephane Veilleux seemed to really take the wind out of the Pittsburgh sails. Cody McCormick started the play by forcing Penguin D-man and Elk River Minnesota native Paul Martin to turn the puck over. McCormick gained control of the puck and sent a pass to Veilleux who backhanded a shot off of Pittsburgh goalie Jeff Zatkoff‘s trapper and into the net. Veilleux now has 3 goals on the season.
The Minnesota Wild are playing like a desperate team right now which is exactly what they need to be. The team kept it up through the rest of the game Saturday and they need to keep it up through the last 4 games of the regular season. The fourth Wild goal of the night came once again from the fourth line. Cody McCormick scored on a one timer as he received a beauty of a pass from Zack Parise. McCormick scored his second of the season in his first game back after being a healthy scratch. That would be the extent of the Wild scoring this night. Not that Minnesota wasn’t trying they had a total of 20 shots on goal 14 over the final two periods. This was not a high shot total game with the teams combining for 40 shots total.
The Wild defense played quite well against a high powered offense though one of it’s big gums, Evgeni Malkin was scratched. The #1 player for the Penguins, Sidney Crosby was held to 0 goals, 0 shots, 0 assists and was a -1 on the night. He also had 0 penalty minutes, was a paltry 29% in the face off circle and accomplished all of this in 19:39 of ice time. Basically the Minnesota Wild flat out shut Sidney Crosby down this night in St. Paul. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo had this to say about his teams ability to be tough to play against, “We’ve been a tough team to play against at home, more often than not that translates into wins, but it’s how you play the game that gives you that result and that’s what we wanted to reestablish in this game is how we defend, and how we execute and I thought our guys did a good job.” The Minnesota Wild picked up a huge win Saturday night against one of the very best the Eastern Conference ha to offer. All in all this was a satisfying victory. Now it’s time to turn the page and move on to the game with the Winnipeg Jets in Winnipeg Monday evening with puck drop slated for 7 pm Central Time. I’ll be back Monday morning with a preview of that battle. Until then this is Scott Drain calling out into the wilderness loud and strong, “Let’s Go Wild, LET’S GO WILD!!”
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