Wild come up short in 3-2 shootout loss to the Blue Jackets

Charlie Coyle

"Like sand through the hourglass, so are the Days of Our Lives" which is the intro to the famous NBC soap opera.  Its amazing how much an NHL season can be like a soap opera minus the love triangles.  There are disappointments, betrayal, happiness and times of sorrow.  For the Minnesota Wild they've had more then their fair amount of drama as they've had to replace some of the pivotal members of its cast with some younger players with mixed results.  In any soap opera, when a main character leaves its often shrouded in mystery.  Thanks to the way injury disclosure is handled in the NHL, when a player leaves the lineup due to a malady more often than not all you'll get is 'lower body' or 'upper body' injury.  Timetables are seldom shared but when yor team is struggling the fans wait anxiously for that player's return and it never seems to be soon enough.  The waiting is the worst part, especially as you watch the results and see unfavorable results flash across the ticker.  That unfavorable scores draws out the agony.  If you can get a few victories the gloom lifts and everyone is happy.    

Niklas Backstrom

So where are the Wild faithful right now?  Anxious and a little shaken.  With the team's points cushion all but gone the Wild are hanging on to 7th place by just 1 point above 8th place Detroit and just 3 points ahead of 9th place Dallas.  So unless the Wild wish to feel disappointment just like an ill-fated soap character they need to put up or shut up.  Its up to the club to turn its game around otherwise they'll find out they only have One Life (point) to Live.  So will the Wild manage to earn a crucial victory over Columbus or will the Blue Jackets and the other clubs chasing Minnesota gain some more ground?  

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Pierre-Marc Bouchard

1st Period Thoughts:  The fireworks started early as Brandon Dubinsky would end up dropping the gloves with Charlie Coyle after Coyle leveled Artem Anisimov with a big hit.  There were not a lot of punches thrown as both forwards wrestled before the rookie wrangled Dubinsky to the ice.  Coyle would be tagged with a match penalty as they said he made contact to the head.  Anisimov was bent over as he made the hit and it didn't look cheap or dirty at all and Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo protested the call but to no avail.  Dubinsky was given an instigator penalty which would make for 2 minutes of 4-on-4 action before it would be Columbus going on a 3-minute power play.  Neither club did much of anything with the extra ice as Columbus seemed content to just wait for their extended power play.  Minnesota's penalty killers were very active and motivated after teh call and they pressured the puck quite effectively, clearing the zone and making life difficult foro the Blue Jackets power play.  Good active sticks, excellent hustle as the Minnesota penalty killers were busy poking away passes really prevented Columbus of getting anything going on the man advantage.  As the penalty expired the Wild would break out of the zone in a 3-on-1 led by Kyle Brodziak along with Cal Clutterbuck and Jason Zucker and it was Brodziak moving down the slot where he fired a shot that missed just wide of the net.  The bad call seemed to get the Wild a little fired up and Cal Clutterbuck delivered a big hit to Dalton Prout and this caused a turnover which was passed over to Tom Gilbert who ripped a shot on goal that was knocked down by Sergei Bobrovsky but he lost track of it momentarily before sweeping it away just before Mike Rupp arrived looking to poke home a rebound.  However the Wild would draw a hooking penalty on Adrian Aucoin in the process and Minnesota would go on the power play.  The Wild were very assertive on the power play as they set up Parise for a few outstanding chances through the 1st half of the man advantage including a forehand chance in the slot that was stolen by a sick glove save by Bobrovsky.  Moments after that, the Wild set up Parise again in the high slot which was stopped by Bobrovsky and the puck went back to Parise but he had his stick lifted at the last moment before he could get off another shot.  As the Wild power play expired the Wild had a golden chance as Torrey Mitchell won a battle along the boards and he found Brodziak all alone in the slot who took the pass with his skate and worked it back to his stick but he'd misplay the puck and wasn't able to get a shot off as Bobrovsky slid out to absorb the puck.  The Wild would have another great chance as Zucker motored into the Columbus zone where he unloaded a slap shot on goal that created a rebound that was shoveled on goal by Mikael Granlund but Bobrovsky was able to make the save.  A fight would break out between Clayton Stoner and Jared Boll and Stoner got dominated by Boll who started up with some vicious uppercuts that seemed to get Stoner off balance and he could never do much more than throw a few hooks that didn't really land with any effect before falling to the ice.  Clearcut win for Boll, and another mistake by Stoner.  A few mintues later Jason Zucker as he took off into the Columbus zone where he sped behind the defense and Mikael Granlund found him with a beauty of a saucer pass that Zucker tapped on goal that Bobrovsky stopped with a leg pad save but Devin Setoguchi couldn't quite get there to cash in on the rebound.  Minnesota would keep applying pressure and their persistance would be rewarded as Brett Clark would take a shot from the point that was partially deflected by Pierre-Marc Bouchard and off Bobrovsky and his rebound would carom off the skate of Columbus' Jack Johnson and into the goal to make it 1-0 Wild.  it was an ugly, somewhat flukey goal, but the kind of goal you see Detroit resort to when they need to get things going.  Either way, it still counts and Bouchard would be credited with the goal.  Minnesota would play aggressively late in the game as hey skated into the 1st intermission up 1-0 which garnered and an appreciative ovation from the home crowd.  Coyle's match penalty forced Mike Yeo to shuffle the lines a lot more than he probably wanted to but it wasn't all that noticeable as the Wild were really flying all over the ice and Columbus had to feel lucky to only be trailing by one after being dominated so completely by Minnesota.  Jason Zucker certainly gave the Wild a big spark offensively and good things seemed to happen with each every one of his shifts.  Great opening period, but this team is going to need to score more than one if they want to win tonight.  

2nd Period Thoughts:  The Wild didn't have quite as much energy to start the 2nd as Columbus was trying to be more assertive in the offensive zone but they also would retreat quickly forcing the Wild to go through a gauntlet of Blue Jackets defenders if they wanted to get any pucks on Bobrovsky.  Minnesota seemed to be lulled into a sleep as they were chasing around their own zone as Brandon Dubinsky carried the puck down low and he'd spin and deliver a backhanded pass to the slot where Vinny Prospal stepped into a shot that beat Backstrom to make it 1-1.  The Blue Jackets started to utlize more of a puck possession style as they cycled the puck without much of a challenge by the Wild's defense and Columbus would add to its lead as after nearly another minute of zone time Fedor Tyutin ripped a shot by Backstrom who had Dubinsky in his his face.  2-1 Columbus.  Wild head coach Mike Yeo would call a timeout to chew his team out as they were not hustling at all.  Yet Minnesota did not respond immediately to the lecture as Prospal rang a shot off the crossbar.  Minnesota would try answer back as the top line of Parise, Koivu and Setoguchi would try to get something started off the rush as Setoguchi threaded a pass to Parise who hammered a shot on goal that was stopped Bobrovsky who then had to stop Parise's attempt to tap home the rebound as well.  The Blue Jackets were content to defend their lead as they sat back in a 1-2-2.  The Wild would continue to attack as Kyle Brodziak moved in a 2-on-1 with Setoguchi and Brodziak would deliver a pass to Setoguchi who tried to dangle around a sprawling Bobrovsky who was able to steal the puck off of his stick before he was able to make the stop.  On the play the Wild would get a power play as James Wisniewski was given a minor for elbowing.  Unfortunately the Wild would do nothing with the man advantage.  Too much passing, too many attempts to be fancy allowed the Columbus' penalty killers to get their sticks on pucks and clear the zone.  The crowd was not happy, booing on and off throughout the poorly executed power play.  After the failed power play, the Wild would try to raise its game physically and Cal Clutterbuck blew up Wisniewski with a huge hit and then moments after that it was Devin Setoguchi rocking Tyutin with a nice check of his own.  The Wild kept trying to storm the crease and Mikko Koivu managed to set up Parise for a point-blank range chance but Bobrovsky would shut the door.  Minnesota would get caught with 'too many men' on the ice in the closing minute of the period and Columbus would get a late power play.  With Bouchard serving the power play the Wild's penalty killers scrambled enough to prevent the Blue Jackets from adding to its lead but they had to feel disappointed after giving up those two quick goals after a lethargic start to the period.  Overally the energy level left a lot to be desired.  It was as though the Wild felt they could coast on its strong 1st period.  The Wild did manage to create some chances but they'll have to dig deep if they want to avoid another 3rd period of disappointment.  

3rd Period Thoughts:  The Blue Jackets would start the period with about a 1:20 worth of power play time and the Wild penalty killers did a good job of giving Columbus nothing of consequence with the man advantage.  The Wild would go back on the attack and the 2nd line would create a quality scoring chance as Granlund found himself alone behind the net with the puck and he'd tried to jam it near the left post but Bobrovsky made the stop even as Jason Zucker moved in to tap a shot on goal himself.  Minnesota continued to take its chances to go on the attack as the 3rd line of Bouchard, Brodziak and Setoguchi went on the attack and it was Bouchard firing a shot that was deflected up and into the netting behind the goal.  Niklas Backstrom wasn't entirely out of the game just yet as Columbus' 1-2-2 was bound to create turnovers in the neutral zone and it was Dubinsky stealing a puck and moving on a breakaway where he'd get of a wrist shot that was steered aside by the Wild goalie.  Minnesota would answer back with a great chance off a pretty saucer pass by Setoguchi who was trying to connect with a streaking Zucker who missed but Granlund was there to follow it up but Bobrovsky again came up with the save.  The Wild would get a break when Columbus was caught with 'too many men' on the ice as Minnesota would go on the power play.  Yet the power play would get out to a horrendous start as some poor decision making an execution would squander the 1st minute without much effort on the part of the Blue Jackets.  Minnesota only managed a wrist shot from the point by Mikko Koivu that was easily dismissed by Bobrovsky and the crowd would boo what was another brutal power play effort.  The Blue Jackets were working the puck deep and forcing the Wild to work the puck up the full length of the ice.  The top line would have another tremendous chance as Parise set up Jason Pominville for a quick shot that was kicked away by Bobrovsky right to Koivu who pulled the trigger that was stopped by the Blue Jackets netminder.  Minnesota went back on the attack and the 2nd line of Granlund, Zucker, and Setoguchi would work hard along the boards and Dalton Prout cross checked Setoguchi to the ice giving them a late power play.  Minnesota would not overlook this opportunity as they'd bury the equalizer as a point shot from Ryan Suter created a rebound that was Pominville fired home to tie the game 2-2.  With the sellout crowd very much back into the game the Wild tried to work for the go ahead goal as Mikko Koivu led the charge and he'd try to connect on a saucer pass with a crashing Zach Parise that just failed to connect.  The game would go to overtime.  

Overtime Thoughts:  Marian Gaborik had the first shot of the game as he sped around the Wild defense for a quick shot on goal that was fought off by Backstrom.  Columbus would have another great chance a few moments later as R.J. Umberger moved down the slot and he'd fire a shot that was stopped by Backstrom and swept away by Jonas Brodin.  The smallish tandem of Bouchard and Pominville would create some space with their speed as they ultimately set up Brodin for a shot that was held onto by Bobrovsky.  The Wild were never really able to get much going in overtime as they got caught in long shifts so when they had time and space they didn't have the legs to take advantage of it and the game would go to a shootout.  

Shootout Overview:  Minnesota would opt to shoot first and their first shooter was Zach Parise would try to race down the middle of the ice where he attempted to get Bobrovsky to drop with a little leg kick and Bobrovsky stayed still and his backhand bid was easily stopped.  Columbus' first shooter was Mark Letestu and the speedy forward would race in and he'd beat Backstrom with an excellent shot that sent the water bottle flying.  The Wild's next shooter was Mikko Koivu who took a wide left appraoach where he tried to feint at his forehand to backhand deke as he moved back to his forehand and Bobrovsky was all over it to make the stop.  Columbus' next shooter was former Boston College scoring ace Cam Atkinson and the diminutive shooter moved in with speed where he got Backstrom to drop on his backhand to forehand deke and he pulled the puck back and slid the puck around the Wild goalie to give his team the 3-2 shootout victory.  

You can't blame Niklas Backstrom on the loss, as he stopped 20 shots including some clutch stops late to keep his team in the game.  He was seeing the puck well and while he was torched in the shootout, the shooters executed their moves perfectly and I think the game never should've gotten to this point.  Defensively the Wild got a valiant effort from Ryan Suter who really labored to help make Marian Gaborik a non-factor.  There was no way Suter was 100% and I felt he Jonas Brodin was again excellent, while Brett Clark and Clayton Stoner were shaky.  The goals the Wild gave up were the result of a breakdown in effort as a team, not poor defensive play.  

Offensively the Wild had the best offensive pressure we've seen in a long time as they peppered Sergei Bobrovsky with 41 shots.  Bobrovsky stood on his head several times as good portion of those 41 shots were quality chances.  Minnesota was generating shots from its top 3 lines (which were being juggled all day long) and a big reason for that was the arrival of Jason Zucker, who had six shots on goal.  His speed and energy was contagious.  I thought Mikeal Granlund had his best game in a Wild uniform and he worked reasonably well with Zucker.  The Wild need to simplify its power play and I felt they had their best pressure when they just kept working pucks on goal, and when they did they were rewarded.  Whenever you're in a drought, trying to work the perfect play is often a recipe for frustration.  

Losing Coyle early on the weak sauce match penalty certainly disrupted things but I like the snarl the team had after that.  This team had some outstanding energy throughout the 1st, winning races to the loose pucks and putting Bobrovsky under siege.  Unfortunately they sleepwalked into the 2nd and that is really what cost them the game in my opinion.  The team gave up 2 goals in quick succession and they had a helluva time trying to claw their way back into the game.   Yes, it was a good effort but giving up two points to Columbus in a home game is a small disaster.  The team is floundering while teams on the outside like Dallas and Columbus are rallying back.    Mike Yeo did his best to sell the one point being an accomplishment but this was a defeat in more ways than one.  This team basically squandered an entire homestand with a sputtering offense despite some good goaltending from Backstrom.  Sorry, there's no sugarcoating that.  Now the team goes on a 3-game road trip where you have to look at each game being a must-win now.  The cushion is gone.  Its put up or shut up time for this team.  

Wild Notes:

~ Minnesota roster tonight was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Jason Zucker, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Mikael Granlund, Devin Setoguchi, Kyle Brodziak, Charlie Coyle, Cal Clutterbuck, Mike Rupp, Torrey Mitchell, Clayton Stoner, Brett Clark, Tom Gilbert, Jared Spurgeon, Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin.  Darcy Kuemper backed up Niklas Backstrom.  Nate Prosser, Justin Falk and Zenon Konopka were the healthy scratches while Matt Cullen is listed as day to day.  

~ The 3 Stars of the Game as selected by the fans were: 1st Star Sergei Bobrovsky, 2nd Star Jason Pominville, 3rd Star Ryan Suter

~ Attendance was 19,187 at Xcel Energy Center.

~ The State of Hockey News would like to congratulate St. Cloud State center and Hermantown, MN-native Drew LeBlanc on being named the 2013 winner of the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey's top player.  

~ The State of Hockey News would also like to congratulate this year's Men's NCAA Division I hockey champions, the Yale Bulldogs on their 1st ever NCAA title after a 4-0 win over Quinnipiac.  They join the University of Wisconsin: Eau Claire as the Men's college hockey national champs.  

Houston Aeros Report:  

Houston 4, San Antonio 1

As much as the Wild peppered Bobrovsky with shots tonight, the Houston Aeros did their best to pepper San Antonio's Brian Foster and Dov Grumet-Morris with shots as they fired 42 of their own on goal.  The only difference was the Aeros were being rewarded for their domination on the shot counter.  Houston got the scoring going as Justin Fontiaine scored on the power play late in the 1st off a nice pass by Erik Haula.  San Antonio would answer back early in the 2nd period with a shorthanded goal by Jared Gomes.  It was at this point the Rampage would go on a parade to the penalty box.  The Aeros would take the lead on a goal from Dan DaSilva and then a minute later they'd light the lamp again as Chad Rau ripped a shot off the faceoff to make it 3-1.  The bleeding would not stop as Fontaine scored again off a nice pass from David McIntyre.  The team would hold off the Rampage for the rest of the game.  Goaltender Mike Condon had 22 saves in the victory.  

Wild Prospect Report:

D – Mathew Dumba (Red Deer, WHL) ~ The young defenseman's major junior career is likely behind him now that his Red Deer Rebels were eliminated Thursday night in a 5-1 loss to Calgary who romped to a 4-1 series triumph.  It was mostly a series to forget for the Wild prospect who was collectively a -7 for the 5 games they played.  Dumba was held scoreless in all but one game, contributing an overtime game winner which really gives you kind of spoiler for those of you wondering what to expect from the defensemen.  He plays a high-risk, high-reward game and this season the 'victories' were overshadowed by the 'losses' and while he was able to give fans a few glimpses of his his terrific skill set he still was very inconsistent and my sources also told me he was more or less 'tuned out' all season long.  Yet, even a 'tuned out' Dumba had a fairly productive season in the WHL scoring 16 goals and 42 points in 62 games.  My guess is Dumba will get sent to Houston to join the Aeros who are trying to make the playoffs as well, and while they certainly could use a dose of offense he's going to have to earn his playing time from Head Coach John Torchetti

C – Tyler Graovac (Belleville, OHL) ~ In the exact opposite spectrum of Dumba is Tyler Graovac whose team advanced to OHL Eastern Conference finals with a sweep of Sudbury after a 5-0 victory Thursday night.  The Bulls brought Graovac in to be the offensive workhorse and he's been just that as he leads the diverse Belleville attack.  Graovac had a goal and an assist as well as a fight and an instigating penalty as the Wolves tried to thug it up in the closing moments of Belleville's victory Thursday night.  The Brampton-native has been consistently productive, pacing the Bulls offense with 5 goals, 17 assists and is a +10 in 10 playoff games.  Belleville will play the Barrie Colts in the Eastern Conference finals.  Graovac was also recently awarded the OHL's William Hanley Trophy as the league's  Most Sportsmanlike Player as well as being rated in OHL Eastern Conferences' post-season coaches poll as possessing the 2nd best shot and being considered to be the 3rd most dangerous player in the goal area.  You can read the whole article here.  

G – Johan Gustafsson & D – Daniel Gustafsson (Lulea, Eliteserien) ~ Gustafsson has managed to carry Lulea to the Eliteserien finals.  Unfortunately Lulea dropped game one, 1-0 to a high-powered Skelleftea attack led by former Los Angeles Kings' farmhand Bud Holloway.  You can't blame Gustafsson for the loss as he kept Lulea in the game making 39 saves in the contest.  The Koping, Sweden-native has been a huge reason for Lulea's success in the post-season posting some gawdy numbers with a 1.79GAA and a .932% save percentage.  Fellow Wild prospect, defenseman Daniel Gunnarsson was an even and had 2 PIM's in Lulea's loss to Skelleftea.  Gunnarsson had his best season yet in the Eliteserien, and has been a contributor in the post season notching 2 goals and 4 points in 12 playoff games thus far.  

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 time 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!

Defensive breakdowns hurt Wild in back and forth 5-4 overtime home loss to Columbus

Chris Mason stops a shot...

Sibling rivalry, the pleasant way of describing wars between brothers, sisters.  It can be subtle from one sibling feeling less favored than another or it can be direct with a fusillade of insults or physical abuse to let the other sibling know you may be related but you’re a bitter rival.  Growing up with a brother, we had more than our share of battles.  Luckily for me I was older and physically much bigger and stronger so the battles were usually pretty one sided.  Many of the battles were over issues of respect, and if I felt he was being a little too confident I felt compelled to put him in his place.  Like any younger sibling he was adept at playing the victim when it was to his advantage and I have little doubt he took a little joy at the scoldings I’d receive from my parents.  That’s all apart of the sibling rivalry right?  This is sort of what the relationship has been between expansion siblings Minnesota Wild and the Columbus Blue Jackets.  There is no playoff history between them and yet both clubs seem to ratchet up their animosity for one another.  Both teams find themselves virtually out of the playoff race so all they have is their mutual dislike of one another and is the perfect environment for another chippy contest. 

According to Kent Youngblood of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Minnesota’s lineup is not supposed to be any different than it was in their game against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday evening.  Expect sparks to fly early as both teams may not have a good chance to make the playoffs but they are in need of every point in addition to wanting to get the best of their rival.  The outcome may not be consequential at all, but this game is likely about pride more than anything else.  Just as I mentioned about my brother, sometimes it wasn’t about anything they did as it is about putting them in their place.  The Wild have had the better overall franchise record and that has been a constant source of irritation for Columbus and its fans, but its time to put them back in their place.  Will Minnesota be able to put its sibling in its proper place (behind them) or will the Blue Jackets get the best of them this afternoon? 

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1st Period Thoughts:  Kind of a strange period.  The Wild should be reasonably well-rested but you wouldn’t be able to tell by the first shift from the top line of Mikko Koivu, Andrew Brunette and Antti Miettinen as they very nonchalantly glided around the ice.  The Blue Jackets were not much better but they had more jump in their skates initially than Minnesota did.  Minnesota then had a much better shift from the 2nd line of Martin Havlat, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Kyle Brodziak.  Havlat was looking hungry and assertive as he ripped a few shots on goal that forced Mathieu Garon to come up with a few decent stops early.  Minnesota was keeping things pretty simple offensively, taking every opportunity to put shots on goal forcing Garon to stay alert in his crease.  Unfortunately, as soon as that 2nd line left the ice the Wild went back to being lazy and reactive on the ice.  Columbus started to apply some more pressure, and it was Rick Nash finding a little time and space and he ripped as shot that was absorbed by Niklas Backstrom who was battling the puck a bit in his first few saves, and after the shot Nash would give a shot to Clayton Stoner who would move towards the Blue Jackets leading scorer as the two players exchanged a little trash talk.  Talk about the highs and lows of a rookie in an NHL game was the play of Marco Scandella.  Initially he had a nice defensive play to deny Derek Dorsett of a breakaway using good positioning to direct his shot wide of the goal, but a few minutes later, Scandella abandoning his man Rick Nash to go play out towards the wing giving the Blue Jackets captain free reign through the slot where was set up for an easy goal that Backstrom had no chance on.  Minnesota did not wait all that long to respond, but it was an improbable combination to do so.  After some good hustle in the Wild zone it was John Madden leading a 3-on-2 rush and the cagey veteran drew Columbus’ Fedor Tyutin towards him as he brought the puck near the goal line before threading a pretty backhander pass cross-ice to a wide open Brad Staubitz for what was an empty netter to tie the game at one apiece.  It was a pretty feed and for Staubitz it ended a 79-game goal-less drought.  Minnesota would relax a bit after the goal and Columbus went back on the attack.  Niklas Backstrom had to come up with some big saves; the best was a shorthanded chance as he denied Sami Pahlsson in a 2-on-1 where it was Antti Miettinen making a costly turnover.  Speaking of Miettinen, he had a horrible period.  He appeared disinterested and his lack of focus led to multiple turnovers that quickly turned into scoring chances for Columbus.  The Blue Jackets dominated the remaining minutes largely because of mental mistakes by Miettinen. 

2nd Period Thoughts:  Another sort of enigmatic period play for the Wild where they had some excellent play and then the same lack of focus that ended up costing them on the scoreboard.  I loved the energy the Wild had at the start, moving their feet well and one player who obviously was being sent a message by the Minnesota coaching staff was Antti Miettinen who was relegated to the 4th line and Chuck Kobasew was moved up to work with Koivu and Andrew Brunette.  Kobasew’s edition resulted in the line having more jump and this turned the 1st line into a scoring threat.  Mikko Koivu almost immediately responded with a pretty attempt that was steered wide by Garon.  The Wild was also was playing more physically as Cal Clutterbuck, Chuck Kobasew and even Mikko Koivu was throwing their bodies around.  Minnesota was also continuing a steady stream of shots; even those coming from non-traditional shooters like Greg Zanon who had 3 shots on goal in the period.  The Wild’s hustle was starting to pay off as Cal Clutterbuck found himself set up in the slot and he unloaded a one-timer that was snagged out of the air by Garon’s glove.  The home team continued to persist and with some great work by Mikko Koivu to draw the defense towards him before sliding a pass back to Clutterbuck who was set up in the high slot and he rifled another one timer that beat Garon top shelf, glove side to give the Wild a 2-1 lead.  You could sense the level of confidence growing as Brad Staubitz took a pretty good run at the Blue Jackets’ Sami Lepisto who was helicoptered by the hit.  Derek Dorsett did not like the hit and went after Staubitz and the two would drop the gloves.  It was not much of a fight as Staubitz clearly was in control, throwing just a few punches that landed on the top of Dorsett’s head and eventually he’d wrestle the fiesty former Medicine Hat Tiger to the ice.  Dorsett would get an instigator but the officials also determined that Staubitz may have charged when he took his run at Lepisto meaning the teams would stay 5-on-5.  The tensions continued to build as Mikko Koivu unintentionally went knee-to-knee on Grant Clitsome.  A few moments later, Koivu would get into it with Scottie Upshall and both would push and shove each other as they both earned roughing calls.  The rough stuff would continue late in the period as Upshall gets into the face of Martin Havlat who pays him back with 5 quick jabs and both would go to the box.  With the ice now a bit more open 4-on-4 the Wild would get lazy and a horrible defensive breakdown had Rick Nash set up nearly all alone near the Wild crease as Backstrom stops his attempt and he’d swing the puck back to Kris Russell who ripped a shot by a sprawling Niklas Backstrom to tie the game at 2-2.  Minnesota had a big surge late in the period but the late-period let down squandered what was a pretty good period for the Wild. 

3rd Period Thoughts:  The 3rd period started with Minnesota feeling a little empty after giving up that late-period goal to the Blue Jackets.  That uneasy feeling would be amplified early when Jan Hejda took a pretty nonthreatening shot from the point that snuck through the pads of Niklas Backstrom and in.  Backstrom tried to complain that he was interfered with as Derrick Brassard passed through the crease briefly but made no significant contact and the replay clearly showed he was in position to make the stop but it got through, 5-hole.  The goal took the crowd out of the game and Minnesota just didn’t seem to have the legs to get back into the game.  That feeling took an even more desperate turn as Columbus entered the zone in a 3-on-2 where Rick Nash found some space and he fired a laser of a shot by Backstrom to put the Blue Jackets up 4-2.  At this point I thought the Wild were done, stick a fork in them, game over.  Luckily they didn’t listen to me, the Wild would go on an all out attack and with about 5 minutes left, Antti Miettinen found himself set up in the slot and he fired a bullet of a wrister that beat Garon to cut the Blue Jackets’ lead to one, 4-3.  The goal got the crowd back in the game and Minnesota went right back on the attack.  Every rush up the ice had a level of anxiety and anticipation, and the Wild’s chances were getting closer.  Just under two minutes left, a great battle for the puck by John Madden who turned and passed the puck back to Matt Cullen who dished it over to Jared Spurgeon who wound up and uncorked a slapper that was stopped by Garon, but Pierre-Marc Bouchard was right there to bang home the rebound to tie the game at 4-4.  Minnesota was firing on all cylinders and continued to apply pressure until the horn sounded ending regulation.  There was a good feeling in the building.     

Overtime Thoughts:  Minnesota really was pouring it on right from the drop of the puck.  The Wild was taking every chance to go on the attack throughout overtime.  Any player that was on the ice for Minnesota was joining the rush and even having chances to win the game.  The first great chance came early as Martin Havlat fired a shot that was directed aside by Garon, but the Wild were attacking in waves.  Off a rush where Cal Clutterbuck created a scoring chance it was Greg Zanon who fired a shot off the rebound that was stopped by Garon.  Just moments after that, the puck was gathered up by Brent Burns who dangled around a few defenders for a point blank range chance that was just poked away by the stick of the Blue Jackets goaltender.  The Wild were playing desperate and determined hockey and that’s precisely why the ending was a cruel twist of fate.  A faceoff in the Minnesota zone with just over 35 seconds left was won and drawn back to Brent Burns who had been very dominant all game long attempted an ill-advised cross-ice pass from deep in his zone but instead fanned on it and the puck went towards the crease where it was directed into the slot by Clayton Stoner who tried to clear it but he gave it right to Antoine Vermette who buried it by Backstrom to give Columbus the game winner, 5-4. 

Niklas Backstrom was just ok, making 28 saves in the loss.  I really felt he was fighting the puck throughout much of the game.  He made some good stops, but the goal he gave up to Jan Hejda was a real softie as it snuck through his pads 5-hole.  I don’t care what sort of contact Derrick Brassard may have had, he was still in position to make the stop and he didn’t.  That goal was a momentum changer and he was lucky his team was able to battle back the way it did.  Defensively the Wild had some bad breakdowns that ultimately cost them the game.  Marco Scandella is now out with a broken right index finger after blocking a shot in the 2nd period, so the team will have to perhaps consider another call up in Houston unless Marek Zidlicky or Cam Barker are able to play tomorrow.  I would guess Nate Prosser or Justin Falk would get the call.  No matter what, this team had the kind of breakdowns you’d expect to have from players lacking experience.  Burns’ overtime snafu notwithstanding you must give credit to Columbus for capitalizing on its opportunities. 

Offensively the Wild had a pretty good effort.  They put up 36 shots and I liked the fact they were coming from nearly every player on the roster.  Even guys normally not involved offensively were taking their chances to fire the biscuit and that can only be a good thing for a team that has struggled to score as of late.  I liked the hustle.  An unsung hero in late in this season has been the lead-by-example play of John Madden who continues to find ways to inspire his team with big goals in situations where’s not with a lot of other offensive players as line mates. 

Wild Head Coach Todd Richards told reporters at the post-game press conference, “At times it was a really good game, at times it was really chaotic, at times there was little emotion and times there was lots of emotion, we battled back hard but it was a disappointing finish.”  He added, “we gave ourselves chances in overtime, just weren’t able to finish.”  Richards mentioned Miettinen’s failure, “I didn’t like his first period, and we needed some energy and I thought Kobasew did that for us and we needed a change.”  Personally I like Kobasew as an alternate for Miettinen, but he needs to be more ready to shoot the puck as he was set up a few times and then wasn’t able to pull the trigger because he just wasn’t quite ready.  The loss hurts a lot, but in many ways the outcome typified the 2010-11 season for the State of Hockey.  Where the Wild showed some good promise, then lost it, came back but just couldn’t finish it when it had to. 

Minnesota must regroup and ready itself for what will be another crucial game against the Montreal Canadiens.  Montreal is a team with a lot of speed and some good dynamic talent and if Minnesota isn’t ready to hustle it could find itself getting blitzed by the Habs.  Jose Theodore is the likely starter for tomorrow’s game and I am sure he’ll be very focused to face his former team where he won a Vezina trophy.   

Wild Notes:

~ The Wild roster this afternoon was: Mikko Koivu, Andrew Brunette, Antti Miettinen, Chuck Kobasew, John Madden, Matt Cullen, Eric Nystrom, Brad Staubitz, Kyle Brodziak, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Cal Clutterbuck, Martin Havlat, Jared Spurgeon, Clayton Stoner, Marco Scandella, Greg Zanon, Nick Schultz and Brent Burns.  Jose Theodore backed up Niklas Backstrom.  Cam Barker, Warren Peters, Guillaume Latendresse and Marek Zidlicky were the ‘healthy’ scratches.  Josh Harding (knee) and James Sheppard (knee) are on injured reserve. 

~ The 3 Stars of the Game as selected by Let’s Play Hockey were:

~ Attendance was 18,305 at Xcel Energy Center, the 19th sellout of the season.

Wild Prospect Report:

D – Colton Jobke ~ Kelowna Rockets (WHL)

2010-11 Stats:  50GP  1G  8A = 9pts  84 PIM’s  +6

It has been a trying season for the young defenseman, who has battled injuries throughout the year.  Jobke is more of a mobile stay at home defenseman whose game is reminiscent of Nick Schultz.  He is the player Kelowna Head Coach Ryan Huska sends out when his team needs to shut the other team down.  The Delta, British Columbia-native will never be a big point producer but like any player with a defensive focus his importance is all about how many goals he prevents from happening.  He is slightly undersized at just 6’0″, 170lbs but he’s no shrinking violent and he’s not afraid to drop the gloves if need be as he fought Vancouver’s Scott Cooke in his most recent game Friday night.  Jobke’s skill set is very similar to many of the other Wild’s defensive prospects so he will have to find ways to make him standout from the rest of the pack. 

D – Josh Caron ~ Kamloops Blazers (WHL)

2010-11 Stats:  26GP 1G 1A = 2pts  47 PIM’s  -1

Like Jobke, Josh Caron has battled injuries this season.  His rough and physical style means he plays a game that close to the edge.  His big 6’4″, 212lbs frame is very imposing and he loves to dish out big hits but at times his want to be physical lands him in the penalty box.  Caron earned kudos as a tryout during the Traverse City Tournament for being willing to drop the gloves to defend his teammates and he’s an accomplished fighter, perhaps too much as he’s seldom challenged anymore.  I think his NHL aspirations are a long shot, but his size and physicality may may him unique enough amongst the Wild’s blueline prospects that may warrant him a longer look. 

WCHA Frozen Five Final Preview:

#1 North Dakota Fighting Sioux (29-8-3)  vs. #2  Denver Pioneers (24-10-5) ~ The battle for the Broadmoor Trophy will commence just a few hours after the conclusion of this afternoon’s game between the Blue Jackets and the Wild on the same Xcel Energy Center ice.  Denver staved off an early surge by Cinderella story Bemijdi State to roll to a 6-2 victory, while North Dakota had a back and forth classic against Colorado College before Matt Frattin buried the game winner on a pretty pass by Evan Trupp.  Pioneers bench boss George Gwozdecky even stated he felt North Dakota was the team to beat before the Frozen Five started, and his squad will have their hands full stopping a fast and physical Fighting Sioux attack.  Jason Gregoire and Matt Frattin are a lethal combination.  Denver has some decent firepower of their own led by senior Anthony Miani, sophomore Drew Shore 2nd year blueline force Matt Donovan and freshman stud and Wild prospect Jason Zucker.  The Pioneer’s goaltender Sam Brittain will have to be at his best if Denver is to pull off the upset.  OUR PICK:  I think North Dakota is a very complete team, but I think we’ll see the underdog be victorious. 

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 time 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!

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