Sad effort on the road dooms Wild in 3-1 loss to Anaheim

Matt Kassian

Comedian Rodney Dangerfield was famous for his tagline of "No respect!"  I wonder if that's how the Minnesota Wild feel after their 3-2 shootout win over Chicago.  Never mind that Chicago is one of two undefeated teams in the NHL to that point (the other being San Jose), never mind that Chicago was the better rested of the two clubs as the Wild were playing the 2nd game of a back-to-back.  But what was the big story this morning NHL's Home Ice Radio?  The Edmonton Oilers winning beating the Phoenix Coyotes in overtime.  It must be because the Coyotes are one of the league's top teams right?  Oh wait, they're in 4th place in the Pacific and 11th in the Western Conference.  Despite the fact the Wild / Blackhawks clash was NBC's big 'Rivalry Wednesday' tilt it was put on the back burner.  Well its just NHL Home Ice Radio, big deal eh?  Well isn't much better.  As of around 9:30AM Thursday morning, the Wild's victory was the 5th story listed behind stories and highlights of the Oilers and the Vancouver Canucks.  The Wild, who currently sit atop the Northwest Division were trumped by the team in 2nd and 3rd place in the same division.  Who did Vancouver beat?  A struggling Colorado squad.  So again, what gives NHL?    Perhaps its fitting the NHL title for the Wild / Blackhawks story is "Back to Reality" which could be double entendre for back to being overlooked by the league.  

Mikko Koivu

The Wild begin their second road trip of the season, with a trip to Orange County to face the Anaheim Ducks.  Minnesota has always had a bit of animosity for the two teams since the Ducks have eliminated them twice in the post-season.  With points being such a precious commodity and some clubs starting to separate from the pack I think we can expect a spirited game.  It may not be a rivalry, but these two clubs seem to bring out the anger in the other.  Will the Wild be able to register its first road win this evening? 

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Clayton StonerThe

1st Period Thoughts:  Both clubs took a cautious approach to the start of the game.  The Ducks would work the puck down low in the Wild zone and it was Devante Smith-Pelly dishing a pass out front to Emerson Etem who got off a quick shot that missed wide.  The Ducks were moving their feet well and starting to assert themselves with their speed, giving the Wild some problems.  Anaheim's speed continued to create turnovers and scoring chances for the Ducks as they swarmed near the Wild crease as Minnesota's defense was scrambling all over its own end.  The Wild were not helping their cause by making area passes that more often than not became easy turnovers to allow Anaheim to sustain their offensive pressure.  Teemu Selanne nearly connected on a wrap around chance and then just seconds after that Kyle Palmieri moved in with speed and got Niklas Backstrom to drop but he was unable to find enough free space to get off of a shot or a pass.  The Ducks' pressure would yield a Wild penalty as Pierre-Marc Bouchard was called for high sticking.  Anaheim's power play looked just as dominant as the Ducks had been in this game up to this point moving the puck efficiently and effectively setting up shooting opportunities for Cam Fowler as well as sniper Corey Perry.  Minnesota through both luck (Ducks' misses) and some sacrifice, clutch shot blocks by Cal Clutterbuck and Ryan Suter managed to escape unscathed.  As the penalty ended Bouchard left the box and went on the rush with Darroll Powe.  Powe would fire a sharp angle shot that hit the side of the net and Matt Cullen would chase it down and feed the puck out towards the slot that would be picked up by Marco Scandella, who took his chance to fling a wrist shot on goal and it snuck through the pads of Viktor Fasth into the back of the net to make it 1-0 Wild.  The stunned reaction of the crowd probably was matched by the stunned feeling of those at home as Minnesota really had little to nothing going its way; as they were being outhustled and outworked.  The only member of the Wild that didn't seem to be floating around the ice was Niklas Backstrom who was seeing pucks well and controlling rebounds as he did against the Blackhawks on Wednesday night.  At the other end of the ice; after giving up that soft goal to Scandella, Fasth looked a little suspect a few minutes later as he had a little trouble with a shot from the point taken by Tom Gilbert.  The Ducks would counter attack with Daniel Winnik who made a nice little move in the Wild zone to get by a defender where he let go a wrist shot that Backstrom stopped and then the Wild goalie denied Winnik's rebound attempt.  The period would end with a collective sigh of relief as the Wild were amazingly lucky to be up 1-0 after being outshot 13-6 and by all means totally dominated in that period.  The Wild were playing rope-a-dope and somehow they left the Ducks with a cut while the Wild managed to weather the storm.  Minnesota may want to check the bus to see if the team was still on there because it looked like only Backstrom made it to the game thus far.  Sloppy area passing led to a lethargic offensive attack and a plethora of scoring chances for the the Ducks.  This is not a formula the Wild should want to repeat if it expect to win this one.  The one other bright spot besides the play of Backstrom was the fact Fasth seemed to be fighting the puck and the Wild would be wise to really start peppering him with shots because I think we can get a few more soft ones by him.  

2nd Period Thoughts:  Minnesota started out the 2nd period with more focus and a little more jump in their skates and the Wild carried the play early on.  Matt Cullen won a battle for the puck near the dasher where he carried the puck to the crease where the net was knocked off his moorings before he could pull the trigger.  Moments after that the Wild continued to apply pressure as Jonas Brodin stepped into a slap shot that was gloved by Fasth.  The Ducks would try to counter the Wild's pressure and it was Teemu Selanne stealing a puck in the neutral zone and he'd race in and blast a slapper that was knocked out of the air by Backstrom.  A few minutes later, Mikko Koivu lifted the stick and took the biscuit from his brother Saku Koivu as he moved down the slot for what looked like a prime scoring chance.  The Wild finally got its top line to create some sustained offensive pressure as Mikko Koivu pulled the trigger on a snap shot that gave Fasth a little trouble and then the puck was worked back to the point where Brodin hammered another slap shot that missed just wide of the mark.  The Ducks were patient and another turnover by Zach Parise in the neutral zone would be stolen by Bobby Ryan who fed a pass up to the speedy Kyle Palmieri and he motored in and fired a shot by a sprawling Backstrom to make it 1-1.  Moments later, Corey Perry would be hit hard by Clayton Stoner that left the Ducks scorer a little worse for the wear, and he'd head to the locker room.  The Ducks continued to swarm, and another failed clearing attempt, this time by Brodin and Ryan set up Palmieri for a quick shot from the slot that would miss high but hit the glass and come back towards the goal and was gloved by the Wild goalie.  Both clubs would then trade scoring chances as the Wild's carelessness with the puck in their own end continued to be a problem.  Minnesota was trying to counter attack and one player who was looking hungry was Devin Setoguchi who raced into the Anaheim zone and he'd blast a shot wide of Fasth.  The Wild would get luck again as a faceoff wn led to a point shot by Luca Sbisa that reached Backstrom and then he made a remarkable glove save as he laid on his side on Nick Bonino who had an uncontested chance on the rebound.  The Ducks' youth line of Bonino, Smith-Pelly and Etem continued to cause problems for the Wild with their speed as Minnesota's zone looked like a shooting gallery as shots were being taken from all over.  Minnesota answered back with its top line of Parise, Koivu and Dany Heatley and had their best shift of the game to this point as they cycled the puck effectively down low but were unable to really create much more than a few attempts near the posts that never really were of any consequence.  The period would end with both clubs tied at 1-1 but with Anaheim again carrying the momentum.  The area passes were really killing the Wild's puck possession game and making it far too easy for the Ducks to create odd-man chances in transition.  However, despite the fact the Wild were not playing all that well it's still anyone's game.  Will the Wild raise their game and take one from the Ducks?  We shall see soon enough.  Clayton Stoner was playing well; moving his feet well and being an equal opportunity hitter all over the Wild zone.  

3rd Period Thoughts:  The Ducks' youthful line of Etem, Bonino and Smith-Pelly again gave Minnesota fits in its own zone and Backstrom was again forced to sprawl for a puck only to be bailed out by the goal coming off its moorings as Bonino crashed the crease.  Anaheim seemed to just be so much better in shape as the Wild looked tired to start the 3rd period.  Minnesota tried to slow down Anaheim by being physical as Setoguchi, Stoner and Powe were delivering hits with reckless abandon.  The Ducks' persistance would pay off as Selanne tracked a puck off the boards and he swung a pass to the slot to Palmieri who promptly buried the opportunity, his 2nd of the game to give Anaheim a 2-1 lead.  Anaheim continued to dictate the pace of play as the Ducks' speed continued to draw all kinds of turnovers and Minnesota's failed clearing attempts made it look like a power play.  The Wild's top line looked sluggish as they tried to chase around the faster Ducks' team and luckily for them Backstrom would make a big save to get a whistle so that line could get some rest.  Minnesota's best line in the 3rd was its 4th line of Zenon Konopka, Darroll Powe and Torrey Mitchell as they worked the puck in the Ducks' zone but were not able to get much on the shots they directed towards Fasth.  Konopka wanted to spark the Wild and battled pretty intensely against Bryan Allen and even tried to goad the bigger blueliner into a fight but Allen wouldn't oblige.  The Ducks' knew what worked, and that was working the puck deep because the Wild really had no answer for it.  As Ryan Getzlaf dished a pass to Matt Beleskey who charged the net as Backstrom dove for the puck but couldn't cover it and by the time Beleskey's shot was partially tipped by the sprawling Wild goalie and it hit up and off the crossbar to keep Minnesota within one.  Matt Cullen would take a big hit by Palmieri that sent him careening head-first into the boards and he'd slowly make his way back to the Wild bench and he'd head to the locker room early.  Zenon Konopka wold draw a penalty on Cam Fowler as a rare bad pass from the Ducks' defensive zone gave him a golden chance but Fasth shut him down but as he chased down the rebound Fowler held him up giving Minnesota a crucial power play late in the period.  The top unit wasn't able to do much with the start of the man advantage, generating just a weak shot on goal by Heatley.  The 2nd unit wasn't much better setting up a slapper from the point by Brodin.  Minnesota finally created some pressure as the power play ended as Parise nearly got the equalizer only to be denied by a diving save by Fasth.  With the Wild's hopes diminishing by the second it would only get worse as Tom Gilbert would earn a tripping call for getting his stick into the skates of Bobby Ryan.  Anaheim would take full advantage of the Wild's lack of focus as Selanne made a pretty backdoor pass to Bobby Ryan for an easy goal.  You could see the look of frustration on Backstrom's face as he was left out to dry as Anaheim now held a two-goal lead.  The Wild would pull Backstrom late in the game but they were never really able too threaten Fasth again and Minnesota would lose 3-1.  

Niklas Backstrom gave a noble effort in a game where almost no one else on the team was really battling all that well this evening.  Backstrom kept Minnesota in the game far longer than it deserved to be; making 28 saves in the loss.  The only defenseman that I felt was really working hard tonight was Clayton Stoner.  The rest were passengers or in Marco Scandella's case a liability.  Scandella had a goal, but he was terrible.  Tom Gilbert wasn't much better as the team repeatedly failed to clear the zone and this meant Anaheim had offensive pressure throughout most of this game.  How many passes did we see from the Wild's defense; from deep in their zone that went to no one at all?  That is a recipe for disaster.  The score in my opinion was more lopsided than 3-1 indicates.  

Offensively, the top line of Koivu, Heatley and Parise were missing in action all night.  They couldn't seem to find any time and space against Francois Beauchemin and Sheldon Souray who had little trouble making them a non-factor.  However, that line, Parise-included didn't seem to have any legs at all.  The Wild also need to consider doing something with the 2nd line; especially rookie Mikael Granlund.  Granlund on more than one occasion in the game just let the puck go as opposing defenders skated towards him.  That is a sign of fear and immaturity.  The Wild need to consider making some kind of roster move, and since Granlund is still on his Entry Level deal he's on a two-way contract so he's easy enough to send down.  The only forward line that I felt tried to raise their game was the 4th line of Konopka, Powe and Mitchell but the rest look confused.  I think I saw at least 2-3 different occasions where Wild forwards were litterally bumping into each other on the ice.  That's ok if its some Mites team; but embarassing for an NHL team.  

Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo looked visibly annoyed, "You don't win games when we didn't have everybody, and we didn't have everybody.  We even had a chance to steal this one with the way Backstrom played, but we didn't have everybody."  Yeo's answers were short and but telling as he said "you need to move your feet and be willing to take a hit to make a play."  Ouch.  But maybe its just me because I wish Yeo would blast the team; because they deserved it.  It was a pathetic effort.  They better be ready to play on Monday against Phoenix because that's a team that always works hard.  

Wild Notes:

~ The Wild's roster tonight was as follows:  Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley, Zach Parise, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Matt Cullen, Devin Setoguchi, Mikael Granlund, Kyle Brodziak, Cal Clutterbuck, Darroll Powe, Torrey Mitchell, Zenon Konopka, Ryan Suter, Jonas Brodin, Tom Gilbert, Clayton Stoner, Justin Falk and Marco Scandella.  Josh Harding backed up Niklas Backstrom.  Nate Prosser and Matt Kassian were the healthy scratches.  

~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Kyle Palmieri, 2nd Star Teemu Selanne, 3rd Star Bobby Ryan

~ Attendance was 13,007 at Honda Center.

Wild Prospect Report:

D – Matt Dumba (Red Deer, WHL) ~ It has been a quiet 2012-13 for the Wild's 1st round pick from 2012.  The dynamic defenseman known for big hits and flashy scoring plays has appeared to be a bit disconnected this season by what I've heard from Rebels' fans.  Even a dispassionate Matt Dumba has 11 goals, 25 points and 59 PIM's and a -1 in 49 games so far this season.  Hopefully after his little stint practicing with the Wild gets him fired up to have a more energized 2nd half of the season.  

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!

1st period outburst carries the Wild to 3-2 road victory over Anaheim

Wild vs. Ducks

In the movie Cool Hand Luke, perhaps one of the most memorable lines in film was spoken when Strother Martin‘s character Captain said, “What we have here gentleman, is a failure to communicate.”  As he tried to work with the restless and rebellious prisoner played by Paul Newman.  I wonder if that is the underlying theme from what we saw last night from the Wild. 

Captain from Cool Hand Luke 

I have to admit, last night’s post game interview said it all, “We weren’t ready to play, right from the drop for the puck, you get what you deserve and we got what we deserved.  They should be embarrassed, I’m embarrassed, I shouldn’t have to say anything to motivate them, after a game like that you better want to come to the rink the next day ready to work.”  Those were the words of Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo after Minnesota lost 5-2 last night at Staples Center.  You can see the rest of the post-game interview here.  The club believed its own hype after winning 5-straight; including a few of those games where it really didn’t deserve to win and the complacency has been evident through the team’s last 3 games.  You must understand something about Mike Yeo the person to see why such an effort bothers him so much.  Apart from being incredibly competitive, Mike Yeo spent his junior and professional career working his tail off as a 3rd line grinder who was the player that was willing to do anything to help his team win games.  If that meant dropping down to block a shot, dropping the gloves, scoring a goal, delivering a big hit he’d do it.  He was a heart and soul type and its what makes Yeo the coach that he is and is precisely why he is so irritated and annoyed with the poor effort he saw last night. 

The Ducks have always been a tricky opponent for the Wild but they’ve had their woes this season too.  For the most part, their top scorers Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Bobby Ryan have had a muted start thus far.  Its only a matter of time before that group starts to heat up and they’ve traditionally done very well against Minnesota.  Last season, Bobby Ryan even picked up the dropped stick of Mikko Koivu and scored a goal with it in one of the more bizarre goals of 2010-11. 

Going back to last night’s loss, every Wild player that was interviewed fessed up and admitted it was a terrible effort, well except one.  Team Captain Mikko Koivu didn’t like being asked if it was a terrible effort last night.  He refused to admit the team played poorly, which is something we’ve sadly become used to as Wild fans and is a big reason why many are questioning whether he has the credentials to wear the “C”.  Its pretty tough to have respect as a leader when you don’t ever accept blame.  So will the Wild respond as Mike Yeo hopes they will or will they put up another lackluster effort? 

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Warren Peters and Cam Fowler

1st Period Thoughts:  An error with the puck by Jared Spurgeon right off the opening faceoff led to a rush for the Ducks where Saku Koivu fired a shot that forced a save by Niklas Backstrom.  Minnesota would counter punch and Darroll Powe skated in the Ducks’ zone and he let loose a wrist shot that would partially deflect off the leg of Francois Beauchemin and this forced Jonas Hiller to make his first save of the game.  The Ducks’ top line would create some trouble for the Wild as Getzlaf set up Corey Perry for a close-range chance that somehow a sprawling Backstrom was able to deny.  The pressure drew the first power play of the game for Anaheim; as Nick Johnson earned a penalty for tripping.  The Ducks had impressive puck movement on the power play, that had Minnesota’s penalty killers scrambling about its own zone.  Backstrom would be stretched in his own crease as the Ducks tried to work plays to get him moving side-to-side but Minnesota would sweep away the rebounds and through determination and desperation they were able to get the big kill.  Minnesota would go back on the attack and Nick Johnson got the puck down low and he’d put his shoulder down and power his way to the Ducks’ crease where he tried to jam it through Hiller who made 2-3 saves, but he gave up one more rebound and Kyle Brodziak jammed it home to put the Wild up 1-0.  The Wild had a lot more jump in its skates, and they were being aggressive to get loose pucks and taking every opportunity to put shots on goal.  Andrew Cogliano tried to turn on the jets to fly around Justin Falk but the big Wild defenseman demonstrated his mobility by riding him off the play and then narrowly avoiding running into his own goal.  The 3rd line of Brodziak, Johnson and Powe were causing all kinds of problems for the Ducks.  The 4th line of Colton Gillies, Brad Staubitz and Warren Peters was also moving well and Warren Peters fired a shot that was stopped by Hiller and Staubitz pushed a rebound chance just wide of the Ducks’ goal.  Gillies’ hustle would draw a holding penalty on rookie Peter Holland giving Minnesota its first power play of the game.  Minnesota’s power play was keeping it simple, not as much passing and simply taking its chances to shoot the puck and forcing Hiller to make some saves with traffic near his crease.  The Wild would come up empty on the man advantage but they continued to hustle.  Brad Staubitz would staple Luca Sbisa into the boards with a big check that sent his helmet flying and the home crowd gasping in shock after a nice clean hit.  A few minutes later the Wild would break up a play near the Wild crease and Matt Cullen and Cal Clutterbuck would race up the ice and Clutterbuck would veer to the right before making a beautiful no-look behind the back pass to Cullen who lifted a shot over the shoulder of Hiller to give Minnesota a 2-0 lead.  Minnesota continued to outwork and out hustle the Ducks and Gillies tried to connect on a cross-ice pass with a crashing Staubitz that was just out of his reach.  The Wild would strike one more time, on a delayed penalty where Pierre-Marc Bouchard passed it out to the point where Jared Spurgeon ripped a bullet from the point that beat Hiller to give Minnesota a 3-0 advantage.  The Ducks tried to answer back in the closing seconds with its top line as Corey Perry attempted to jam a puck through Backstrom but Minnesota would scramble and try to work the puck out of the zone and at the last moment Getzlaf fired a shot that ended up ramping up the stick of Dany Heatley and right into the face of Devin Setoguchi which left him reeling a bit.  Wild athletic trainer Don Fuller would go out there to check on him but Setoguchi would get up and didn’t seem to be wounded too significantly.  A great first period for Minnesota; I guess they decided to show up today. 

2nd Period Thoughts:  The Ducks had seen enough of Jonas Hiller, and so Dan Ellis was going to try to stabilize things in the Anaheim crease.  Minnesota would give the Ducks a power play almost immediately as Mikko Koivu was tagged for interference.  The Wild’s penalty kill was a bit passive, but the Ducks were not moving the puck all that quickly and Niklas Backstrom would make a nice poke check to deny a chance for Teemu Selanne, and a few seconds after that Corey Perry would trip up Justin Falk to make it a 4-on-4.  With the ice a bit more open, the Ducks were patient and former Kelowna Rocket Brandon McMillan got behind the Wild’s defense and he moved in on a break away but he fanned on a shot and it never went on goal.  Yet the Ducks were persistent as Beauchemin set up Cam Fowler who moved in and fired a wrist shot over the shoulder of Backstrom to cut the Minnesota lead to two, 3-1.  Minnesota would have a short power play and Dany Heatley would feed a pass to Mikko Koivu who fired a wrist shot into the crest on Dan Ellis’ jersey but unfortunately Cal Clutterbuck wasn’t able to get a stick on the rebound that was sitting near his skates.  The Ducks were moving the puck well and Saku Koivu set up Selanne for a quick shot that was absorbed by fellow Finn Niklas Backstrom.  You could see the confidence of the Ducks building as Bobby Ryan dangled around Nate Prosser and then spun and passed a puck near the crease that tipped up into the air and harmlessly in front of the crease in what was a dangerous play.  Minnesota was counter punching and they were able to create some quality scoring chances of their own as a blocked pass by Devin Setoguchi became a 2-on-0 as he hammered a slap shot that was stopped by Ellis and the rebound was just out of the reach of Heatley.  The scoring chances were plentiful early as Saku Koivu stepped into a slap shot that was snagged out of the air by the glove of Backstrom.  The Ducks would get its forecheck going, hemming Minnesota in its own zone as Cogliano was buzzing around and he’d take a sharp angle shot that Backstrom snow angled on and luckily for Minnesota the Wild got a whistle.  After the stop there was some pushing and shoving and Saku Koivu would go to the box along with Brad Staubitz.  Minnesota would get a slashing penalty as Kyle Brodziak chopped the stick of Brandon McMillan and he’d go sit in the box for 2 minutes and a rare 4-on-3 power play.  Ryan Getzlaf, working the point would rifle a shot that would miss wide and carom around the boards and out of the offensive zone.  The Ducks were moving the puck very well and Perry set up Selanne for a one timer that he rang off the post.  Minnesota was more or less resigned to the shooting gallery that was their zone, but after some scrambling plays near their crease they were able to poke the puck free and clear the zone and get a huge penalty kill.  The Wild would then go on the attack; not as much with skill as it was hustle and the 3rd and 4th lines would keep the Ducks occupied with some good work on the forecheck, funneling shots on goal to keep Anaheim honest.  Teemu Selanne must wonder if the puck has a magnet as he wound up and blasted another slapper that struck the left post, his 2nd one of the period.  The Ducks would start swarm a bit more and Backstrom was seeing more shots coming his way as Minnesota was content to just chip the puck out of the zone.  Cal Clutterbuck would obliterate Francois Beauchemin with a big hit along the boards but at the end of the sequence Perry would trip up Backstrom for a goaltender interference penalty that the Art Ross trophy winner vehemently protested.  On the power play Minnesota worked the puck into the slot where Heatley put a wrist shot on goal that was steered aside by Ellis, and the Wild would hold a 3-1 lead going into the 3rd period.  Not a terrible period, but the Ducks had control for at least half of it.  They must play better if they expect to win, because you can’t depend on Selanne ringing shots off the pipe.

3rd Period Thoughts:  Minnesota was keeping things simple to start the 3rd; short shifts and working the puck deep so the Ducks had the whole length of the ice to work against.  The Wild would flip the puck into the air and chase, and you could sense the frustration building for the Ducks as former Minnesota defenseman Kurtis Foster held up a forechecking Brad Staubitz for an interference penalty.  Minnesota’s power play moved the puck well from the half wall and back out to the point but when the time came to fire the big shot they’d fan on the opportunity.  Andrew Cogliano would use his speed and quickness to kill off the last 30 seconds of the Wild’s man advantage and Minnesota failed to even register a shot on the power play.  Minnesota was still hustling enough to make the Ducks’ life miserable as Clutterbuck just willed the puck into the Anaheim end even as he was tackled by Luca Sbisa to no penalty.  The Ducks’ 4th line would get its forecheck going and Andrew Gordon nearly cashed in as he one-timed a quick pass from down low by Maxime Macenauer was stopped by Backstrom.  Anaheim was again starting to press as their top line crashed the crease for a few scoring chances from close-range that Backstrom was up to the task against and Minnesota would chip the puck out of the zone and Darroll Powe won the race to the loose puck and he’d move in on Ellis and then slide a forehand shot that went behind the Ducks’ backup but the the puck slid harmlessly through the crease.  Minnesota’s top line had their best possession time in 3 games as they worked the puck down low, killing valuable seconds while creating a few scoring chances as well but despite all of their time with the puck their shots were not going on goal.  The Wild would have a good shift from its 3rd line to kill more valuable time plus create a scoring chance as a cross-ice pass from Nick Johnson towards Kyle Brodziak just failed to connect.  Anaheim’s top line would go on the attack again and quick shot by Selanne was stopped by Backstrom and the rebound was pounced upon by a pinching Beauchemin who put a shot on the outside of the right post.  The Ducks would pull Ellis with nearly 2 minutes left, and Beauchemin had a few great chances as his shot would just curl wide of the goal twice.  After a timeout, the Ducks plan worked as they scored just 4 seconds later as a point shot from Fowler and his wrist shot from the point beat a well-screened Backstrom to cut the lead to one, 3-2.  Anaheim would put the pressure on in the closing 30 seconds and Backstrom made a great save with a ton of traffic by him on another wrist shot by Fowler and Minnesota would gut out a 3-2 win. 

Niklas Backstrom was solid, making 32 saves in the victory.  He had lots of traffic near his crease and was able to come up with the initial stops.  He did have some help, the Ducks caught 3-4 goal posts during the game.  Minnesota’s defense was able to sweep away the rebounds and prevent the Ducks from having the 2nd chance opportunities.  I thought Justin Falk, Nate Prosser and Jared Spurgeon had strong games.  Clayton Stoner was reasonable in his first game back in quite a while.  Minnesota’s penalty kill stepped up but they were helped by a few lucky pipes on some great chances for Selanne. 

Offensively the Wild got all that they needed in the first period.  They were funneling pucks on goal and putting constant pressure on the Ducks.  Yet after that, they relaxed a bit and the Ducks crawled back into the game and in many ways they were lucky to have come away with a victory.  The top line of Koivu, Heatley and Setoguchi look like a group of 3 guys that are desperate to light the lamp.  They had one of their best shifts in quite a while but you saw the same thing from all three, lifting shots high and wide of the goal.  The Wild had great work from its 3rd and 4th lines who created opportunities and even chipped in with some points this evening.  Cal Clutterbuck’s beautiful backhand pass demonstrates you can put him on the 2nd line and he won’t look too much out of place. 

While winning always makes one feel better this was not a perfect effort for the team.  The effort was better than it was at Los Angeles but it could’ve and should’ve been more dominant than it was.  The first period was outstanding, the 2nd and 3rd periods not so much.  Yes we can be happy the Wild find themselves atop the Northwest Division for the first time since 2008, but there is a ton of a season left and pardon me if I don’t start planning a Stanley Cup parade just yet.  Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo was buying the effort, “Absolutely, really impressed, I saw an awful lot of pride on the ice and guys were paying the price for each other and winning battles.  The first goal was a perfect example of that.”  Minnesota will be facing a very desperate Columbus squad on Tuesday.  They may be 3-12, they always play Minnesota tough at Nationnwide Arena.  Minnesota must be prepared to work even harder than it did this evening.  The win will certainly make the long flight feel a bit better but the road trip isn’t over yet. 

Wild Notes:

~ Wild roster tonight is as follows:  Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Matt Cullen, Cal Clutterbuck, Darroll Powe, Kyle Brodziak, Warren Peters, Colton Gillies, Brad Staubitz, Nick Johnson, Nick Schultz, Marek Zidlicky, Justin Falk, Jared Spurgeon, Clayton Stoner and Nate Prosser.  Josh Harding backed up Niklas Backstrom.  Guillaume Latendresse, Marco Scandella and Darcy Kuemper were the healthy scratches. 

~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Niklas Backstrom, 2nd Star Cam Fowler, 3rd Star Matt Cullen

~ Attendance was 13,803 at Honda Center.

~ The State of Hockey News would like to congratulate the the U.S. Women’s hockey team on winning the Four Nation’s Cup last night with a 4-3 shootout win over Canada. 

Wild Prospect Report:

G – Darcy Kuemper (Ontario, ECHL) ~ Last year’s WHL goaltender of the year is having another season where he’s putting up incredible numbers, this time for the ECHL’s Ontario Reign.  Kuemper is a perfect 4-0, with a 1.47 goals against average and a stellar .947% save percentage.  No shutouts yet though.

C – Zack Phillips (Saint John, QMJHL) ~ Phillips continues to put his name on the score sheet, as he extends his point-scoring streak to a league-high 13-games as he registered an assist in a 5-3 victory for the Sea Dogs.  The Sea Dogs captain was 13-of-24 in faceoffs (54%). 

D – Nick Seeler (Muskegon, USHL) ~ Perhaps its a sign the former Eden Prarie star is starting to heat up as Seeler had the best night of his Jr.A career as he tallied a goal and 2 assists in the Lumberjacks’ 5-4 win over the Indiana Ice.  Seeler was a +2 with 3 shots on goal.  So far Seeler has 2 goals, 4 assists and 2 penalty minutes in 12 games.  

F – Anthony Hamburg (Omaha, USHL) ~ Last year I got flak for mentioning this, but I will say this again.  Anthony Hamburg’s pro hockey aspirations are in trouble.  After injuries derailed his freshman season at Colgate University, Hamburg returned to the USHL where he worked as a role player for the Lancers.  This season he returns to Omaha as an overage player, but the offensive production that one would expect from a player with legitimate pro potential still eludes him as he has just a goal, 2 assists, and 25 penalty minutes in 11 games. 

Houston Aeros Report:

Houston 5, Charlotte 2

Even though these teams do not play each other that often, they definitely do not like each other.  This would lead to one of the most interesting mismatches in recent memory as 5’8″ Chay Genoway dropped the gloves with 6’4″ Jared Staal.  Genoway did his best to keep out of the way of a series of big punches from the much taller brother of Carolina Hurricanes star Eric Staal.  Houston would get out to a 1-0 lead on an odd-man rush between Casey Wellman and Jon DiSalvatore and the Wild prospect set up the Aeros captain for a shot that beat the Checkers’ Mike Murphy.  Houston would score late in the period as Drew Bagnall surprised just about everyone when he danced around a defenseman and drove the puck to the net to beat Murphy for his first goal as an Aero (that includes last year) to put Houston up 2-0 going into the 2nd.  The Checkers would cut the Aeros’ lead to one, as a long range shot by Matthew Pistilli surprised a well-screened Matthew Hackett.  Houston would answer right back on a 2-on-0 between Wellman and DiSalvatore who moved in and snapped a shot over the shoulder of Murphy to put the Aeros back up 3-1.  A few minutes later, the Aeros would strike again as Jed Ortmeyer fired a laser of a wrist shot that snuck right underneath the crossbar on a shot from the right faceoff circle to give Houston a 4-1 lead going into the 3rd period.  Charlotte would try to pour it on in the 3rd period, and the Aeros would play rope-a-dope.  The Checkers would cut the lead to two when former Bowling Green stud Jonathan Matsumoto found the back of the net as he slid a shot 5-hole on Hackett.  The Aeros defense was able to keep Charlotte to the perimeter and Jarod Palmer would show great unselfishness as he gave Wellman an easy empty netter to seal a 5-2 win.  Hackett had 31 saves in the win victory which puts Houston into a tie for 1st place in the Western Conference. 

World Jr. A Challenge Report:

Team USA advanced to the semifinals after defeating Russia 6-3.  With the game tied at 1-1 in the 2nd period, Wild prospect Mario Lucia continued to thrill as he dangled the puck through 3 Russian defenders to light the lamp to give Team USA the lead.  It was Lucia’s 3rd goal of the tournament.  Just moments later, two more Minnesotans found the back of the Russian net as Austyn Young (South St. Paul) and Ethan Prow (Sauk Rapids) score to put Team USA up 4-1.  The Russians would answer back with two goals early in the 3rd, but Sean Kuraly continues his strong tournament with two goals of his own later in the 3rd to seal a 6-3 victory.  Ryan McKay had 26 saves in the win. 

In the semi-final game against Canada East, the Americans never really got things going and the slow start would cost them as the Canadians jumped out to a 2-0 lead.  Ray Pigozzi cut Canada East’s lead to one midway through the 2nd period but Canada would answer back to make it 3-1.  Duluth’s Andy Welinski‘s blast from the point found the twine to cut the lead back to one but hope was short-lived as Canada East scored just 3 minutes later as they defeated Team USA 4-2.  This meant Team USA was going to play for 3rd place against Sweden. 

Mario Lucia put the Americans on the board first with his 4th goal of the tournament.  Minnesota followed that effort up with goals from Austin Cangelosi, and Maple Grove’s Tony Cameranesi and Sean Kuraly added the fourth goal of the evening in what was a very strong tournament for the Dublin, Ohio-native.  Thief River Falls-native Zane Gothberg shut the door on the Swedes, stopping all 23 shots he faced to give Team USA 3rd place with a 4-0 victory.  Elk River-native and Team USA Head Coach Regg Simon was pleased with their effort saying, “I’m happy with the way our guys responded after a tough game last night, we concentrated on our offensive zone possession and really pushed the tempo tonight.”

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!