Bogus no-goal call doesn’t ruin Wild’s night in 2-1 shootout road victory over Vancouver

Jason Pominville

Its one of the side effects of that world of information that social media like Twitter and Facebook provide.  It takes just a few seconds to type in a 140-character message and send it out for the whole world to see.  People learn of all sorts of notable historic events this way, almost at the instant they happen.  Social networks are tremendous or terrible (depending on how you look at it) at spreading news and rumors and all it takes is one tweet and suddenly someone has to go in damage control mode.  A great example of this was seen this week when it was splashed all over Twitter that Vancouver Canucks' Ryan Kesler was demanding to be traded.  The rumor exploded, and speculation immediately turned where Kesler was headed.  Kesler tried to refute the rumors with the hope that it would not create a distraction.  Really Ryan?  A rumor like that isn't going to be distraction in hockey mad Vancouver?!?!  

Zach Parise

So with a major distraction swirling on Canada's 'left coast' the Wild come to town after playing the Oilers the night before.  Minnesota has some rumors swirling of its own, but nothing all that caustic that could cause strain in the locker room or the front office, yet at least.  The next few days before the trade deadline will ultimately prove if any of these rumors have any merit or its just empty guessing.  So can the Wild earn a win over a distracted Canucks squad?  

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Nino Niederreiter

1st Period Thoughts:  What an odd period.  The play was fast and intense as one would expect early, with both clubs trading chances.  Minnesota was doing its best to trade chances with Vancouver early.  The Wild thought it had a good omen when it drew an early power play as Daniel Sedin was tagged for hooking.  Unfortunately, the power play would boomerang on the Wild as Keith Ballard couldn't hold the zone and as he mishandled the puck it gave Ryan Kesler a shorthanded opportunity and the Livonia, Michigan-native raced down the ice where he ripped a wrist shot by Darcy Kuemper to make it 1-0.  It was soft shorthanded goal for the Canucks.  Minnesota would answer back fairly soon as the 4th line had a solid forechecking shift where they kept the Canucks bottled up in their own end and Eddie Lack would be forced to freeze the puck.  On the ensuing draw, Erik Haula won it back to the point where Keith Ballard fired a wrist shot from the point that rang off the left post and in as Lack was well-screened by Haula.  However, NHL referee Brad Meier disagreed and he'd waive off the goal, saying that there was incidental contact between Haula and Lack.  The replay clearly showed that Erik Haula was not in the crease, nor did he make any contact with Lack but because the official determined interference occurred (even though it did not) it couldn't even be reviewed.  Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo was deservedly upset as Minnesota was screwed out of a goal.  Haula executed a textbook-style legal screen that you see all the time in the NHL it is unreal Meier saw interference on that play since he had an unobstructed view of it and was standing just 15 feet away.  With the Wild feeling as though it had tied the game you had to wonder how the team was going to respond to this latest setback, especially after feeling the sting of a shorthanded goal.  The response was pretty damn good.  The Wild really put their noses to the grindstone and put Vancouver on its heels with a determined attack.  Great hustle, quick and efficient little passes and most of all a willingness to shoot meant the Canucks were scrambling in their own end and it was only a matter of time before the Wild would strike.  A boarding call on Jannik Hansen would provide the opportunity.  Scary part of that was how Jonas Brodin that went face first into the boards that left him a bit worse for the wear as Wild Athletic Trainer Don Fuller went out to check on the health of the Swedish blueliner.  Minnesota moved the puck well, taking every chance to send shots on goal.  This approach would be rewarded as Zach Parise flung a heavy wrist shot that benefitted by a nice screen by Dany Heatley and by Lack to make it 1-1.  Amazingly Brad Meier didn't see anything wrong with that screen even though it was in the exact same place as Haula's screen that caused Ballard's goal to be waived off.  Minnesota continued to attack, playing with the kind of vigor of what you'd expect from a team playing with a bit of a chip on its shoulder.  Minnesota's top line of Parise, Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville were really cycling the puck well and causing the Canucks' fits.  The Wild's pressure also started to create turnovers as Vancouver was guilty of attempting some long weak diagonal passes out of its zone.  Minnesota was certainly trying to fire shots high as they were picking corners all period long.  Wild to have felt it deserved to be up 2-1 instead of 1-1 going into the intermission.  

2nd Period Thoughts:  The first half of the period it was all about Darcy Keumper who weathered a Canucks' storm.  Kuemper had to be on his toes as the Canucks were pressing hard for the go-ahead goal, and he came up with some dandies.  A pretty stop on a partial breakaway for Henrik Sedin demonstrated Kuemper's coolness under fire as he waited for the slick Swede to commit before dropping to his pads to make the save.  Kuemper had a few more great stops on point-blank range opportunities as the Canucks were trying to crash the crease looking for rebounds.  Minnesota was also playing well defensively, getting in the way of shots as Nate Prosser and company had some big blocks when the play got a little frantic in their own end.  Minnesota's defenseman were being timely with their physical play to separate Canucks from the puck and the Wild were supporting the play well and picking up the loose puck and breaking out of their own end.  Minnesota would start to carry the play in the 2nd half of the period as they started to get their forecheck going.  The Wild were again taking any chance it could get to put pucks on goal.  Zach Parise would try to wrap home a backhander that was denied by a diving save by Lack who was just able to stretch enough to get a glove on the puck.  Moments after that it was Heatley chipping a pass to Nino Niederreiter who made a niftly little move to split the defense but unfortunately he was not able to get much on his shot and it was easily batted aside by Lack.  Minnesota's pressure would draw a hooking penalty on Ryan Kesler.  On the power play, the Wild moved the puck very well but struggled to find the time and space to get an uncontested shot and the period would end with both clubs still knotted at 1-1.  Minnesota was outshot 11-6 in what was a pretty tight checking period.  

3rd Period Thoughts:  This was a scary period.  The Wild were clearly gassed.  The legs were heavy and Minnesota just didn't have the jump in the skates to do much other than try to prevent the Canucks from taking the lead.  Luckily for the Wild, its goaltender was not as exhausted as the rest of the team as he was busy down the stretch.  Kuemper's huge sprawling stop on Ryan Kesler really personified the period.  Kesler thought he had his 2nd goal of the game only to be denied by the up-raised leg of Kuemper as he dove to make the stop.  MInnesota only managed 3 shots on goal, but most of the period looked like a prolonged Wild penalty kill.  Somehow the Wild forced the game to go to overtime.  

Overtime Thoughts:  In overtime, the Wild tried to press hard for the win early and they looked as though they had a golden opportunity when Ryan Suter carried the puck in deep and as his pass would be deflected out into the high slot to Zach Parise who would step into a slap shot that was blocked by Chris Tanev.  As the puck went to the corner Tanev was a little closer to the biscuit than Parise who gave him an ill-timed shove into the boards for an easy boarding penalty.  This gave Vancouver a long 4-on-3 power play.  Minnesota's penalty killers of Ryan Suter, Matt Cooke and Kyle Brodziak did their best to stay in a tight triangle to deny the middle of the ice for the Canucks as much as they could.  That meant they had to block some big shots, but they did enough to get a clear of the zone with about 25 seconds left in the power play and Minnesota would survive and send the game to a shootout.  

Shootout Summary:  The Canucks would opt to have the Wild shoot first in the shootout.  Minnesota's first shooter was Zach Parise and Team USA's captain would move take a slow and winding approach towards Lack where he tried to fire a shot through 5-hole but Lack was quick to shut the door.  Vancouver's first shooter was Zack Kassian and the power forward would look like a bad ice dancer as he took a slow turning approach before trying to change speed and beat Kuemper with a wrist shot that he easily dismissed.  Minnesota's next shooter was Charlie Coyle.  Coyle would use a bit more speed as he closed the distance between himself and Lack as he lifted a wrist shot up and over the goal.  The Canucks next shooter was Alexandre Burrows, and the Vancouver pest tried raced up the ice where he tried to make a quick deke and beat Kuemper only to have him denied by a fine save by the Wild goalie.  Minnesota's next shooter was Jason Pominville.  Pominville would take a slow serpentine route towards the goal and as he tried to fire a wrist shot it was blocked away with confidence by Lack.  This meant the Canucks' Chris Higgins could win the game.  Higgins would move in where he made a trickly forehand to backhand move and he thought he had Kuemper beat only to have him denied by the toe of Kuemper who A-framed to make the stop.  The Wild's next shooter was Mikael Granlund who moved out to the left with speed before racing in on Lack where he tried to draw Lack to flow with him as he shot against the grain but the Canucks' goalie was wise to the move and he made the save look easy.  The Canucks would go to former Golden Gophers' star Jordan Schroeder, and the slick skating forward took a slow approach where he tried to work a shot 5-hole that Kuemper stymied.  Minnesota's next shooter was Dany Heatley who took a slow approach as many others attempted and he tried to lift a shot blocker side that was deflected up and over the goal by Lack.  Vancouver's next shooter was Raphael Diaz, and the swift defenseman moved in with a few shifty moves but Kuemper was cool and collected as he denied the opportunity.  Minnesota's next shooter was Justin Fontaine and the former Minnesota-Duluth Bulldog moved from left to right and patiently waited for Lack to sprawl before sliding a shot underneath him to give Wild a 1-0 shootout lead.  This meant Darcy Kuemper could give Minnesota a victory with a save.  The Canucks' backup for the night, Roberto Luongo gave Vancouver's next shooter David Booth some last second advice.  Booth, would race in from right to left where he attempted a spin-a-rama and Kuemper didn't bite at all and he matter of factly made the stop to give Minnesota a 2-1 shootout victory.  

Kuemper was tremendous, making 30 saves in the victory.  He really bailed his team out as their legs got tired in the latter half of the game where the Canucks really were able to tilt the ice into the Wild's zone.  He made some huge saves to keep the home crowd out of the game and make it a non-factor.  Defensively the Wild had some bad miscues but they also did a reasonable job of helping him out by blocking shots.  The Wild's penalty kill continues to step up with some big kills, especially so in that 4-on-3 man advantage in overtime.  I thought Jonas Brodin and Ryan Suter were outstanding.  

Offensively the Wild had a diminished effort due to fatigue; or at least that is how it appeared.  I thought the line of Parise, Granlund, Pominville continued to look dangerous and was effective at creating opportunites on most of its shifts.  The 2nd line of Heatley, Coyle and Niederreiter took a step back tonight.  They were not nearly as effective on the forecheck and while I thought Niederreiter was pesky at times the team needed more from Heatley and Coyle than it got this evening.  The 3rd and 4th lines didn't create much offensively either and they at least need to create some scoring chances to take some pressure off the top two lines.  

You have to give the Wild some kudos (Mike Yeo echo'd that sentiment in his post-game press conference) for some mental toughness after the absolutely atrocious no-goal call where they had to feel as though a goal was stolen from them in a tight checking game.  The team was tired, but they dug deep and did enough to win.  Kuemper keeps providing clutch performances between the pipes and now the team can get some rest.  Every point is crucial and they didn't let some bad luck cost them 2 points tonight.  Vancouver may not be a Western Conference super power right now, but they're a team that wanted those points badly and Minnesota didn't take the night off.  This is a good sign as the home stretch towards the playoffs now returns to the friendly confines of the Xcel Energy Center.  

Wild Notes:

~ The Wild lineup tonight is as follows: Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Mikael Granlund, Dany Heatley, Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter, Justin Fontaine, Matt Cooke, Kyle Brodziak, Stephane Veilleux, Erik Haula, Torrey Mitchell, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Keith Ballard, Nate Prosser, Jonas Brodin and Clayton Stoner.  Niklas Backstrom backed up Darcy Kuemper.  Mike Rupp, Steven Kampfer and John Curry were the healthy scratches tonight.  

~ The 3 Stars of the Game by Rogers' Sportsnet were: 1st Star Ryan Kesler, 2nd Star Zach Parise, 3rd Star Zack Kassian (huh? Really?  Not Kuemper who stonewalled the Canucks virtually game long?  What a joke)

~ Attendance was 18,910 at Rogers' Arena.  

Iowa Wild report:

Recent Score:  Wild 2, Americans 4

As a Klingon proverb once stated, "Revenge is a dish best served cold" was rather fitting in the way that former Wild prospect Johan Larsson came back to haunt his former organization with a two-goal performance as Rochester handed Iowa a 4-2 loss on Thursday night.  Larsson got things going for the Americans with a power play marker just past the 4-minute mark of the game.  Rochester added to its lead a few minutes later with another player play goal as Mark Pysyk lit the lamp behind Johan Gustafsson to make it 2-0 midway through the 1st period.  Zack Phillips would bang home a nice pass by Carson McMillan with just 37 seconds left in the 1st period to cut the Americans' lead to one, 2-1.  Shots were hard to come by for the Wild as Rochester seemed to be a step faster all game long.  Larsson would rip home his 2nd goal of the game midway through the 3rd to make it 3-1.  Iowa would find the back of the net just a little over 2 minutes left in the period as Tyler Graovac ripped home his 7th goal of the season but it wasn't enough as Phil Varone scored the empty netter to seal a 4-2 Rochester victory.  Gustafsson had 31 saves in the loss.  

Wild Prospect Report:

G – Steve Michalek (Harvard, ECAC) ~ The junior goaltender helped lift the Crimson to an important 2-1 victory over Colgate making 26 saves in the win.  The former Loomis-Chafee star improves his record to 5-6-2 on the season.  

RW – Kurtis Gabriel (Owen Sound, OHL) ~ The rugged power forward managed to find the back of the net tonight, but it wasn't enough as the Attack fell 4-3 in the shootout to London.  The Newmarket, Ontario-native has 11 goals, 40 points with 84 PIM's and +2 rating in 52 games played this season.  

D – Nick Seeler (Nebraska-Omaha, NCHC) ~ The Mavericks rolled to a 6-0 pasting of the lowly Colorado College Tigers Friday night.  Seeler did his part on the 2nd pairing with Jaycob Megna as he registered 2 shots on goal as well an assist and finished the night a +2.  Just as a side note, another Wild prospect and Colorado College defenseman Gustav Olofsson finished the night a -3 in the loss.  

Boys High School Hockey Report:

A few more teams earned a spot in the best high school hockey tournament in the world.  Again, the State of Hockey News would like to pass on our congratulations to the section winners as well as those who were runners-up this evening.  On a sadder note, its also the last time there will be hockey played at the State Fair Coliseum which has seen tons and tons of memorable high school hockey moments over the last 50 years.  It was decided that the hockey function of the facility is simply too outdated to make it worthwhile so its sad to see hockey leave what really was one of Minnesota's hidden hockey gems.  Having watched Boys High School playoff games there; it was a great and classic venue.  It will be missed.  

4A – Totino-Grace Eagles (def. Mahtomedi) 

4AA – Stillwater Ponies (def. Hill-Murray)

5AA – Centennial Cougars (def. Blaine)

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!

Roster changes not enough as Wild can’t bury its chances in 4-1 home loss to Vancouver

Niklas Backstrom

A popular song from the late 1960's once said, "A time to build up,a time to break down, A time to dance, a time to mourn, A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together" these were lyrics from Turn, Turn Turn by the Byrds.  This would be an accurate description of the Minnesota Wild as of late as they attempt to adapt and shuffle its lines try to find its offense that has more or less gone completely dormant.  The Wild have just 21 goals in 9 games this season.  57% of those goals have come from its top line of Mikko Koivu (2), Dany Heatley (4) and Zach Parise (6) and while having your top line lead the way is something to be expected you still want goals from your bottom 3 lines to supplement what your top line is doing but that isn't really happening.  Minnesota's other 9 forwards have scored just 5 goals this season making up 41.7% of the offense while the blueline has chipped in another 3 goals (14.2%).  Toss in a losing record and you have all the motive you need for changes to be made.  The first one came in the form of a trade when the team dispatched Darroll Powe and Houston Aeros' forward Nick Palmieri to the New York Rangers for Mike Rupp who should make his Wild debut tonight.  More changes occurred as the team reorganized its lines and called up Charlie Coyle from the minors.  After a 2-1 loss to Phoenix; despite a better effort the Wild felt more change was needed and now Coyle will be on the top line with Koivu and Parise while Heatley gets pushed back to the 2nd line.  

Kyle Brodziak

Tonights' opponent is no stranger to the Wild; the reviled Vancouver Canucks.  The Canucks got off to a slow start but have rebounded nicely on the goaltending of Roberto Luongo who was once thought to be on his way out of Vancouver, replaced by Cory Schneider who coincidentally is set to start in tonight's game.  So will the changes the Wild made finally yield a victory or will it be back to the drawing board for more changes yet to come?  

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Mikko Koivu

1st Period Thoughts:  The Wild had good jump to start the game; working well along the boards, moving their feet and winning races to the loose pucks.  I thought Minnesota looked determined and their hustle was preventing the Canucks from getting their forecheck going.  Offensively the Wild were not getting a lot accomplished.  While the top line had a bit more speed with Charlie Coyle playing the line with Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise they seemed to be neutralized rather easily by the Canucks' defense.  Minnesota was making good little passes off the wall to alleviate pressure and it finally created a scoring chance as Pierre-Marc Bouchard moved in late but his play would come with a consequence as the Wild muted their momentum with a 'too many men' penalty.  The Wild were terrific on the penalty kill; challenging Vancouver's point men well and not allowing the Canucks to get much of anything going on the man advantage.  Yet after the kill the Canucks simplified their attack and Minnesota started to struggle.  It all started with a nice individual effort by Dale Weise to charge the Wild net where he just kept hacking at the puck until finally Niklas Backstrom was able to draw a whistle.  I think this sort of gave Vancouver an idea and they would work the puck near the Wild crease and Alexandre Burrows set up by taking his chance to put a wrist shot on goal that Backstrom stopped but his rebound was pounced upon by Daniel Sedin for a quick shot from in close that beat Backstrom to make it 1-0 Canucks.  Zenon Konopka would try to spark his team by dropping the gloves with Weise.  In a pretty long back and forth fight, Konopka and Weise traded jabs but it was more wrestling than anything devastating shots were actualyl thrown.  Mike Rupp looked good on his first initial shifts; marauding on the forecheck and taking every opportunity to deliver a hit and this aggressiveness yielded a few Canucks' turnovers.  The top line would finally get clicking as Coyle forced a turnover as he put a good check into Alexander Edler and then making a sharp little pass to Parise who tried to be patient against Schneider but he didn't drop and Parise settled for two sharp angle shots.  The Canucks would kind of carry the play towards the 2nd half of the period as they'd find the back of the net again as a wrist shot by Maxim Lapierre would be redirected deftly by Chris Higgins who beat Backstrom 5-hole just as a roughing penalty to Parise expired.    Minnesota needs to find a way to get more pucks on goal, 3 shots in a period won't beat anyone let alone the Canucks.  Vancouver put 9 shots on goal and while I thought for the most part Minnesota denied the Canucks from having too many prime scoring chances the Wild still found themselves in a 2-0 hole.  The Wild should've had another great chance as Bouchard dished a pass over to Dany Heatley who looked as though he had an open shot but before he could pull the trigger Baudette-native Keith Ballard dropped to the ice causing Heatley to try to toe drag around him but Ballard would reach out and knock the puck away from the Wild winger.  This team needs to just worry about quantity not quality.  It was a formula that was working for the Canucks and the Wild would be wise to emulate that.  

2nd Period Thoughts:  The Wild's 'big' response after a bad 1st period was about a minute of hard work and then reverting to the same emotionless play that plagued them in the last stanza.  Mike Rupp was throwing his weight around, but no one else seemed to be.  The Wild were watching and chasing the Canucks and the play would tilt back in the Minnesota zone.  Vancouver would swarm near the Wild crease and Backstrom  found himself under siege; as Zack Kassian was creating chances at will.  On one key sequence, Kassian, the young Canucks forward leveled Heatley and then later in the same shift out mustled the bigger Wild winger for a puck as he carried it to the blue paint.  After a few more minutes of ugly play the 4th line finally ignited a little fight back as they stormed the Canucks' crease as Konopka, Rupp and Devin Setoguchi just couldn't get an open look as bodies tumbled to the ice.  With the fans still fuming a bit over the missed opportunity the 1st line of Coyle, Parise and Koivu tried to also crash the crease and Coyle shoveled a shot wide of the mark.  A few minutes later the Wild would earn their first power play of the game as Marco Scandellal was tripped up by Weise.  Minnesota's power play showed a little desperation as Pierre-Marc Bouchard threaded a shot from the point that was reidrected by Parise that was blocked aside by Schneider.  The power play would set up a few more ideal chances as Setoguchi one-timed two nice little feeds by Matt Cullen but still the Wild had nothing to show for it on the scoreboard.  Minnesota would draw another penalty as Henrik Sedin tripped up Coyle.  The Wild's power play again was showing a sense of urgency as Minnesota was setting up some great chances; Setoguchi hammering another one-timer wide of the mark.  The best chance came off the stick of Coyle who took a nice little pass by Koivu and he patiently worked the puck from his forehand to his backhand but his bid would hit the left post iinstead of sneaking around Schneider's leg pad and in.  Minnesota continued to hustle but they'd take a late interference penalty by Torrey Mitchell.  The Canucks' power play was fairly cautious, but the simple approach and failed clearing attempts came back to haunt the Wild.  A long range point shot by Jason Garrison was stopped by Backstrom who sprawled to make a stop as Clayton Stoner dove trying to sweep the puck out of danger but instead put it right on the stick of Mason Raymond for an easy goal on a gaping Minnesota net, 3-0 Canucks.    It would go from bad to worse as Marco Scandella allowed Jannik Hansen to get behind him and a chip out of the zone by Raymond caught the Danish-born forward in stride and he fired a shot by Backstrom with ease to make it 4-0 to a small chorus of boo's from the home crowd.  It was a devastating period for Minnesota who again had its chances but couldn't bury the biscuit and the Canucks who were outshot 7-12 added two more goals to really put the game out of reach for the offensively inept Wild squad.  The Wild looked demoralized as they headed back to their locker room meanwhile Minnesota were burning up Twitter with cutting sarcasm about their team.  Ugly.  

3rd Period Thoughts:  Minnesota decided to swap goalies; by sitting Backstrom in favor of Josh Harding.  The Wild were their own worst enemy to start the early part of the 3rd period as they tried to claw their way back into the game, but they were not taking enough chances to shoot the puck and were attempting too many high risk passes.  This not only did not result in a lot of shots being put on Cory Schneider but it also created some dangerous turnovers.  Sensing his team needed another spark as well as wanting to earn a decisive victory with the gloves dropped; Konopka went after Dale Weise.  Konopka certainly got off to a quick advantage in the fight firing heavy right handed punches that had Weise holding on trying to recover.  Weise would try to work a few blind uppercuts but Konopka kept throwing them until both fighters fell to the ice.  Konopka was still pretty upset, chirping at various Canucks' players as he made his way to the penalty box.  Once in the box he'd find out he was going to be given the boot as he was tagged with an instigator along with a 10-minute game misconduct.  The Wild tough guy wasn't about to be quiet as he headed to the locker room continuing to make some promises for next week's tilt between the two clubs.  The fight seemed to finally awaken the Wild and they'd start to create some offensive pressure and a key catalyst was Charlie Coyle who continued to use the body effectively and work the puck to Parise who peppered the goaltender.  Kevin Bieksa would hold up Pierre-Marc Bouchard giving the Wild a power play.  The Wild continued to get good play out of Coyle who was making the small plays behind the net to allow Minnesota to maintain the cycle as well as getting good chances from in close that were stonewalled by Schneider.  Minnesota finally would light the lamp with its 2nd unit as a battle won down low by Cullen would be passed out to Jonas Brodin who slid it across to Tom Gilbert for a one-timer that he blistered by the Canucks goalie to make it 4-1.  The goal got Minnesota moving a little again, but their own lack of concentration would foil any comeback bid as penalties by Setoguchi and Heatley effectively kileld any chance the Wild had rallying back.  The team would hear some discontent and apathy as they headed to the locker room after its 3rd straight loss.  

Niklas Backstrom didn't have his best night but it was tough to put the blame entirely on him.  He did seem to be guessing more than he has in the last few games; twisting and turning in his crease and getting caught off his pads and lying on the ice unable to recover.  Its his slow recovery time that had some fans (myself included) wondering if was showing his age a bit.   Some of the Wild's defense certainly did not help matters, especially Marco Scandella who really has struggled in the Wild's end.  It is unforgiveable he was caught so flat footed on Hansen's goal late in the 2nd period.  Even when Backstrom made the stops the Wild's defense seemed to only make it worse by not fighting hard enough in the scoring areas on the ice.  Harding was ok in relief but he only had to make 6 saves.  

Up front the Wild had some good chances; headlined by decent play by Devin Setoguchi who had another solid game taking his chances to shoot and being involved physically.  I thought Charlie Coyle was great on the top line; creating space on the ice for Koivu and Parise by being physical and creating havoc near the crease.  The 2nd power play unit of Cullen, Heatley and Setoguchi was surprisingly effective.  But as a whole it was another failure because the team isn't finishing the quality chances its creating.  The analogy of close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades comes to mind.  Cal Clutterbuck and Kyle Brodziak were missing in action throughout most of the game and have more or less been total non-factors offensively.  

What more can be done.  The team has made a trade, its players have held a 'players only meeting' the coaching staff has shaken up its lines multiple times and yet the result is painfully similar.  Little offense, lethargic early effort and defensive breakdowns combine for another loss.  I am not sure what to do; other than to go back to this organization's roots and bring back Jacques Lemaire and the neutral zone trap.  On message boards; Fire Mike Yeo threads build in intensity.  I have to say, Twitter was absolutely scathing tonight.  Even in the post-game show on Fox Sports Net North, former Wild workhorse Wes Walz seemed angry and at a loss as what to do suggesting the team needs to start calling out players for a lack of effort.  However that wasn't going to happen from Yeo who seemed ok with the effort in the 2nd and 3rd but said the team needed to get in the right 'mindset' to play tonight.  What more can be done?  Yeo didn't think facing adversity is a bad thing, but this team for the most part is healthy (knock on wood) but they are spiraling out of contention.  He said the players have a 'clean slate' but that doesn't really help promote accountability after  losing your 3rd straight game.  The Wild will face a hard-working Nashville team on Saturday night and I don't see this team doing well against a team that is going to be ready to work hard right from the start because that mentality seems as elusive as goals are now.  

Wild Notes:

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

~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Mason Raymond, 2nd Star Alexander Edler, 3rd Star Jonas Brodin (what no Corey Schneider?  Lame Wild fans, lame!)  

~ Attendance was 18,352 at Xcel Energy Center.

~ Mike Rupp wore #27 for the Wild joining Nathan Smith, Sean O'Donnell, Kyle Wanvig, and Cody Almond having worn the number before.  

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!

Harding dominates in his return as he helps Wild to 2-0 win over Vancouver

Cal Clutterbuck

I think its safe to say that most Wild fans are going into this game with a sense of macabre humor.  The team is in the midst of its death spiral and with division-leading Vancouver coming to town the outcome is almost a foregone conclusion.  While the season has zero prospects for any sort of berth in the playoffs, it has left Wild fans (who were granted the privilege of lots of home games to finish the season) the difficult obligation of finding something to do with their tickets.  Sure, you can go to the game and watch the team half-heartedly pretend to want to win or you can try to get rid of them.  Yet, who wants to buy tickets for a game where the home team is going to get stomped?  Unless for some reason you find fans of the opposing team, its going to make for an awfully tough sell.  As one Wild fan told me, “You can’t even give them away.”  Ouch.  Toss into the fact the team has had some miserable late-game collapses and it brought to my mind one of my favorite clips from the 1990′s sitcom Seinfeld.  Perhaps holding onto a reservation is a lot like the Wild seem to hold leads these days. 

As you can see in the clip, Jerry Seinfeld is annoyed that his reservation was taken (just like the Wild taking your money for the tickets) but the car rental company did not follow through with its obligation to ‘hold’ it and actually make sure he got the car (or in a Wild fan’s case holding onto a lead) he asked for.  No matter how much a Wild fan may try to sell this game to his buddies with the hope they’ll do them a favor by buying the tickets I don’t think anyone who has even been partially paying attention to the Wild’s fortunes will believe this team is that ‘vibrant’ at all.  Will the Wild surprise us all and hold onto a victory for a change or will it go talk with its manager and make some excuses why it didn’t get the job done (yet again)?

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Ryan Kesler

1st Period Thoughts:  Not a bad period for the Wild who exhibited a blue collar, keep it simple approach.  The Wild were playing safe, making little plays with the puck so as not to give up odd man scoring chances to the Canucks.  Between the pipes, Josh Harding looked real sharp, playing his angles very well and was showing a wickedly quick glove as he snared shots from David Booth and Ryan Kesler.  Even when Harding gave up a rebound, Minnesota’s defenseman were tying up Canucks’ forwards and the Wild forwards were racing back to pick up the loose pucks and escort them out of danger.  While Vancouver controlled much of the first half of the period, the Wild took over the 2nd half.  Part of this was due to a determined forecheck where the Wild were paying the physical price along the boards and causing some turnovers with good puck pressure.  A great shift by the top line of Kyle Brodziak, Nick Johnson and Dany Heatley was followed up by a solid effort by the 2nd unit of Matt Cullen, Devin Setoguchi and Cal Clutterbuck and it was at this moment you could sense a little momentum shift.  Minnesota’s hustle was starting to put consistent pressure against Cory Schneider.  The Wild was even showing a little edge physically as Steven Kampfer stepped into David Booth with a good hit and then Cal Clutterbuck leveled Marc-Andre Gragnani with a solid body check.  Minnesota’s hustle would eventually lead to a little bit of fireworks as Dany Heatley gave Henrik Sedin a little shove at the end of a shift and Sedin made a subtle turn as he tried to hit Heatley with his stick.  Alexandre Burrows decided to go after Heatley and immediately Kyle Brodziak was in his face and then Nick Johnson squared off with Kevin Bieksa.  Burrows and Brodziak exchanged a few stinky mitts but Bieksa started firing some vicious punches which were landing against Johnson who seemed a bit surprised by it all and just like that you had the first quality fracas of the game.  Burrows would get the extra roughing minor and it would prove to be costly for Vancouver.  On the power play the Wild moved the puck effectively to set up a few chances from long range, but Schnieder was up to the task.  Minnesota was persistent and with some great passing it was Brodziak feeding a pass from near the goal mouth over to a waiting Erik Christensen who somehow managed to sneak a wrist shot between the arm of Schneider and the left goal post to give the Wild a 1-0 lead with just 24 seconds left in the period.  It was a huge goal for a team that has been struggling with its confidence.  The Wild out shot Vancouver 12-11, but it could be argued Minnesota had the better quality scoring chances thus far. 

2nd Period Thoughts:  The 2nd period had a similar feeling to the 1st.  Minnesota was moving well and being physical and ornery in the crucial parts of the ice.  The Canucks were starting to show signs of frustration as Aaron Rome tried to step up his game with some big hits.  When Vancouver did manage to find some space to work offensively, Josh Harding was there to shut the door.  Even on the power play, where Vancouver is the most lethal team in the league there was Harding to steal away a the chance with a fancy glove save.  Minnesota’s penalty killers did a nice job of frustrating the little bang-bang plays the Canucks’ thrive on and the Wild got a huge kill.  The Wild answered back with a bunch of quality scoring opportunities from in close as Heatley, Setoguchi, Darroll Powe, and even Jed Ortmeyer all had point-blank range chances that Schneider fought off.  Minnesota’s best scoring chance came off a fanned shot by Heatley that got through Schneider but Rome was able to sweep it away before it could trickle across the goal line.  Vancouver found itself bottled up in its own zone as late shift by the 2nd line of Clutterbuck, Cullen and Setoguchi put on a clinic in puck possession as they frustrated the Canucks’ attempt to clear and were taking their chances to fire it on goal.  The frustration continued to build as Rome would get into it with Stephane Veilleux and as Rome punched Veilleux, his head bounced back and Bieksa got a face full of Veilleux’s bucket sending him to the ice in pain.  As a stunned and sore Bieksa made his way back to his bench, Matt Kassian talked a little trash at the fact Rome nearly knocked out his own player.  A few minutes after that, Ryan Kesler would make a very dirty hit as he low-bridged Cal Clutterbuck near the Wild bench earning him a rare clipping penalty.  The Wild were unable to do much on the power play and Minnesota still had to feel pretty good going into the 3rd period.  Minnesota out shot Vancouver 17-12, not often you see that.  Good period, liked the effort and hopefully they can finish well in the 3rd. 

3rd Period Thoughts:  Minnesota kind of sat back in the 3rd period and attempted to defend its lead.  This is normally a recipe for disaster, especially against a quality opponent like Vancouver.  It probably would’ve fallen apart if not for Minnesota’s hard work in their own end, to win battles along the wall and Minnesota was able to deny Vancouver from having the 2nd chance opportunities.  The Canucks were starting to win the territorial battles as they forced Minnesota to clearly the zone needlessly and give The Wild got a little help from the officials late in the game when Jannik Hansen was tagged with a phantom goaltender interference call as it was Tom Gilbert providing the slewfoot instead of the Canucks’ forward.  Minnesota did little with the power play, but it killed off two valuable minutes as Vancouver really started to press for the equalizer.  It probably wasn’t the ideal way to win with the team scrambling about its own end but they circled the wagons and with Harding’s stops were able to put the nail in the coffin as Brodziak buried an empty netter in a 2-0 win. 

Josh Harding was fantastic, making 33 saves in the victory.  He was seeing the puck very well right from the start, and demonstrated outstanding rebound control especially on the power play with traffic near his crease but this kept Vancouver from getting anything really rolling offensively.  His glove was fantastic and he deserved the shutout this evening.  Defensively I thought the Wild’s blueline did a decent job of sealing off Canucks’ forwards from having total freedom near the crease.  Clayton Stoner was a physical presence in the Wild zone, eliminating Canucks’ forwards consistently. 

Offensively the Wild got its forecheck going and it wasn’t isolated to one line as all four had their moments.  Each line did a nice job of putting shots on goal and keeping Cory Schneider under pressure through a good portion of the first two periods of play.  Say what you want but if Erik Christensen can continue to score goals in the home stretch of the season the Wild may have to think about re-signing him.  When he plays with confidence he can really impress with his skill.  It will be interesting to see if Ryan Kesler gets a suspension from the league for his clear lowbridge check on Cal Clutterbuck.  You be the judge. 

This win brought a huge deal of relief for the Wild who had to been feeling like they were circling the drain the last few days.  It certainly didn’t hurt it got a win against its rival, and helped keep them a little farther away from catching the St. Louis Blues in their quest for the top spot in the Western Conference.  Most importantly it was a win at home, and gave these fans who have felt stuck a chance to feel a little better about being season ticket holders. 

Wild Notes:

~ The roster tonight was as follows: Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi, Matt Cullen, Stephane Veilleux, Warren Peters, Matt Kassian, Jed Ortmeyer, Erik Christensen, Darroll Powe, Kyle Brodziak, Nick Johnson, Cal Clutterbuck, Clayton Stoner, Tom Gilbert, Steven Kampfer, Nate Prosser, Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella.  Niklas Backstrom backed up Josh Harding.  Justin Falk and Kurtis Foster were the healthy scratches this evening. 

~ The 3 Stars of the Game as selected by the fans were: 1st Star Josh Harding, 2nd Star Kyle Brodziak, 3rd Star Erik Christensen

~ Attendance was 17,188 at Xcel Energy Center.

Houston Aeros Report:

David McIntyre  Houston’s David McIntyre

Record: (32-20-3-9)  76pts  4th in Western Conference

Top 5 Scorers:
1. #14 Jon DiSalvatore ~ 25G  28A = 53pts
2. #37 Justin Fontaine ~ 15G  33A = 48pts
3. #22 Jeff Taffe ~ 15G  30A = 45pts
4. #20 Chad Rau ~ 10G  20A = 30pts
5. #13 Kris Foucault ~ 12G  16A = 28pts

Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #4 Drew Bagnall ~ 84 PIM’s
2. #12 Cody Almond ~ 74 PIM’s
3. #26 David McIntyre ~ 71 PIM’s

Top Goaltenders
:
1. #30 Joe Fallon (5-1-0)  2.10GAA  .929%SP
2. #34 Matt Keetley (1-1-0)  4.31GAA  .800%SP
3. #31 Matt Hackett (17-13-4)  2.41GAA  .917%SP
4. #35 Darcy Kuemper (6-6-4)  2.36GAA  .923%SP

The Houston Aeros are picking the right time to step up their game.  The Aeros went 3-for-3 this weekend in a crucial home-stand that had Houston defeat Rockford and then sweep West Division rivals Abbotsford as well as division leader Oklahoma City in a shootout Sunday night.  A great deal of the credit for the wins goes to Bemidji, Minnesota-native Joe Fallon who was absolutely stellar (named the AHL Player of the Week in fact) between the pipes for the Aeros.  He gave up just 5 goals in 3 games, which included a ‘perfect’ shutout in a 1-0 shootout victory as he stopped every shot he faced including all five in the shootout itself.  Offensively the Aeros had a strong weekend from UMD’s Justin Fontaine who had two goals and four points.  Prior to this successful week, the Aeros were sitting in 10th place but it is still an ultra tight race with Houston has just a 3-point lead on Peoria and Abbotsford.  With Niklas Backstrom returning soon and the relegation of Matt Hackett back to Houston it will be interesting to see what they do with Fallon who has been the hot hand in the crease.  The Aeros have a two-game series with Rockford Friday and Saturday before finishing the week against Chicago Sunday night.   

Wild Prospect Report:

Charlie Coyle  Saint John Sea Dogs’ Charlie Coyle

C / RW – Charlie Coyle (Saint John, QMJHL) ~ Charlie Coyle had a strong close to his QMJHL regular season with a 2-assist performance against Cape Breton.  The former Boston Terrier has earned rave reviews for his NHL-ready frame like you can see here.  He has versatility, as he won 7-of-13 of his draws (53.8%) and has 15 goals, 38 points and 8 penalty minutes in just 23 games.  His production and solid frame are a big reason why he was rated 14th in the Hockey News‘ Future Watch issue. 

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!

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