Wild squander opportunity with another sloppy effort in 2-1 shootout loss to Florida

Kyle Brodziak & Jared Spurgeon

If any of you are on Twitter and are Wild fans, if you are not already, I'd high recommend you follow both Minneapolis Star Tribune's Michael Russo (@Russostrib) and Wild.com's Kevin Falness (@RadioFalness as they will from time to time banter back and forth as they attempt to zing one another.  Falness hosts the Wild's games on radio as well as does interviews for their use on Wild.com, and one thing he loathes about Russo is his use of Florida Panthers' references.  Michael Russo was the Florida Panthers beat writer from 1995 to 2005 where he moved to the State of Hockey to cover the Wild.  Russo almost goes out of his ways to drop Florida Panthers' references to the irritation of Falness.  During the Wild's last game, Wild captain Mikko Koivu discovered a snake in the Wild's dressing room at Tampa Bay's St. Pete Times' Forum.  Ironically enough the snake-bitten goal scorer registered his first goal of the season in a 3-1 loss.  Russo of course couldn't wait to compare Koivu's discovery of a snake in the locker room to former Florida Panthers' and Wisconsin Badgers' star Scott Mellanby discovering a rat in the locker room just prior to the season opener in 1996.  Mellanby promptly killed the rat with his hockey stick and in the game he ended up scoring the game winning goal in that game and the 'rat trick' was born.  It caught on quickly as Florida fans would shower the ice with rubber rats everytime the Panthers' scored, and in that magical 1996 season they went all the way to the Stanley Cup finals before being swept by the Colorado Avalanche.  The NHL actually instituted a rule because of the 'rat trick', a penalty would be given to the home team for delay of game for throwing objects onto the ice.  Technically you could say they'd institute this penalty if fans did this after a hat trick or a teddy bear toss like you see at minor league and major junior games but because it doesn't happen all of the time officials never enforce this.  Should Wild fans start throwing rubber snakes onto the ice whenever a Wild player scores?  Not to sound too similar to a certain cult classic movie, but how many snakes would a Wild fan need to bring to a game? 

Dany Heatley

Right now, the answer might be one or two snakes.  The Wild's lack of offense has set the team back with two back to back losses as the enter their final game of this 4-game road trip.  Minnesota needs to establish some secondary scoring and its weak penalty kill makes the Wild's margin of error rather slim.  So can they solve both problems against the Panthers tonight? 

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Niklas Backstrom

1st Period Thoughts:  (yawn)  Let me get that out of the way but that was a very boring and sloppy period of hockey.  The Wild made some changes to its lines and the chemistry the team had exhibited the last few games was non-existant against the Panthers.  Passes were often off target or missed altogether so the puck possession style sort of went out the window as Minnesota chipped the puck off the boards resulting in a plethora of needless turnovers.  Josh Harding had to bail out the Wild on a a bad turnover near the blueline by Mathew Dumba.  I understand the kid probably doesn't have a lot to learn playing in major junior but this team needs to seriously consider sending him down because right now one mistake can bury our team.  But Harding came up big and stopped Kris Versteeg on the breakaway to keep the game scoreless.  Minnesota carried most of the play as Florida was content to sit back and wait for a Wild mistake to pounce on.  Florida clogged up the zone, although at times they sent in two men on the forecheck and the pressure did draw some bad passes that luckily didn't turn into goals for the Panthers.  Penalties nearly got the Wild behind the 8-ball as Nino Niederreiter sat for high sticking but Minnesota's penalty killer stepped up and did a good job at denying passing and shooting lanes.  Minnesota's Kyle Brodziak made the Wild's job a little tougher as he hooked Tomas Fleischmann.  On the 5-on-3 the Wild were a bit scrambly but Marco Scandella and a fine little play by Niederreiter who re-joined the play knocked a puck out of the air and backhanded it down the ice.  Florida would then help out the Wild with a hooking penalty as Brad Boyes was sent to the sin bin.  Just moments after that Florida gave the Wild a 5-on-3 as Jesse Winchester hooked Jason Pominville as he was about to pull the trigger on a shot from the slot.  On the 5-on-3, the Wild started out with Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Pominville with Ryan Suter and Dany Heatley working the points.  Heatley looked shaky and slow on the 5-on-3 and Minnesota wanted to set him up for a big shot but the Panthers were waiting to pressure him so the Wild had to avoid him.  The Wild patiently moved the puck around the perimeter, moving it to Parise who tried to stuff it through Tim Thomas but he was able to shut the door.  Heatley would leave and be replaced by Jared Spurgeon.  Spurgeon would then get the lion's share of the opportunities as he tried blasting away but Thomas was up to the challenge and Minnesota wasn't able to get anything by Thomas.  The period would thankfully end and while Minnesota outshot Florida 11-7 the Wild were missing the net far too often and playing right into the Panthers' hands.  Hopefully the Wild exhibits a bit more fire in the 2nd.  

2nd Period Thoughts:  Minnesota apparently got chewed out a little as the team had a bit more jump and energy to their skates to start the period.  The Wild's hustle was causing the Panthers problems in their offensive zone as they got their forecheck going right away.  Minnesota would earn an early power play as Tomas Fleischmann hooked Mikael Granlund who seemed to be all over the ice throughout the period as he tried to skate with the puck into the slot.  Minnesota's 1st power play unit was guilty of trying to be a bit too fancy with the puck and even though they possessed the puck in the offensive zone they were not accomplishing much of anything.  The 2nd unit came on, with Heatley, Granlund and Niederreiter up front and they moved the puck with more purpose and crispness and they got Florida chasing around in its own end.  Heatley would move down low and slide a pass from beneath the goal line towards the crease that Niederreiter couldn't get to but the puck kept rolling out to the high slot where Jonas Brodin stepped into a slapper that deflected off Winchester and by Thomas to give the Wild a 1-0 lead on the power paly tally.  It was Brodin's 3rd of the season.  The Wild would continue to dominate the play, but I would still say they were not really playing 'their game.'  The team was still resorting to using the boards and glass for a lot of their passes and that meant they were spending more time chasing around the ice for the puck.  However, Florida wasn't able to get much of anything going the other way so they started to try to take out their frustration on the Wild with some physical play.  Mike Weaver would nearly decapitate Zach Parise with a check and then he'd level Mikko Koivu with a big check that drew cheers from the sparse Florida crowd.  A few minutes after Weaver's big hits the Wild had a big hit of their own as Erik Gudbranson and Stephane Veilleux collided near the dasher in the Florida zone.  Gudbranson wanted to light up Veilleux as he chased down a puck but Veilleux, whose 6'1" frame sits a little lower than the 6'4" defenseman had better leverage and the big man hit the boards pretty hard and this drew the ire of his teammates and gave Veilleux a boarding penalty.  Minnesota's penalty kill was again strong against Florida's weak power play.  The Wild would skate into the 2nd intermission leading 1-0, but a one-goal lead is one shot away from being worth nothing at all.  The Wild were playing to Florida's level and they still have some offensive issues they need to work out.  Minnesota outshot Florida 13-8.  Mikael Granlund is having a tremendous game.  He has shown speed, strength on his skates and with the puck as well as good instincts.  

3rd Period Thoughts:  The Wild seemed to take their foot off the gas a bit as they seemed content to defend its one-goal lead.  Bad move.  Minnesota would fail to apply much pressure on the Panthers and this invited a comeback.  The opportunity came on a Wild penalty, a foolish tripping penalty off a faceoff by Zenon Konopka.  The Panthers would move the puck around the Wild zone before Tomas Fleischmann stepped into a one-timer that beat Josh Harding cleanly to tie the game at 1-1.  The goal sparked the Panthers, and now you had two teams showing a little more desperation.  Minnesota would get a gift of two 'iffy' calls to give the Wild a 5-on-3 and instead of burying a power play goal to re-take the lead the Wild looked nervous and scared.  No one seemed to want to shoot the puck as they attempted pass after pass, and when they finally did shoot a shot by Pominville that was stopped on the door step by Thomas and the puck skittered across the crease and Parise pushed a shot wide of the mark on what should've been an easy tap in goal.  It was not a good sign.  If the period had a bright spot it was the play of Matt Cooke, Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter who moved the puck decisively and created some good chances as Granlund unloaded a big shot that rang off the post and the game would go to overtime.  

Overtime Thoughts:  The Wild showed the urgency it lacked in the 3rd period as Minnesota took every chance it could to shoot the puck.  Minnesota was moving well but they were not able to create a lot of quality shooting opportunities the first few minutes.  Lots of long range shots that Thomas had little trouble with.  Later in overtime the Wild had a great chance as Nino Niederreiter as he won a battle for the puck down low and then moved out front where he swung a shot on goal that was steered away by Thomas.  The Panthers had a great chance of their own as Harding went behind his net to play the puck and his pass was intercepted and pounced on by Jonathan Huberdeau who rifled a shot on goal that was snagged out of the air by the glove of Harding.  Minnesota had one last great chance as Mikko Koivu took a long outlet pass and would move across the blueline and into the slot where he seemed to be all alone and he inexplicably made a pass to no one that was picked up by Jared Spurgeon who slid it back to Koivu for a one-timer that was deflected on goal by Parise that was blocked away at the buzzer by Thomas to send the game to a shootout. 

Shootout Summary:  The Florida Panthers would elect to have the Wild shoot first.  The Wild's first shooter was Zach Parise and the Wild assistant captain tried to go backhand to forehand deke and Thomas was able to hold the post with his leg pad.  Florida's first shooter was Jonathan Huberdeau who moved a little to the right before moving down the slot before deking to his forehand which got Harding to drop and he patiently dragged it around the Wild goalie for an easy goal.  1-0 Panthers.  The Wild's next shooter was Mikko Koivu and I think everyone on the ice and in Minnesota knew what move he was going to use.  Unfortunately for him, so did Tim Thomas.  Koivu skated in where he attempted his patented forehand to backhand shelf move but Thomas was there to put his big glove up to knock the attempt down and keep Minnesota scoreless.  The Panther's next shooter was Brad Boyes and the former Toronto Maple Leafs 1st round pick would skate leisurely down the middle of the ice where he made a simple move of sliding a backhander through Harding, 5-hole to seal a 2-1 shootout victory.  

Josh Harding should sue for a lack of support as he gave up just one goal on 22 shots.  Harding came up with some terrific saves to bail out his team.  The breakaway stop on Versteeg was tremendous.  Minnesota played well defensively.  I thought Jonas Brodin and Jared Spurgeon both had a real solid game.  Its tough to blame the Wild's penalty kill which did give up a goal tonight but for the most part did a good job ad denying shooting opportunities for the Panthers.  

Offensively, the Wild's changes to the lineup were mostly ineffective.  Parise, Koivu and Pominville were a failure as a line.  All of them, including Parise seemed to lack confidence and were trying to make the perfect play too many times on the poor quality Florida ice.  Dany Heatley lack of wheels and jump needs to be addressed.  He holds back every line he's with.   The Wild's inability to capitalize on two-long 5-on-3 power plays doomed the Wild in this game and its something they need to figure out.  They got better chances from their youngsters than they did with the veterans.  Mikko Koivu may have hit a post but he pushed a lot of prime shots wide too.  On the bright side they had 31 shots, but 1 for 31 isn't going to win a lot of hockey games.

"I'm disappointed for our guys, to be honest with ya, they're playing they're tails off, they're playing well defensively but we're not winning games," said Wild head coach Mike Yeo in the post game press conference.  He said guys were pressing and lacking confidence and pointed to their dismal performance in two 5-on-3's.  "We have to figure something out, we can't keep trying to win with just one goal."  Other than that, you had your typical list of coaching cliches and the whole speech seemed to be a rationalization of the Wild's lack of finish.  He seemed to even hint at placing youngsters Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter on the top power play as well as hinting that some of the vets may be struggling and not wanting to demoralize them further by a demotion.  At this point are a player's feelings more important than wins?  My advice to those with the fragile confidence, score a goal, maybe you'll feel better.  5 goals in the last 4 games is unacceptable with the roster this team has.  Mike Yeo better make some changes or he might be a part of that change whether he wants it or not.  

Wild Notes:

~ The Wild roster this evening was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Nino Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund, Matt Cooke, Dany Heatley, Kyle Brodziak, Justin Fontaine, Torrey Mitchell, Zenon Konopka, Stephane Veilleux, Ryan Suter, Jonas Brodin, Mathew Dumba, Marco Scandella, Jared Spurgeon and Clayton Stoner.  Niklas Backstrom backed up Josh Harding.  Charlie Coyle (knee) and Mike Rupp (knee) were out of the lineup with injuries.  Nate Prosser was the lone healthy scratch.  

~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Tim Thomas, 2nd Star Josh Harding, 3rd Star Tomas Fleischmann

~ Attendance was 13,081 at BB&T Center.

~ The Iowa Wild traveled to Charlotte to play the Checkers, and the Iowa Wild played a sound defensive game as the earned a 3-1 victory.  Tyler Graovac scored his first goal as a professional off a rebound chance on a shot by Jonathan Blum.  Minnesota would add to its lead as speedy former Golden Gopher Taylor Matson swept a puck by Mike Murphy to make it 2-0.  The Checkers would answer back with a big shot from Chris Terry that beat Johan Gustafsson top shelf.  With Charlotte pouring it on, Zack Phillips would find a little room and charge down the slot before sniping a shot by Murphy to seal a 3-1 win for the Wild.  Gustafsson stopped 33 shots in the victory, the first road victory for Iowa in its franchise history.  The Iowa Wild play tomorrow against Charlotte around noon (CST).  

Minnesota Golden Gophers Hockey Report:

The Golden Gopher women continued their winning ways, earning their 54th consecutive victory with a 4-0 win over in-state arch rival UMD Friday night up in Duluth.  Sarah Davis, Megan Lorence, Dani Cameranesi (who's brother Tony ironically plays hockey for UMD) and Rachel Bona had the goals for the Golden Gophers.  Amanda Leveille had 19 saves in the shutout.  The second game would have a bit more drama as the lamp would be lighting up often but Minnesota again prevailed 6-3.  Sarah Davis got the Gophers going early with a goal, but UMD responded with a goal of their own as Hannah Bramm buried the biscuit but Davis would add one more to give Minnesota a 2-1 lead going into the 1st intermission.  The Gopher women would strike twice in the 2nd as Maryanne Menefee and Cameranesi found the twine but UMD cut the lead in half late in the period as Jenna McParland lit the lamp.  Minnesota continued to pour it on as Kelly Terry and Cameranesi bagged her second to seal the 6-3 rout and series sweep.  Leveille had 27 saves in the game.  The Gopher women are 6-0 this season.  

Meanwhile, the Golden Gopher Men's team traveled to Bemidji to take on the Beavers where they rallied back from an early Bemidji State lead to win 6-3.  Danny Mattson scored first for the Beavers, but Minnesota responded with goals from Travis Boyd and Ben Marshall to take a 2-1 lead going into the 2nd period.  Bemidji State would tie up the game early in the 2nd on a tally by Cory Ward but then the Gophers would answer back with a goal from Sam Warning.  Hudson Fasching continues his hot start with another goal early in the 3rd.  Radislav Illo power play goal cut the Gophers lead back to one, but Minnesota buried two more goals from Nate Condon and Connor Reilly to seal the 6-3 win.  Adam Wilcox had 18 saves in the victory.  Minnesota would earn the seriese sweep with a 5-1 victory on Saturday night.  Just like Friday, it was the Beavers that got out to an early lead as Jeff Jubinville scored, but after that it was all Gophers as they responded with 5 unanswered goals from Warning (with 2), Taylor Cammarata, Connor Reilly and Justin Kloos with the markers.  Wilcox made 24 saves in the win.  The Gophers are 4-0 this season.  

Wild Prospect Report:

RW – Adam Gilmour (Boston College, H-East) – The 6'3" winger had a huge night in a 9-2 rout of Wisconsin on Friday night.  Gilmour continues to play on the Eagles' top line with Bill Arnold and "Johnny Hockey" Johnny Gaudreau.  The former Muskegon Lumberjack had 3 assists in the thrashing of the Badgers and was a +3 with 5 shots on goal.  Gilmour has 3 assists in 3 games this season.  

LW – Mario Lucia (Notre Dame, H-East) – The lanky winger helped the Fighting Irish earn a 3-2 win over a pesky Michigan Tech squad on Friday.  Lucia who is playing on the Fighting Irish's 2nd line with T.J. Tynan and Bryan Rust had an assist, his first point of the season in Notre Dame's win.  Lucia has 1 assist in 3 games this season.  

RW – Kurtis Gabriel (Owen Sound, OHL) – The 6'4" 218lbs power forward had a huge night for the Attack as he chipped in a goal and two helpers in Owen Sound's 4-2 win over Sarnia Friday night.  While the assistant captain's goal was an empty netter it was a fitting reward for all his hard work each shift which also made him +3 on the evening.  Gabriel has 2 goals, 8 points and 2 PIM's in 7 games for the Attack this season.  

D – Dylan Labbe (Shawinigan, QMJHL) – The offensively gifted defenseman set up the Cataractes game winning overtime goal as Shawinigan earned a 4-3 victory over the Rimouski Oceanic.  Labbe continues to be a regular on the scoresheet, even as his team has struggled through much of the season thus far.  The 6'2", 192lbs blueliner has 1 goal and 8 points in 12 games this season.  

Jack Jablonski & Jenna Privette

About Derek Felska

I am a lifelong hockey fan from Minnesota who loves and appreciates the game at all levels. I have been blogging about the Minnesota Wild since 2005. I cover just about every aspect of the organization from the team itself, its coaches, its management, its broadcast as well as its AHL affiliate the Iowa Wild and the club's pool of prospects. In addition to the NHL I occasionally take the time to cover college and high school hockey as well. We are the State of Hockey and I want to make this blog informative and objective from the eyes of a fan. I am a fan of the Minnesota Wild, but I am no homer. I hope what you read reflects this approach!

Koivu lifts Wild to 3-2 victory on North Stars reunion night

Wild vs. Panthers

Minnesota North Stars hockey fans will remember the names like Bill Goldsworthy, Danny Grant, J.P. Parise, Bobby Smith, Bryan Bellows, Don Beaupre, Dino Ciccarelli, ‘Gump’ Worsley, Neal Broten, Willi Plett, Barry Gibbs, Basil McRae, Dennis Maruk, Brad Maxwell, Craig Hartsburg, Gilles Meloche, Steve Payne, Lou Nanne, Tom Reid, Mike Eaves, Scott Bjugstad, Jack Carlson, Curt Giles, Gordie Roberts, Jon Casey, Dave Gagner, Shane Churla, Al MacAdam, Dennis Hextall just to name a few.  I am sure the memories of watching these players who proudly wore the green and gold sweaters with one of the best logos in all of sports will be an event long remembered by those lucky to have attended it.  I think back to my first NHL game; back in 1981 when the North Stars played against the purple and gold clad Los Angeles Kings.  The sounds of the fans of old Met Center; where they were amongst the most intense fans in hockey.  Overall, the North Stars struggled throughout most of their tenure in Minnesota (1967-1993), and like the Minnesota Wild they were never really blessed with an overabundance of talent.  Yet they usually possessed lots of heart and energy which at times could make for a pretty feisty opponent.  The rivalries were far more intense during the North Stars’ days than they’ve ever been for the Minnesota Wild.  Wild fans hate Vancouver, but even that hatred pales in comparison to the complete full on hostility North Stars fans had for the Chicago Blackhawks and their resident tough guy Al Secord.  Chicago fans hated the North Stars with an equal amount of vitriol and would proudly burn ‘Dino’ the Dinosaurs prior to games as scorching effigies of their rival.  Before the NHLPA put the brakes on what looked like a sure-thing division re-alignment; an adjustment that was very well received by Wild fans many hoped having Chicago back in the division could rekindle some of that old hatred.  If you’re too young to remember the North Stars, perhaps this will show you why so many fans like myself will always love that team.  

Many of the former North Stars greats will be in Minnesota for tonight’s game as well as the Saturday night tilt against Los Angeles.  I have little doubt you will see a ton of North Stars sweaters in the building as the alumni of Minnesota’s former club gets together for what should be a fun and memorable weekend.  The Wild will hope to add to that positive mood by earning two points against a team that is fighting to stay atop the Southeast Division as the Washington Capitals make a late push as the hope to claw their way into the 3rd spot in the Eastern Conference.  Will the Wild let the Panthers have their way or will they showcase the tenacity that will be reminiscent of the North Stars that they honor that evening? 

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Cal Clutterbuck

1st Period Thoughts:  The Wild looked a little lethargic to start the game, as they were sitting back in a 1-2-2.  The Panthers looked cautious and careful, not wanting to take any big risks with the Wild playing so passively as they were.  Jason Zucker had his first shift where he looked a little lost, he never really turned on the jets and was looking to get rid of the puck quickly whenever it came close to him he just chopped at it and slowly followed it around.  Neither club was finding a lot of a time and space and both Jose Theodore and Niklas Backstrom had to be a little bored.  It was almost 6:30 in when the Wild had its first quality scoring chance as Kyle Brodziak found himself all alone in the slot but all he could get off was a weak backhander that was stopped by Jose Theodore and then Cal Clutterbuck shoveled the rebound wide of the mark.  Florida would then have its best chance to this point a few moments later as Kris Versteeg dangled a puck around a Wild defender and he tried to out wait Backstrom where he swung a shot into the crease towards Stephen Weiss who was wide open for what looked to be an empty net and as he tried to direct it on goal Marco Scandella came up with a goal-saving block that sent the puck up and over the net.  A few minutes later the Wild attempted to pressure again as Dany Heatley set up Devin Setoguchi who swung and fired a lazy shot that was partially blocked and then in the chase for the biscuit Mikko Koivu would hauled down Dmitri Kulikov for a penalty.  Minnesota had a good shorthanded chance right away as Darroll Powe stole a puck and he fired a snap shot that was fought off by Theodore.  The Panthers would answer back as they drove to the net and then tried to stuff a puck through Backstrom who held strong.  The game was pretty boring, with both clubs taking few risks and not able to create much of anything in the way of scoring chances or sustained offensive pressure.  The Panthers threatened late in the period as a quick play developed from behind the goal as Marcel Goc moved the puck out front where Shawn Matthias was nearly able to tap it in but was disrupted by a few alert Wild defenseman.  The period would end with both clubs knotted at 0-0; overall a pretty boring and uninspired period of hockey.  This seems ridiculous but scorekeepers say the Wild out shot the Panthers 13-9; for whatever reason I don’t remember nearly that many shots. 

2nd Period Thoughts:  I have to admit, the way the Wild started the 2nd made me a little nervous as the Panthers kept Minnesota hemmed in its own zone and cycling with near impunity.  Fortunately, the Panthers puck possession was all it was; and it did not translate into a lot of shots on goal.  A friend of mine over at the Wild.com message boards has been increasingly critical of the play of Nick Johnson saying he isn’t working as hard and has been hesitant to go into the corners the way he did earlier in the season and I have to agree with him.  Johnson was shying away from contact on more than one occasion which was a big reason the Panthers had their way in the Wild zone.  At the end of this long shift for the Wild’s 3rd line of Erik Christensen, Jason Zucker and Nick Johnson; they would get a little lucky as Minnesota cleared a puck that occurred during the middle of a Panthers’ line change that gave Jason Zucker his first NHL scoring chance and the speedy winger sped into the Florida zone where he fired snap shot that just missed high and wide.  Minnesota would give Florida its 2nd power play of the game as Kyle Brodziak lifted the stick of Wojtek Wolski who actually high sticked himself.  As if the blown call was frustrating, just seconds after that Wolski would see Brodziak looking at him and he butted his head right into the mouth of Brodziak that set him off at the official.  No call on the head butt and Brodziak would sit in the box for high sticking.  It was a costly power play as the Panthers scored off the rush as Wild killer Scottie Upshall feinted at a pass before firing a wrist shot by Niklas Backstrom to make it 1-0.  The goal made an already catatonic crowd that much more quiet, and the Panthers would continue to apply pressure as Sean Bergenheim fired a shot on goal that was blocked aside by Backstrom and the puck was swept up by Tomas Kopecky who lifted a shot to the side of the net.  Minnesota tried to rally some offense by working the puck deep in the Florida zone, but despite causing a little havoc the Panthers circle the wagons and got in the way of shots reaching Jose Theodore.  The period would end uneventfully but you could hear a few boo’s from the crowd who was annoyed by the futility of the Wild effort.  Minnesota was out shot 8-4 and the Wild had another period with far too little offense and shots to really make a difference.  How many more times do we have to watch Devin Setoguchi lose the puck as he tries to work it from his forehand to his backhand for some kind of idea of his when it was obvious to everyone his linemates and everyone else just wanted him to shoot the damn puck? 

3rd Period Thoughts:  There was a little tenacity to start the 2nd period as Stephane Veilleux tried to spark his team with a little cheap play as he hacked at Scottie Upshall who fell to the ice as if he was shot.  There was lots of chirping back and forth but no penalties were called.  Minnesota would go on the attack and as the puck bounced around about 20 feet from the crease it was gathered up by Kyle Brodziak who moved around to his backhand where he slipped shot through 5-hole to tie the game at 1-1.  On the next shift, Veilleux would get buried by Erik Gudbranson, and the Panthers continued to battle with the Wild for the puck and it was Veilleux holding the stick of Gudbranson that got him sent to the box for holding the stick.  An irate Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo let NHL referee Mike Leggo have it but it was a legit call.  Minnesota would struggle to clear the zone but they were able to keep the Panthers (who were fairly passive on the power play) at bey and the Wild tried to go back on the attack.  The 3rd line would storm follow up a wrist shot by Nick Johnson that gave Theodore some problems as they hacked and poked at the puck to no avail.  Minnesota would get its first power play of the game as Kulikov was tagged with a hooking call.   The Wild did very little with the power play apart from one close in chance that was foiled as the Panthers’ defense got physical near their crease and kept Cal Clutterbuck and Kyle Brodziak from jamming in another goal.  When the Wild tried to work the point, Tom Gilbert couldn’t hold the zone and the man advantage fizzled.  A few minutes later Kyle Brodziak would slash the leg of Stephen Weiss for an obvious call.  Just a few seconds into the man advantage the Wild ‘helped’ their cause when Mikko Koivu batted a puck out of the air out of play for a delay of game call giving the Panthers a 5-on-3.  The 5-on-3 would be short-lived as Kris Versteeg lifted his stick right into the ear hole and underneath the visor of Tom Gilbert.  Gilbert sat on all fours on the ice with a stick blade right in his face as the officials had to help him pry it loose for one of the most obvious high sticks ever.  Now with the ice very open in a rare 4-on-3 power play, the Panthers would start moving the puck with relative ease as Jason Garrison hammered a slapper that was blocked away by the shoulder of Backstrom but it simply was a matter of time.  Florida continued to take advantage of the open ice and Tomas Fleischmann moved in and lifted a forehand over Backstrom to put the Panthers up 2-1.  The Panthers tried to add to their lead and a point shot by Kulikov struck the post and out to Bergenheim but he was knocked down by Gilbert before he could convert on the tap in goal.  Even as the Wild pulled Niklas Backstrom with about a minute left you could hear the frustrated yells from the crowd who I think wanted to see the game end.  However the Wild would instead light the lamp as Tom Gilbert fired a shot from near the top of the right faceoff circle that was redirected by Koivu that struck the left post and Erik Christensen was there to pounce on the puck to tie the game at 2-2. 

Overtime Thoughts:  The Wild would waste very little time in overtime to add a little excitement to a dead arena; as Mikko Koivu dangled through the Panthers’ defense to beat Theodore on a backhander to win the game just 15 seconds into overtime.  Where the heck has that been all year long? 

Niklas Backstrom was decent, making 25 saves in the victory.  His rebound control was reasonable and he kept Minnesota in the game when it was accomplishing very little in the offensive end.  Defensively I thought the Wild again looked pretty suspect at times; especially on the power play where they were guilty of losing their men.  Tom Gilbert may have chipped in two assists but I thought his inability to hold the offensive zone and some of his passes in the defensive zone left a lot to be desired for the guy who is supposed to be the leader on the blueline.  Justin Falk looked very rusty and suspect out there. 

Offensively, I was pretty disappointed with the effort from the top line; especially Devin Setoguchi and Dany Heatley who both look pretty uninspired.  I know both guys are used to being in the playoffs but there is no excuse for not being assertive and taking their opportunities to shoot the puck.  That is why this team went out to get both of you; it wanted you to shoot the puck.  Minnesota got most of its shots from its 2nd and 3rd lines which is good to see the other parts of the team delivering the top line should be more of a force throughout the game than it was.  Mikko Koivu’s move was impressive but I think it had a lot of us wondering where the heck was that kind of assertiveness was when this team was still in playoff contention?  I thought it was an ok debut for Jason Zucker but he didn’t really stand out as anyone extra special.  He certainly didn’t look ridiculously fast out there as he does at the college ranks.

The two points really do little to help the Wild; in fact it could be argued points only hurt the club in the long term.  I feel pretty conflicted during these last few games as Minnesota is in prime position for a lottery pick in this year’s draft.  Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo, “We were ok defensively, but overall we were playing pretty easy out there,” as far as the officiating when asked if this team was getting a raw deal Yeo nodded and said, “it certainly seems like it, but we weren’t really doing enough to get those kind of breaks our way either.”  The 2nd day of the North Stars reunion is Saturday, who knows…maybe the Wild will give those alumni a win too. 

Wild Notes:

~ Wild roster tonight is as follows: Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi, Erik Christensen, Jed Ortmeyer, Warren Peters, Stephane Veilleux, Jason Zucker, Kyle Brodziak, Nick Johnson, Cal Clutterbuck, Justin Falk, Clayton Stoner, Tom Gilbert, Steven Kampfer, Marco Scandella, and Nate Prosser.  Josh Harding backed up Niklas Backstrom.  Matt Kassian, Jared Spurgeon, Kurtis Foster and Matt Cullen

~ The 3 Stars of the Game as selected by the fans were: 1st Star Brian Campbell, 2nd Star Darroll Powe, 3rd Star Tomas Fleischmann (who in the hell picked these stars?  Was it a drunk Neal Broten?  No star for Mikko Koivu??)

~ Attendance was 16,952 at Xcel Energy Center.

~ Jason Zucker wore #16 for the Wild; which had been worn previously by Bill Muckalt, Steve Kelly, Andrew Ebbett, Brad Staubitz, Roman Simicek and Steve McKenna

Houston Aeros Report:

Chay Genoway  Houston Aeros’ Chay Genoway

Houston 2, Milwaukee 3  OT

Houston was hustling well, as they had confidence that Matt Hackett had returned between the Aeros’ crease.  The Aeros’ hard work was drawing penalties at a fair rate and Houston was peppering the Admirals’ Jeremy Smith with shots.  Even though Houston had two power plays in the 1st period they wouldn’t manage to get anything by Smith; not until an Admirals’ power play at least.  A turnover in the neutral zone by Kris Fredheim was pushed up the ice to Chad Rau who worked a 2-on-1 with David McIntyre and it was Rau setting up McIntyre for a goal to give the Aeros a lead on the shorthanded tally.  Unfortunately, the Aeros couldn’t hold the lead as Milwaukee struck with less than a minute left in the 1st, as Chris Mueller ripped his 28th goal of the season by Hackett who felt he was interfered with by Brodie Dupont who was camped out in the blue paint.  Hackett protested but to no avail.  The Aeros would light the lamp early in the 2nd period as McIntyre fired a shot that struck the jaw of Jonathan Blum (ouch) and the puck skidded over to Chay Genoway who fired a bullet of a shot that beat Smith to give Houston a 2-1 lead.  In the 3rd period, the Admirals would tie the game a second time as Dupont fired a shot that beat a well-screened Hackett.  Houston tried to rally back but they were unable to get the go ahead goal before regulation ended sending the game to overtime.  In overtime the Admirals were attacking well and they would draw a hooking call on Aeros’ captain Jon DiSalvatore.  It would prove costly as former Wild draft pick Kyle Wilson buried the game winner with just 3 seconds left in overtime and deny the Aeros of a crucial point in the Western Conference standings.  Hackett made 17 saves in the loss.  UPDATE:  The Aeros lost another tough one tonight, as they fell 4-3 in a shootout to the Lake Erie Monsters.  Nick Palmieri, Jon DiSalvatore, and Kris Fredheim on the goals, while Hackett had 25 saves in the loss. 

Wild Prospect Report:

Johan Larsson  Brynas’ Johan Larsson

C / RW – Charlie Coyle (Saint John, QMJHL) ~ Charlie Coyle continues to lead the way for the Saint John Sea Dogs as they rolled to an 8-2 win over Cape Breton on Tuesday, giving them a commanding 3-0 series lead.  Coyle kept piling up the points, scoring 2 goals in the rout.  The former Boston University stud has 8 goals, 4 assists and has been a remarkable +12 in just 3 playoff games.  The Weymouth, Massachusetts-native went 6-for-11 (54.5%) on his faceoffs as well.  The next night, Coyle added another goal giving him a grand total of 9 for the series as the Sea Dogs swept the Screaming Eagles. 

C – Zack Phillips (Saint John, QMJHL) ~ The post-season has been almost as impressive as Coyle’s as he contributed two helpers in the 8-2 steamrolling of Cape Breton.  Phillips has 2 goals, 8 assists and is a +11 in 3 games.  Like Coyle, Phillips was also very strong on his draws; going 5-for-7 (71.4%) on the evening.  On Wednesday, Phillips again worked as a set up man as he had two assists in the 5-1 series clinching victory as well as going 4-for-8 (50%) on his faceoffs. 

D – Jonas Brodin (Farjestads BK, Eliteserien) ~ Brodin and Farjestads BK advanced to the semi-finals of the Eliteserien playoffs by eliminating Brynas.  The Karlstad, Sweden-native has a goal and no assists and is +1 in 7 playoff games. 

C – Johan Larsson (Brynas, Eliteserien) ~ Unfortunately for this Wild prospect his season comes to an end, as his club was eliminated by Farjestad.  Larsson continued to find his way onto the score sheet, registering 2 assists and was a -1 in 6 playoff games. 

Jack Jablonski & Jenna Privette

About Derek Felska

I am a lifelong hockey fan from Minnesota who loves and appreciates the game at all levels. I have been blogging about the Minnesota Wild since 2005. I cover just about every aspect of the organization from the team itself, its coaches, its management, its broadcast as well as its AHL affiliate the Iowa Wild and the club's pool of prospects. In addition to the NHL I occasionally take the time to cover college and high school hockey as well. We are the State of Hockey and I want to make this blog informative and objective from the eyes of a fan. I am a fan of the Minnesota Wild, but I am no homer. I hope what you read reflects this approach!