Niederreiter strikes in overtime to give Minnesota a 3-2 victory going into the Olympic break

Justin Fontaine

Cue the Olympic Anthem.  Get ready for taped-delay broadcasts people, make sure you adjust your Twitter accounts so you don't spoil the results early.  On morning shows, they'll post the various medals the United States has won and viewers and fans of the Olympics like myself have to cover our ears and close our eyes to avoid having the suspense ruined.  It doesn't matter how it happens, but if I see who won ahead of time or see the score scroll across the screen on a taped delay broadcast it kind of kills it for me.  I can try to get myself excited over watching a game where I've seen the score but you know whether there is a comeback or a collapse the overall feeling is kind of blah.  Its just like knowing the end of a movie.  Its impossible to be surprised and the climax loses all of its energy.  Yet there is one exception for me.  The movie Miracle.  Like any American hockey fan knows, the underdog Americans had a fantastic upset of the power house Soviet squad and then came back to beat Finland to win the Gold medal.  Even though I knew how the story ended and was quite familiar with what took place the movie still put me on edge with the action and the way the story was depicted.  But beyond that, I am not looking forward to dodging the "spoilers" every station feels compelled to show. 

Jason Pominville

However there is still one more NHL regular season to play before the players all bolt for Russia.  The Nashville Predators sit at the bottom of the Central Division but players are playing for jobs; whether with Nashville or elsewhere via trade.  Minnesota is coming off a dicey victory against the Predators, earning a 2-1 decision over Tampa Bay.  The Predators probably do not have much in the way of playoff aspirations but they'd love to do their part to try to spoil the Wild's chances.  Can Minnesota's 5 Olympic bound players focus enough to beat Nashville?

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1st Period Thoughts:  After an inconclusive first few minutes where there was a fair amount of hustle by both clubs but not a lot of pucks making their way to the scoring areas on the ice.  Good active sticks, and two teams recognizing the importance of points between them gave the appearance of making this game a defensive struggle.  Minnesota would have the first quality scoring chance in the period as Mikael Granlund set up Zach Parise near the blue paint that Carter Hutton fought off and the puck would roll slowly before it was finally swept away by Roman Josi.  Just about a minute after this missed chance, Nino Niederreiter would win a battle for the puck in the offensive zone and he'd swing it back to Jonas Brodin who fired a wrist shot from just above the left faceoff circle that snuck by Hutton to make it 1-0 Wild.  It was a soft goal as Hutton was unscreened but perhaps a bit surprised that Brodin decided to shoot but certainly a shot he should've stopped.  Nearly a minute later the Wild would give up a soft goal of their own as Craig Smith would motor into the Wild zone where he'd hammer a slap shot that Darcy Kuemper thought he stopped but the puck would fall from his pads and the puck would sit in the crease a second or two before Smith tapped it home to tie the game.  A few minutes after tying the game, a turnover near the red line by Justin Fontaine turned into a breakaway for Josi and he'd move in and shoot up high that Kuemper again struggled with and the puck would fall back into the crease only to be swept away by Ryan Suter.  Minnesota tried to answer back as Mikael Granlund carried it deep, and he patiently outwaited a sprawling Nashville defenseman before passing it out to the top of the crease where Jason Pominville intially fanned on the shot and then put it on goal with his 2nd attempt that drew a big rebound from Hutton.  The Wild would earn a power play as Rich Clune was tagged for hooking Keith Ballard.  On the power play the Wild worked the puck from low to high instead of just working from the wall to the point like they typically do.  This got the Predators' penalty kill to chase a bit and this ultimately opened up the high slot where Dany Heatley was lurking.  The Wild set up Heatley for a long deflection by that was stonewalled by Hutton.  Minnesota still liked what they were able to create as they went from high to low again, making the slot available and they found Heatley with a pass who turned and feinted at the goal before dishing a pass over to Parise for a heavy wrist shot that beat Hutton stick side to give the Wild a 2-1 lead.  The goal got the crowd going and just as important it got the team going and Minnesota followed it up with an outstanding shift by its 'kid' line of Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle and Jason Zucker.  The line outhustled and outworked the Predators along the boards and they cycled the puck brilliantly.  The Wild's tremendous dominance with the puck led to some great scoring chances as Jason Zucker was stopped on a shot taken a few feet from the crease.  The great shift, which kept the Predators bottled up in their end was followed up by the 3rd line of Matt Cooke and Kyle Brodziak that added to their misery and Hutton finally covered the biscuit to get his team a much-needed whistle.  The period would end with the Wild leading by one, earning an appreciative cheer from the 'white-out' crowd.  Pretty good period, but the team should try to get more pucks on goal as Hutton was really fighting it at this point.  

2nd Period Thoughts:  The Wild's good energy would carry over into the 2nd period where their hustle put the Predators on their heels.  Minnesota would earn another power play as Taylor Beck bumped into Kuemper giving him a two-minute sit in the penalty box for goaltender interference.  The Wild would move the puck on the power play with a lot of confidence as they made quick, crisp passes to open up passing and shooting lanes.  Minnesota had two golden opportunities as Mikael Granlund swung a pass cross ice to Pominville for a one-timer that Hutton denied, and then just momets after that he stopped Parise on a nice redirection from just in front of the blue paint.  The Wild would come up empty on the power play and the Predators tried to answer back.  They would tie the game for the second time as Victor Bartley wound up and slapped a shot that was redirected perfectly by Craig Smith up and over the shoulder of Kuemper.  There was nothing Kuemper really could've done to stop that shot.  You could sense the energy from the home crowd deflate after Smith's 2nd goal of the game.  The Predators continued to apply pressure and they came close to taking the lead as Shea Weber blasted a shot that hit the post.  Minnesota would draw a penalty as Jason Zucker was hauled down by Bartley.  On the power play the Wild's Ryan Suter found Parise on a long pass that sent him in on a near breakaway and he'd rip a shot high that was deflected up into the netting as Josi was holding him up a bit.  The Wild had a little trouble entering the offensive zone and the 2nd unit would get a chance to show what it could do.  They moved the puck a bit more quickly setting up Jonas Brodin for a blast that didn't miss by much.  The solid power play allowed the Wild to re-establish momentum in the game and they'd draw another penalty as Mike Fisher held up Coyle and would start the 3rd with a full 2-minute power play.  An ok period, but one where the Wild had some missed chances thanks to some outstanding saves by Hutton.  

3rd Period Thoughts:  Wild started the period with the power play, but the sense of urgency seemed to be lacking a bit as the quick puck movement that had worked so well previously wasn't there.  The result was whole lot of nothing going on the man advantage as both power play units seemed to be waiting for someone to take the initiative and direct a puck on goal.  Minnesota would compound their slow start in the 3rd as Heatley tripped up Ryan Ellis giving the Predators their first power play of the game.  The Wild penalty killers were doing all they could to force Shea Weber to dish the puck instead of just blasting it on goal.  Minnesota's puck pressure started to yield some turnovers, as Kyle Brodziak blocked a Josi shot and he'd race down the ice on a break away but all he could manage was a weak backhand shot (for a 4th grader) that was easily dismissed by Hutton.  The Wild would get the big kill, so what would give?  Well the Wild would do their best to end the stalemate with another offensive zone penalty as Niederreiter tripped up Colin Wilson.  On the power play the Predators had great difficulty with the Wild's aggressive puck pressure and Minnesota was able to disrupt passing and shooting lanes and cause turnovers.  The penalty kill seemed to fire up the Wild and they'd have another great opportunity shorthanded as Brodziak would pick up a loose puck from Ellis but as he tried to work it out front to get off a backhander he was knocked down before he could really get a shot off and the opportunity was gone almost as fast as it appeared.  Another crucial kill for the Wild.  The physicality started to steadily pick up as the 3rd period would go on as you started to see pushing and shoving after the whistle.  Minnesota would get another great opportunity on the man advantage as Shea Weber shoved Parise into the boards from behind.  Mike Yeo would choose to call a timeout to rest the Wild's top unit.  I think that was a mistake.  I think using the 2nd unit would've been a nice change of pace.  Instead the Wild go with their top guys and this time they moved the puck a bit quicker and generated a few shots from the perimeter where they tried to crash but Hutton was able to make the saves.  The 2nd unit would go out with about 36 seconds left in the power play and they would go right after Hutton with a number of chances as Heatley found himself stymied twice from point-blank-range before getting rocked by a big check and the game would go to overtime.  Minnesota outshot Nashville 15-6 in the period.  

Overtime Thoughts:  The Wild kept doing all that they could to direct shots on goal in overtime, and Hutton was making the saves and holding on for the whistle.  Minnesota seemed to have the extra bit of jump in its skates in OT and they'd take advantage of a broken stick by Shea Weber as it shattered and the Wild would pick it up and go on the counter attack.  Nino Niederreiter would use his speed to force Josi to give him a little space and he'd use him as a screen as he rifled it by Hutton to give Minnesota a 3-2 overtime victory.  

Darcy Kuemper was 'ok' tonight, making 16 saves in the victory.  The first goal was a bit flukey but certainly one that should not have happened.  Kuemper seemed to have a few communication issues with his defenseman as he left his crease when he didn't need to a few times and Minnesota was lucky that didn't cost them the game.  I thought Minnesota was pretty solid defensively.  Jonas Brodin was again great as was Ryan Suter.  The penalty kill was also rock solid, shutting down a fairly potent Predators' power play.  

Offensively the Wild again had a lot of missed opportunities but I liked the fact they were taking their chances to shoot the puck outshooting the Predators 36-18.  The power play overall was better, moving the puck with better efficiency and finding ways to at least create some offensive pressure.  The top line of Granlund, Parise and Pominville has looked very good and you have to think it will be tough to break up the line after the Olympic break if Mikko Koivu is ready to return.  I think Mikael Granlund looks better each game and his confidence and creativity continues to spark that line.  I also thought Charlie Coyle had a good game, but I still think he needs to shoot the puck more.  And what more can you say about Nino Niederreiter (a guy who the State of Hockey News wanted us to draft back in 2010), speed, grit and great offensive instincts and now he has an overtime winner and an assist to his credit this evening.    

Now most of the team can rest up for a few days before they begin to work out again and eventually report back for a mini-training camp for the home stretch of the season.  The Wild gives Minnesota a nice level of comfort sitting in 7th in the Western Conference as of right now.  There are still some more games to be played by those chasing the team before the Olympic break begins for the rest of the league but you have to like the way the Wild finished things off through the 3/4ths point of the season.  

Wild Notes:

~ The Wild roster tonight was as follows: Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Mikael Granlund, Dany Heatley, Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter, Kyle Brodziak, Matt Cooke, Jason Zucker, Justin Fontaine, Torrey Mitchell, Erik Haula, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Nate Prosser, Keith Ballard and Clayton Stoner.  Johan Gustafsson backed up Darcy Kuemper.  Mike Rupp, Marco Scandella and Niklas Backstrom were the healthy scratches. 

~ The 3 Stars of the Game as selected by Wild TV were: 1st Star Nino Niederreiter, 2nd Star Craig Smith, 3rd Star Jonas Brodin

~ Attendance was 18,766 at Xcel Energy Center.

Iowa Wild Report:

Current Game: Iowa 2, Utica 3 SO

It was an all too familiar story for the Iowa Wild on Wednesday night.  The Wild would strike first as Carson McMillan got a long pass from John Landry and he'd turn on the jets and get behind the Comets' defense where he'd beat Joe Cannata 5-hole to make it 1-0 Iowa.  The Wild peppered Cannata with lots of shots but couldn't manage to score and the Comets would press the attack in the last few minutes of the 1st.  Utica would tie the game on a power play goal by Nicklas Jensen, and then just a few minutes later they'd take the lead on a shorthanded goal by Rochester, Minnesota-native Colin Stuart to make it 2-1 going into the 1st Intermission.  Wild Head Coach Kurt Kleinendorst was not too happy with Johan Gustafsson, who had given up 2 goals on just 9 shots in the 1st so he swapped out the big Swede for John Curry.  Early in the 2nd, the Wild missed out on a golden opportunity when Jonathon Blum was hauled down on a near breakaway.  He was awarded a penalty shot later in the shift, but since he wasn't on the ice this allowed the Wild to select McMillan to take the shot and his attempt to go glove side was denied by Cannata.  The Wild would tie the game on the power play as Steven Kampfer set up Zack Phillips for a one-timer from the left faceoff circle that beat Cannata top corner.  Both sides were firing a lot of shots on goal but not a lot was getting accomplished as both goaltenders locked things down.  The game would eventually go to a shootout where Curry and Cannata were again solid sending it to sudden death.  It would finally end in the 9th round when the Wild's John Landry was stopped and Utica's Alex Biega scored to give Utica the 3-2 shootout victory.  Curry was perfect in regulation, stopping all 27 shots he faced.  

Wild Prospect Report:

RW – Kurtis Gabriel (Owen Sound, OHL) ~ The rugged forward helped end the Attack's recent small slide by chipping in two assists in Owen Sound's 5-1 victory over the Barrie Colts.  Gabriel also had a penalty and finished the game with a +2 rating.  The Newmarket, Ontario-native has 9 goals, 33 points and 72 PIM's as well as a +5 through 42 games played this season.  

G – Alexandre Belanger (Rouyn-Noranda, QMJHL) ~ The Sherbrooke, Quebec-native continues to be the anchor between the pipes for the Huskies as he stopped 30 of 33 shots on Wednesday in Rouyn-Noranda's 5-3 win over Cape Breton.  The win improves Belanger's record to 23-13 with a 3.11 goals against average and an .881% save percentage in 40 games played this season.  

High School Boys Hockey ranking:

These are the rankings for both Class A & AA (Boys) High School hockey as of February 2nd, 2014 according to

Class A (Boys)

1. Hermantown

2. East Grand Forks

3. Breck

4. Warroad

5. New Prague

6. Mankato West

7. Duluth Marshall

8. St. Cloud Cathedral

9. Totino-Grace

10. Mahtomedi

11. Thief River Falls

12. Luverne

13. Delano

14. Alexandria

15. Achiever Academy

Class AA (Boys)

1.  Lakeville North

2.  Hill-Murray

3.  Burnsville

4.  Edina

5.  Wayzata

6.  Blaine

7.  Elk River/ Zimmerman

8.  Duluth East

9.  Holy Family Catholic

10.  Eden Prairie

11. Benilde-St. Margaret's

12. Cretin-Durham Hall

13. Eastview

14. St. Thomas Academy

15. Andover

Jack Jablonski & Jenna Privette

About Derek Felska

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

Solid effort rewarded in 2-0 win over Nashville

Clayton Stoner

Team message boards are places where you can find fiercely loyal fans that want to discuss their teams, sing the team's praises and shred their organization at just about every level when things are going rough.  There are homers, skeptics, trolls, and those in between that all add to the conversation.  When the team is winning the fans are happy and jubilant as they celebrate the success.  However, as the Wild have lost their last 3 games, in seemingly more pathetic fashion each time the activity at the message boards is predictably doom and gloom.  On the Wild's top two message board sites, at Hockey's Future and both places feature threads asking whether its time for head coach Mike Yeo to be fired.  These threads are very active and fans seem compelled to share their thoughts, angst and frustration with the 40-year old bench boss.  The Hockey's Future thread named "Bring your pitchforks and torches its time for Mike Yeo to go!" minces little words about what it thinks is necessary to bring about positive change to the Wild.  Just a small sampling from the thread; "I don't just want Mike Yeo fired, I want him banished to Yeo Island for life and pepper sprayed on site if he tries to leave.  He shouldn't be allowed to coach an old timer boot hockey team, " said HF poster Willi Plett. poster JuiceSimpson, "He's a terrible rookie coach with good systems but has no ability to think on the fly, and the lack of emotion from him makes me want to kick him in the face with a golf shoe."  Glad to see the fans are holding back eh?  

Dany Heatley

The Wild have their next two games at home which are crucially important for the team and even more so for Yeo.  Whether the Wild want to admit or not they've registered 1 point in their last 3 games.  Minnesota has scored just 3 goals in those games.  Something has to give and playing against a team like Nashville whom the team has had a growing rivalry could make things interesting.  The Wild should show a little desperation to their game, but can they finally earn a victory for a change?  Or will the heat under Mike Yeo get that much more intense?  

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Mikael Granlund

1st Period Thoughts:  Minnesota had great pace to start the game as Zach Parise was flying around early, as he ripped a shot on goal that was steered aside by Pekka Rinne.  The increased intensity was very evident as Zenon Konopka would drop the gloves with Richard Clune after he missed a big check on Jared Spurgeon.  Konopka wanted to discuss the near miss and Clune did not hesitate and both players dropped the gloves instantly.  It was a spirited fight, with Clune having the upper hand early on as Konopka was patient trying to free his right arm so he could start trading some bombs.  Once he finally got his arm free, he was able to re-establish himself in the fight but right about then the officials moved into stop it and Clune would let up but Konopka would not stop and he pulled the Nashville pugilist forward and tossed a few more jabs that drew the ire of Clune, and especially the Nashville bench.  As the officials led Clune and Konopka to the penalty box, Konopka was not happy the officials stepped in when they did but both would sit 5 minutes for fighting.  The Wild would then have a scary moment when Nashville's Gabriel Bourque tried to dump the puck deep in the zone and he'd fire it right into the mouth of Jonas Brodin who fell to the ice in pain.  Wild Head Athletic Trainer Don Fuller went out onto the ice to attend to Brodin as he helped the young defenseman make his way back to the Minnesota locker room.  The chippiness would continue as Shea Weber would try to check Zach Parise through the goal post and he'd go to the box for cross checking.  Minnesota's power play would waste little time working the puck on goal as they created a myriad of prime scoring chances.  As they wheeled and dealed to set up quick shots on goal but each time Pekka Rinne was up to the task.  It was a total shooting gallery as the Wild did just about all they could to score, other than bury the biscuit.  The Wild kept attacking and their aggressiveness would draw another Predators' penalty as Ryan Ellis cross checked Nino Niederreiter into the boards.  Minnesota's power play sputtered a tiny bit at first but once they got set up in the zone the shooting gallery resumed as Rinne found himself under siege.  However, the result was the same.  No goals scored.  You knew the next penalty was going to go against the Wild and you feared with Minnesota's horrendous penalty kill that it was going to end up in the back of the net.  Justin Fontaine was tagged with a tripping penalty as he got his stick in the skate of Viktor Stalberg.  Luckily for the Wild the Nashville power play was pretty suspect as they struggled to handle the puck that led to some easy clears of the zone.  Minnesota would escape the Predators' power play mostly unscathed although in the closing moments Marco Scandella would painfully block a Shea Weber bomb from the point but the period would end with both teams knotted at 0-0.  Minnesota outshot the Predators 13-3, and another familiar period of so many chances that were close but no cigar.  I thought Nino Niederreiter had a good period and was assertive in taking his chances to shoot the puck.  Pretty good opening period for the Wild beyond the fact they didn't managed to score, again.  

2nd Period Thoughts:  As active and up-tempo as the first period was, the 2nd period was more of a chess match.  The Wild started to become more selective with its shots, as they tried to set up the perfect chance and at times they'd pass up prime chances to attempt low-percentage passes that were failing to click.  Shots became few and far between and some of Minnesota's best chances in the period came from the 4th line as Stephane Veilleux made a pretty cross ice pass to Torrey Mitchell for a bomb from just above the left faceoff circle that was stonewalled by Rinne.  Nashville flirted at a few prime scoring chances on some flurries near the net that looked a little dangerous but smart plays by the Wild's defense kept it out of their net.  The Predators seemed to fade more and more as the period went on, just simply unable to chase down the puck.  Mikael Granlund had a nice shot that Rinne struggled with a bit as the game opened up a little bit in the latter parts of the period.  Craig Smith would draw the defense towards him as he dished it over to Eric Nystrom who moved in all alone but his backhand chance was stopped by Josh Harding who hadn't had much work in this game to this point.  Minnesota would strike late as a long range wrist shot by Clayton Stoner caused Rinne to juggle it a bit and Justin Fontaine would race in and chip in the rebound to give the Wild a 1-0 lead with just over a minute left to play.  Huge goal for a team that had been outplaying the Predators most of the game.  The 4th line of Konopka, Veilleux and Mitchell had a great period.  Minnesota again outshot Nashville 11-6.  

3rd Period Thoughts:  The Predators would start the period, looking focused and a little dangerous as a shot from the point by Craig Smith that was fought off by Harding.  The Wild tried to respond with a scoring chance of their own as Dany Heatley set up Mikael Granlund for a one-timer that he hammered high and wide of the mark.  In a bit of a freaky moment, Parise would send Predators' defenseman Victor Bartley into the boards by the Wild bench where he'd crash into the gate which was not secured getting his arm caught in the hinge but amazingly he was ok.  Eric Nystrom would deliver a big hit to Nate Prosser and then goad the Wild defenseman to a fight.  Nystrom got off the initial few punches but Prosser would rally back as he caught the veteran forward with a few good punches to the mouth before Nystrom swung wildly and caught Prosser on the nose.  Pretty good fight, but it would put Minnesota another defenseman down.  As if it was timed this way the Predators got a little pressure in the Wild zone and they would draw a hooking penalty on Matt Cooke.  The Wild were going to get scored on right?  Nope, their power play again struggled to handle the puck and this led to some big turnvovers that allowed the Wild to clear the zone.  With another Predators' power play rendered useless the Wild went back on the attack and Minnesota's 3rd line had a fine shift where they controlled the offensive zone as well as being able to get a few nice shots on goal to alleviate pressure at a crucial point in the game.  A few minutes later the 3rd line was again pesky as Nino Niederreiter tried to set up Kyle Brodziak near the crease but he wasn't able to jam it home.  Minnesota would do its best to hold off a late push by the Predators where Matt Cullen was denied near the post and the puck would roll perilously close to the goal line before being swept out of danger by an alert Jared Spurgeon.  Minnesota's Jason Pominville would bury the empy netter to seal a 2-0 victory.  

Josh Harding stopped all 16 shots he faced in order to earn his first shutout of the season.  Harding came up with the clutch saves when the team needed him to do so and finally the team in front of him gave him just enough goal support.  Defensively, the loss of Jonas Brodin to a facial injury forced the Wild to play a man short for virtually the whole game but they shuffled successfully between Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella and his loss wasn't nearly as noticeable as one would expect.  I thought Nate Prosser had a good game, as did Marco Scandella.  Ryan Suter was his normal dominant self but I'd like to see him pull the trigger a bit faster in the offensive zone.  

Offensively, the Wild really got much the same effort they have the last few games.  They had 29 shots on goal, outshooting the Predators 29-16 but still just 2 goals to show for it and that's including an empty netter.  The team had plenty of prime chances, especially in the first period but just couldn't bury those opportunities.  Jason Pominville and Mikko Koivu are playing like two players who are feeling the pressure to perform and while Pominville got an empty netter I am sure he'll feel better when he rips one past a goaltender.  Koivu kind of gave up shooting on goal after the 1st period and started to pass up chances in exchange for low-percentage chances precisely what he shouldn't do.  I thought Justin Fontaine looked ok on the top line, I still like Nino Niederreiter better.  Nino didn't play too bad on the 3rd line and his demotion kind of sparked the 3rd line to be more of a factor in the 3rd period.  If anything, Niederreiter is demonstrating he can be useful all over the Wild's Top 9.  

Sure, the Predators were tired tonight after playing the night before in Winnipeg.  But the team has lost games against teams in that same situation this season.  They found a way to finish even though once again goals were tough to come by.  Its good to finally get rewarded but now they have to re-focus and do what they can to earn another victory on Thursday against Carolina.  

Wild Notes:

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

~ The 3 Stars of the Game as selected by were: 1st Star Josh Harding, 2nd Star Justin Fontaine, 3rd Star Pekka Rinne

~ Attendance was 17,651 at Xcel Energy Center.

Iowa Wild

Iowa Wild Report:

Record: 3-1-0  2nd in the Midwest Division

Top 5 Scorers:

1. #51 Zack Phillips ~ 2G 2A = 4pts

2. #11 Jake Dowell ~ 1G 3A = 4pts

3. #9 Erik Haula ~ 1G 3A = 4pts

4. #13 Kris Foucault ~ 1G 2A = 3pts

5. #10 Brian Connelly ~ 0G 3A = 3pts

Top 3 PIM's:

1. #18 Raphael Bussieres ~ 20 PIM's

2. #23 Steven Kampfer ~ 17 PIM's

3. #14 Corbin Baldwin ~ 14 PIM's

Top Goaltenders:

1. #31 Johan Gustafsson (2-0-0)  .50GAA  .984%SP  1 SO

2. #35 Darcy Kuemper (1-1-0)  3.04GAA  .898%SP

Last Game:  7-2 Wild win over Charlotte

The Iowa Wild are off to a great start with a big weekend in Charlotte where they swept the normally difficult Checkers in back-to-back games.  Iowa has managed to win with good defense and a style of play where they are regularly oushooting their opponents as well as getting scoring from all over its lineup.  Kurt Kleinendorst's squad benefits from two solid goaltenders who are pushing themselves to be at their best.  Tyler Cuma has been playing well for the Wild and has been a leader on the blueline along with Bloomington, Minnesota-native Brian Connelly.   

Wild Prospect Report:

D – Dylan Labbe (Shawinigan, QMJHL) – The St. Benjamin, Quebec-native continues to do his part for Shawinigan even if the rest of his team struggles.  Labbe had a goal and was a +1 with three shots on goal in the Cataractes 5-1 loss to Baie-Comeau on Sunday.  The 6'2" 192lbs defenseman has 2 goals and 9 points in 11 games this season.  

LW – Mario Lucia (Notre Dame, H-East) – The Wayzata-native tallied his first goal of the season in a 7-3 win over Michigan Tech on Sunday.  Lucia was a -2 with 1 shot on goal in the victory.  He played on the top line with T.J. Tynan and Bryan Rust.  

Jack Jablonski & Jenna Privette

About Derek Felska

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

Cullen’s shootout goal gives Minnesota huge 2-1 road shootout victory over Nashville

Colin Wilson & Ryan Suter

"Your cheatin' heart, will make you weep, you'll cry and cry and try to sleep, The whole night through, Your cheatin' heart, will tell on you, when tears come down, like falling rain, you'll toss around, and call my name, you'll walk the floor, the way I do, your cheatin' heart will tell on you, your cheatin' heart, will tell on you, your cheatin' heart will  pine someday, and crave the love you threw away," that of course is the song Your Cheatin' Heart by country music legend Hank Williams.  That could very well be the song on the minds of fans of the Nashville Predators as Ryan Suter makes his first return to 'Smashville' since signing as a free agent with the Minnesota Wild this summer.  Since that time Suter has been public enemy #1 amongst Music City's hockey fans who saw his pre-signing comments about wanting to stay with the Predators as being disengeneous.  So expect to hear plenty of boo's everytime he touches the puck from the always hostile Predators crowd, especially those up in the 'Cellblock' in section 303 at Bridgestone Arena.  Speaking of boo's, Minnesota hockey fans should be saving their boo's for the Minnesota State High School League for some horrendous late-game officiating that marred a fantastic Class A Championship between Hermantown and St. Thomas Academy.  A very marginal call a long way from the puck gave the Cadets a power play with 1:57 left and then in the closing moments, the Hawks' star defenseman Jake Zeleznikar was just feet from clearing the puck out of the zone as he was tackled on the play and St. Thomas Academy gets the go ahead goal with just over 6 seconds left.  Hermantown Head Coach, Bruce Plante (father of former NHL'er and Stanley Cup winner Derek Plante) was incensed and he berated the officials at the end of the game.  Here is a picture of the blatant non-call in question.  

Horrible non call

It is an absolute shame, and the boo's at Xcel Energy Center were loud and continuous as St. Thomas Academy recieved their travesty of a trophy and 1st place medals.  Wild fans can expect the same sort of intense 'hate' being directed towards Suter all game long.  The Wild's little hiatus was nice for fans like myself so we could focus on the best State High School Hockey Tournament in the nation (albeit one marred by some terrible late-game calls).  So will Ryan Suter make his return to Nashville sweet or will he look like a typical hard luck story which is normally the subject of a country song?  


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Matt Cullen

1st Period Thoughts:  Minnesota had good energy to start the game.  Moving their feet well and making quick decisions with the puck to elude the Predators' forecheck.  A modified 2nd line of Matt Cullen, Jason Zucker, and Torrey Mitchell that created a nice shooting opportunity for Zucker off the rush after an interception in the neutral zone by Mitchell.  The Wild's top line of Charlie Coyle, Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise caused the Predators some trouble by working the puck down low and winning some battles along the wall where it turned into a quick shot for Coyle that rang off the crossbar.  Nashville fans were boo'ing incessantly everytime Ryan Suter touched the ice, even touching the puck was not necessary as they just continued to boo on and off throughout any of his shifts.  The Predators tried to work the puck out the point and then did their best to deny Niklas Backstrom the ability to see the shot coming at him but luckily for the Wild they were missing wide.  Minnesota would start to employ a semi-passive 1-2-2 with the 1 forechecker chasing the Predators in its own zone and this led to some cheap turnovers.  Jonas Brodin would show off his ability to win 1-on-1 battles as he shut down a charge by Craig Smith, stripping him of the biscuit and making a quick pass.  Kyle Brodziak would inadvertently trip up Gabriel Bourque, giving the Predators its first power play of the game.  Minnesota's penalty killers were aggressive and denying the Predators' puck carriers much in the way of time and space and they would struggle to get comfortable in the Wild zone.  When Nashville did get set up; Minesota closed down near Backstrom and they swept away potential rebound chances and the Wild got a big kill.  In the closing minute of the game the Predators really started to run Wild players as they worked for one last shot on goal.  Jared Spurgeon would take a huge hit from Martin Erat and Charlie Coyle moved in to answer back for his teammate and Minnesota had to feel fortunate getting out of the first period tied at zero.  I thought the Wild were being a bit too passive, and be prepared to pay the physical price in order to create scoring chances.  It was nice to see Cal Clutterbuck back on the ice for the Wild; his simple approach of attacking the offensive zone with speed and his willingness to shoot can only be a good thing for Minnesota.  Nashville outshot the Wild 9-5.  

2nd Period Thoughts:  The Wild started to counter punch and figure out how to attack the Predators' zone in this period.  The first attempt came on a beauty of a long pass threaded by Suter to Charlie Coyle for a breakaway that was foiled by the hook of Shea Weber that was not called.  Minnesota had 3 power plays in the period, steadily improving on each one.  The first one was guilty of over handling the puck and not directing shots on goal and making it too easy for one of the worst penalty kill units in the league.  The Wild would take a more simplified approach on its 2nd power play as it was Suter flinging a wrist shot that was redirected off the shaft of Zach Parise's stick and by Pekka Rinne to make it 1-0.  Minnesota followed up Parise's goal with a fine scoring chance by Dany Heatley who gathered up a rebound and tried to sweep a backhand on goal only to be stopped by the 6'5" A-frame save of Rinne.  On the 3rd power play the Wild were taking every opportunity it could to direct shots on goal and force Rinne to make some big saves with traffic near his crease.  Defensively the Wild did a great job of keeping Nashville to the perimeter and for the most part Backstrom never really had to do all that much.  Part of that strong defense was being physical at the right times as Justin Falk sort of shoved Colin Wilson into the boards and the youngster and Predators' leading scorer was hurting after the hit and he'd head to the locker room.  Even Jared Spurgeon got in on the physical play as he leveled Mike Fisher with a good shoulder check.  Jonas Brodin was rock solid, using his stick to deny passing and shooting lanes and forcing his man to stay to the wall and its incredible to see the maturity and smoothness in the way he plays defense.  The Wild did a nice job of find ways to enter the zone with speed whether it was a ltitle chip in off the boards or a little dump and chase.   A great 2nd period, where the Wild outshot Nashville 8-6.  

3rd Period Thoughts:  The Predators started the period with more jump, and the Wild appeared a bit complacent despite having a one-goal lead.  Nashville was flying around the ice and being physical and their aggressiveness would draw a penalty.  As the Predators followed up a chance by trying to get into the face of Niklas Backstrom, Ryan Suter tried to pull away Nate Gaustad but he'd get a penalty for roughing.  The penalty itself, because it was on Suter really got the Predators crowd back in the game who relished the fact he was sitting in the box.  It would be a costly infraction as the Predators would tie the game after Clutterbuck partially defelected a pass only to put the puck right onto the stick of David Legwand who lifted it up and over the glove side shoulder of Backstrom.  The goal served to focus the Wild who went back on the attack with a great forecheck at first spearheaded by the 2nd line of Cullen, Setoguchi, and Zucker which kept the Predators bottled up in their zone and chasing when it was followed up by the top line which drew a hooking penalty on Nick Spaling.  On the power play the Wild moved the puck quickly to set up shots on goal where they tried to crash the net but could manage to get a stick on the rebounds that Rinne was giving up.  Minnesota was getting good play from its 4th line of Torrey Mitchell, Zenon Konopka and Mike Rupp who were a bit of a physical mismatch for the Predators' smallish lineup.  Neither club was able to create much in the way of scoring chances down the final few minutes and the game would go to overtime.  Some of the quick decision making that made the Wild so good in the 2nd was not there in the 3rd and the club needs to get that back if it wants to win in overtime.  

Overtime Thoughts:  Minnesota would control the play in overtime, as they'd go on the forecheck and their pressure would draw an unusual penalty as Pekka Rinne would get caught poking a pass outside of the trapezoid for a delay of game call.  The Wild's 4-on-3 power play was pathetic, very static with a minimal amount of movement either with passes or puck handling and ther result was a easy stop and a minute of power play time wasted.  I am not sure why the team decided to go with Suter at the point instead of more of a shooting defenseman like Jared Spurgeon but the 2nd half of the power play was better as Wild set up Setoguchi for a big one-timer which caught the arm of Rinne and bounced by the Predators' goalie and then hit the bottom of the right post and stayed out before Mikko Koivu could get there to tap it in.  

Shootout Summary:  Minnesota would shoot first to start the power play and their first shooter was Zach Parise who moved a little to the left before moving back down the center where he tried to deke and tuck it near the left post but Rinne shut the door.  The Predators first shooter was Gabriel Bourque who tried to use a similar move to Parise but he was stonewalled by Backstrom.  The Wild's next shooter was Mikko Koivu and the team's captain would move in where he took a wide left approach and seemed to be looking to set up his forehand to backhand shelf move but instead went 5-hole and beat Rinne with ease to give Minnesota 1-0 advantage in the shootout.  The Predators next shooter was Craig Smith who moved in and then almost stopped before firing a shot 5-hole that beat Backstrom to tie it up at 1-1.  Minnesota's next shooter was Matt Cullen who'd move in and slow down to a crawl before ripping a wrist shot 5-hole to give the Wild a crucial 2-1 edge, meaning Nashville had to score to stay alive.  The Predators next shooter was David Legwand who motored right down the middle of the ice but he'd lift a backhander that Backstrom just got a piece of as it hit the crossbar and stayed out giving Minnesota a 2-1 shootout victory.  

Niklas Backstrom was terrific, making 24 saves as well as 2 out of 3 in the shootout to earn a big victory this evening.  He was solid all night long, even with traffic nearby he came up with big saves and credit to the Wild's defenseman for sweeping away rebounds and preventing the Predators from cashing in on those 2nd chance opportunities.  I thought Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin were terrific.  Suter who endured both boo's and a "Suter Sucks" chant had a huge smile on his face as the team earned a shootout victory.  

Offensively the Wild had mixed results.  At times I felt Minnesota tried to be a little too fancy or passive with the puck and they were lucky Nashville wasn't able to capitalize on its chances.  It was good to have Clutterbuck back, knocking bodies around all game long delivering a team-leading 8 hits tonight.  Minnesota cannot be that picky tomorrow night against Vancouver.  I liked the way Charlie Coyle played, especially along the boards but also some of the confidence he showed in creating some scoring chances with some good moves 1-on-1.  One thing he does have to learn is how to sell a penalty to the officials as he should've been able to draw a penalty on Shea Weber early in the 2nd on his failed breakaway attempt.  

It will be a happy plane ride back to St. Paul but they will have to re-focus for what will be a very difficult challenge tomorrow evening against Vancouver.  I think the Wild are in better shape mentally and physically to battle Vancouver than perhaps they were in their first game but the question is how much did they tax themselves tonight in order to have enough saved up for tomorrow.  We shall see.  

Wild Notes:

~ The Wild roster tonight was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Charlie Coyle, Zach Parise, Matt Cullen, Devin Setoguchi, Jason Zucker, Kyle Brodziak, Dany Heatley, Cal Clutterbuck, Dany Heatley, Torrey Mitchell, Mike Rupp, Zenon Konopka, Tom Gilbert, Clayton Stoner, Jared Spurgeon, Justin Falk, Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin.  Matt Hackett backed up Niklas Backstrom.  Nate Prosser, Mikael Granlund and Pierre-Marc Bouchard were the healthy scratches.  

~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Niklas Backstrom, 2nd Star David Legwand, 3rd Star Zach Parise

~ Attendance was 17,113 at Bridgestone Arena. 

~ The State of Hockey News would like to congratulate the Golden Gopher Women's hockey team by winning the WCHA title with a 2-0 win over North Dakota tonight.  Its the 6th shutout in a row for the Gopher women's team and their 46th consecutive victory.

~ The State of Hockey News would also like to congratule the Golden Gopher and St. Cloud State Men's hockey team who both won a share of the WCHA's McNaughton Trophy as each team finished as co-leaders of the WCHA after regular season play concluded this evening.  Minnesota won tonight 5-1 over Bemidji State and St. Cloud State missed their opportunity own the trophy just for themselves after a 3-2 loss to Wisconsin.  

2013 Boys State Hockey Tournament Summary:

Reed Larson Award (State's top HS Defenseman) – Jake Bischoff (Grand Rapids)

Mr. Hockey (State's top HS player) – Will be named tomorrow

Frank Brimsek Award (State's top goalie) ~ Will be named tomorrow


Class A Championship:  St. Thomas Academy 5, Hermantown 4

Class A Herb Brooks Award Winner:  Chris Benson (Hermantown)

Class A 3rd Place game:  Breck 3, East Grand Forks 2

Class A Consolation:  Duluth Marshall 6, Rochester Lourdes 5


Class AA Championship:  Edina 4, Hill-Murray 2

Class AA Herb Brooks Award Winner:  Ryan Lundgren (Duluth East)

Class AA 3rd Place game:  Duluth East 7, Wayzata 3

Class AA Consolation:  Moorhead 5, Eastview 2

Wild Prospect Report:

C – Tyler Graovac (Belleville, OHL) ~ The Brampton-native continues to shine for the Belleville Bulls, leading the way with a goal and an assist as his team prevailed 6-2 Friday night over Sudbury.  Graovac has 37 goals, 68 points in 55 games this season; with 16 of those markers coming since his trade to the Bulls in just 25 games. 

C – Erik Haula (Minnesota, WCHA) ~ The multi-talented forward still leads the Golden Gophers in scoring with 46 points after adding an assist in Minnesota's 5-1 win over Bemidji State.  Haula, a junior, has 16 goals which is 2nd on the team behind Florida Panthers' prospect Nick Bjugstad

D – Colten Jobke (Regina, WHL) ~ It has been a rough season for the Delta, British Columbia-native as injuries have meant the overage defenseman has spent most of the game out of the Pats' lineup.  Yet, Jobke, the Pats' team captain returned and chipped in a goal in a 6-2 win over Prince Albert.  It was Jobke's 3rd goal of the season, giving him 18 points on the season in just 27 games played this season. 

RW – Raphael Bussiseres (Baie-Comeau, QMJHL) ~ It was a monster game for the Wild's 2nd round pick from 2012, as he had a goal and 4 helpers to lead Baie-Comeau to a huge 8-1 win over the Sherbrooke Phoenix.  The rugged winger was also a +4 had 1 hit to go along with the 5 hits he had on Friday night in a 4-2 loss to Blainville-Boisbriand last night.  Bussieres has 27 goals and 66 points in 58 games this season.  

Jack Jablonski & Jenna Privette

About Derek Felska

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

Setoguchi delivers a much-needed 2-1 overtime victory over the Predators

Zach Parise

There is a funny but ridiculous saying that denial isn't just a river in Egypt.  (Rant warning) After the Wild's 4-1 loss to Vancouver, a game the Wild should've been immensely desperate for a win the team started the game in a haze and were dominated by an apathetic Canucks team that sort of went through the motions which was more than enough to beat Minnesota.  The team registered a paltry 3 shots on goal in the 1st period; so much for all of the moves and changes the team made since its last loss.  Those changes would include a trade, a top down changing of the lines, a scratch of one of the team's more highly touted prospects, the call up of a promising prospect from its minor league affiliate and his promotion to the top line.  Yet what did that result?  3 shots on goal in the first period in a game played at the friendly comfines of the Xcel Energy Center.  The team would raise its intensity through the 2nd and 3rd period but its inability to bury its chances would again haunt them and the Canucks cruised to a fairly easy 4-1 victory.  If the play on the ice to start the game wasn't a major red flag as to this club having bigger problems within its culture, the comments made by team captain Mikko Koivu were flat out delusional.  Before I address them let me share with you some of the comments other members of the team made last night after the game including embattled Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo.  From assistant captain Zach Parise, "We didn't show up tonight," and from Tom Gilbert who scored the Wild's only goal, "We did not come out ready to play, we have to find a way to get more shots on goal and be on right from the start," and assistant captain Ryan Suter, "we came out dead.  It’s not fun right now. Things aren’t going well."  It amazes me that they were that uninspired but at least these guys were being honest, but what about their team captain?     

Mikko Koivu

"I think we were right there” and the Canucks did the “little things.”  Really?  What makes you think we were so close in that game?  How can you honestly say you're the captain of this team if you're going to be in such a huge state of denial after an embarassing loss at home?  I have to admit I am a person that has felt that Koivu is not fit to wear the "C" and his post-game comments only provide more proof to take that mantle of leadership from him.  Either way, its not going to get any easier as the Nashville Predators come to town.  They've made up for their lack of offensive punch by being more stingy defensively.  Perhaps the Wild should take a page out of the Predators' playbook.  But don't tell that to captain Koivu, afterall "we're right there" right? 

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Matt Cullen

1st Period Thoughts:  Charlie Coyle gave Wild fans more reasons to cheer with an outstanding first few minutes of the game.  The first cheer-worthy thing he did was win a battle down low in the offensive zone and pushed a pass over to Zach Parise for the Wild's first quality scoring chance of the game.  Parise hacked away at the puck but Chris Mason was able to come up with the save.  Then a minute later it was Coyle picking up a puck in the neutral zone where he made a little move before gunning a heavy shot on goal that Mason fought off and then a few seconds after that it was Coyle drawing a tripping call on Gabriel Bourque giving the Wild its first power play of the game.  Unfortunately the Wild did absolutely nothing with the man advantage.  The puck movement wasn't there and an opportunity was squandered.  Niklas Backstrom looked sharp as a nice back door pass by Kevin Klein to Mike Fisher was nabbed by the Wild goalie's quick glove.  The Predators' Craig Smith would fly into the Wild zone where he skated right by Jonas Brodin for a quick chance off the rush that Backstrom fought off.  Then he'd gather up the puck as Brodin tried in vain to slow down the strong former Badger who then charged the crease taking a shot that was stopped by Backstrom and the rebound was tapped home by an alert Nate Gaustad, 1-0 Nashville.  Minnesota's Kyle Brodziak would try to answer back stealing the puck from Roman Josi and then wheeling back towards the goal where he was stonewalled by Mason.  The Wild were trying to be physical; even players not necessarily known for being big hitters were throwing their bodies around.  Players like Devin Setoguchi and even Mikael Granlund.  More on a 'hit' Granlund gave a bit later.  Minnesota would earn another power play as Martin Erat was tagged with a hooking minor as he held up Brodziak.  The power play take another step backwards as Minnesota was never able to really establish itself in the offensive zone and as the power play concluded after a weak pass by Dany Heatley exited the zone you could hear some boo's from the home crowd.  The sloppy play continued as a long pass would be missed and head into the Wild zone where Backstrom would leave his crease and then choose to cover the puck instead of playing it before he was ran over by Erat and a scrum would ensue.  Both clubs would get penalized as Backstrom got a delay of game call for freezing the puck outside of the crease and erat for roughing.  With a bit more open ice the Wild went on the attack and Zach Parise would enter the Predators' zone with speed before passing it back to a charging Mikko Koivu down the slot but he couldn't get it by Mason who was able to steer it aside.  Mikael Granlund tried to get involved physically, but as he put the body on Mike Fisher he was tagged with an interference call as he impeded the Predators' forward's progress.  Late in the period the Wild's Zenon Konopka would trip up Josi for a penalty but Brandon Yip would move in and hit Konopka up high to even things up.  With the ice a bit more open the Wild had its best chance of the game as Ryan Suter would pass a puck off to Heatley for a quick shot and seemingly right to the stick of Devin Setoguchi who tried to jam it home only to be foiled by a last minute stab by Ryan Ellis.  Setoguchi was frustrated and a few seconds later Setoguchi wound up and crushed a slapper high of the mark and the period would end with the Wild trailing 1-0.  The Wild were showing a little more urgency but the results are the same with Minnesota having nothing to show for it.  You wonder when this drought will end.  

2nd Period Thoughts:  The Wild had some quality scoring chances early as Setoguchi set up Granlund near the top of the crease but the Finn lifted a shot up and over the goal.  Minnesota was showing good energy to start the 2nd period.  However they'd have some close calls either as the team was starting to get caught out of position defensively.  The shift lengths were also getting a bit long in the tooth.  On one sequence, Ryan Suter would break his stick and inexplicably Granlund wouldn't give the defenseman his stick.  They finally worked the puck out of the zone as Michael Rupp raced down the ice for a breakaway where he was denied on a diving save by Mason.  Coyle would take his first NHL penalty as he hauled down Erat.  On the penalty kill the Wild provided good puck pressure and never really let Nashville get its power play settled.  Minnesota would earn the big penalty kill.  Minnesota was persistant and they'd tie the game as the 3rd line had a physical shift where Clutterbuck paid the physical price along the wall where it was picked up by Matt Cullen who would thread a pass back to Ryan Suter who would wrist a shot on goal that was deflected by Clutterbuck and by Mason to make it 1-1.  With the crowd buzzing a bit at the goal, the Predators went back on the attack in search of the go ahead goal and nearly got it as Sergei Kostitsyn's bid was hit the side of the net as Backstrom dove to cover it up.  A few moments later the Wild would take another penalty as Ryan Suter was given a slashing call as he knocked the stick out of Erat's hands.  Minnesota's penalty kill was again solid, depriving Shea Weber of shooting opportunities.  The Wild would get another big kill to the sound of a rousing cheer from the Xcel Energy Center crowd.  Minnesota tried to go back on the attack as Mikael Granlund turned and swung a shot on goal that was was knocked away by Mason at the last moment.  Minnesota's pressure would draw a power play as Colin Wilson would get his stick into the face of Tom Gilbert and give the Wild a power play.  Minnesota would end the period with nearly a minute of power play time left and momentum on their side in a 1-1 tie.  

3rd Period Thoughts:  The Wild would start the period with just under a minute of power play time left.  The Wild did nothing at all with the power play time that was left and the Predators were able to get the kill.  Minnesota was carrying the play, working the puck deep in the zone and then sending it out to the point where they'd gun it on goal.  Minnesota's hustle was winning most of the races to the loose pucks.  The Wild's Devin Setoguchi would take a high sticking call that caused Scott Hannan to spring a leak up near his eye brown and give the Predators a 4:00 minute power play as Setoguchi protested vehemently from the penalty box.  Minnesota's penalty kill scrabled at times, but they made the plays necessary to clear the zone and kill valuable seconds off of Nashville's power play.  For the most part the Wild's penalty killers forced the Predators to settle for shots from the perimeter.  When the pucks did reach Backstrom, the Wild goalie was seeing the puck well and coming up with some clutch stops on goal, including one where he had Gaustad camping out right at the top of his crease.   The Wild's got a little luck too as Weber found him set up on a back door play but he drove a shot wide of the mark and when he returned to the Predators bench he bashed his stick on the rail and threw it in anger down the hallway towards the locker room as Minnesota got the huge kill.  A few minutes later the Wild would find itself back on the penalty kill as Tom Gilbert was sent to the sin bin for high sticking.  The WIld's penalty kill again stood tall as they kept the Predators' to the perimeter and through hard work was able to clear the zone and alleviate pressure.  Minnesota would get another big kill and both clubs seemed to be playing cautious hockey, wary of making a major mistake that would give away the game.  And time would expire with both clubs still knotted at 1-1.  

Overtime Thoughts:  Minnesota had a good quality scoring chance towards the beginning of overtime as Dany Heatley found himself set up near the Predators' crease as he'd unleash a wrist shot that was fought off by Mason.  Minnesota would set up another chance, this time a point shot by Brodin that would miss wide.  The Predators would have a tremendous chance of their own as Ryan Ellis dorve deep and set up a chance for Smith that Backstrom struggled with and the puck was picked up by Kostitsyn who then sent a pass out to Ellis who fired a quick shot that was knocked down by a diving save by Backstrom.  Minnesota would get a big break as Nate Gaustad would get a faceoff infraction penalty as he made contact with his hand on a faceoff giving the Wild a power play with just over 2 minutes left.  The Wild moved the puck well setting up Koivu for a shot from the point that was stopped by Mason.  Predators' bench boss Barry Trotz would use his timeout to talk things over with his team as the Wild tried to press for the game winner.  Minnesota's power play was patient, and its patience would be rewarded as some good passing from Suter to Koivu back to Setoguchi who registered his first goal of the year as he one-timed a shot by Mason to give the Wild a 2-1 victory.  

Before the game, Mike Yeo gambled that Niklas Backstrom would be razor sharp after being pulled in last Wednesday's game and he was right as the Finnish-born netminder stopped 25 shots in the win.  He was a source of strength all game long and he came up with some big stops to keep his team in the game.  Defensively the Wild did a good job at supporting their goaltender and preventing the Predators from really getting its forecheck going.  I thought Jonas Brodin had a nice game despite showing his lack of strength on the Gaustad goal as he couldn't physically handle Nashville's Craig Smith.  Nate Prosser looked decent in his return to the lineup.  Ryan Suter had an excellent game, chipping in two assists offensively as well as some big minutes in crucial stretches of the game.  

Offensively the Wild got contributions from all of its lines and while the 1st line wasn't quite as prominent as it has been Minnesota got pressure from its 2nd and 3rd lines giving the team the balance it had been lacking.  Proof is on the scoresheet as Clutterbuck and more importantly, Setoguchi tallied the goals.  Setoguchi deserved it as he really had been working hard the last 3 games and its only fitting he ended up with the overtime game winner tonight.  I think the call on Gaustad was pretty weak, but credit the Wild for taking advantage of it and getting a giant monkey off the back of a team that seemed to be spiraling out of control.  Granlund had an ok game, where he tried to be involved physically which I have to give him credit for trying even though he's at a disadvantage.  

This was a big win for the WIld, because the presssure was reaching fever pitch in the State of Hockey.  Minnesota probably deserved a few more goals than it had, but it's persistence paid off and it finally was rewarded with a victory.  Now they will be going on the road for a Western Canada road trip to Calgary and Vancouver.  I think like a lot of people, the Wild were at a disadvantage tonight but they dug deep and got a victory.  Hopefully they can build on that.  

Wild Notes:

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

~ The 3 Stars of the Game as selected by the fans were: 1st Star Niklas Backstrom, 2nd Star Cal Clutterbuck, 3rd Star Devin Setoguchi

~ Attendance was 18,806 at Xcel Energy Center.

~ The Houston Aeros earned a 2-0 road victory over the Rockford Ice Hogs Saturday night.  Darcy Kuemper had 38 saves in the shutout, while it got goals from Johan Larsson and David McIntyre.  

Wild Prospect Report:

RW – Raphael Bussieres (Baie-Comeau, QMJHL) ~ The Wild's 2nd round pick from 2012 has had a career season and he kept pouring it on offensively as he banged home two goals in Baie-Comeau's 5-3 loss to Cape Breton.  Bussieres has 24 goals, and 

C – Tyler Graovac (Belleville, OHL) ~ The big lanky centerman got the Bulls off to a good start on Saturday night burying 2 goals and helping Belleville to a 4-1 win over Erie.  Graovac now has 26 goals and 48 points in 42 games played.  

Jack Jablonski & Jenna Privette

About Derek Felska

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

Colossal 3rd period collapse kills the Wild in 5-4 loss to Nashville

Wild vs. Predators

All Star games are normally snooze-fests with lazy defensive efforts and lots of kissing up by broadcasters to the game’s participants.  With the lone exception of Major League Baseball, the outcome of the game is ostensibly meaningless so its no big surprise that controversy rarely plays a part in the event.  In all honesty, that’s the way it should be.  Its an event for the fans, so its all about seeing the best players (in most cases) play against one another in a friendly exhibition game.  It is a very rare moment where a player delivers a body check which is good otherwise we’d see another lame anti-physical contact column from the Hockey News‘ wimp in residence Ken Campbell.  I can hear his pathetic rant already, as his weak crusade against the physical parts of hockey tells me he is out of touch with hockey fans all over the world let alone his home nation of Canada.  The 2011-12 NHL All Star game was a complete non-story for Wild fans since the team did not have a real representative in the game after Mikko Koivu went down with a left shoulder injury (er, I mean an upper body injury).  Either way, if Koivu had attended the game I doubt Wild fans really would’ve been buzzing about the All Star game.  We at least sent Nick Johnson for the skills competition right?  No offense to Nick, but he looked lost and disconnected out there.  Unlike many of the other players, he didn’t seem to be involved into too many conversations and I wondered if a few players thought to themselves, “hey, who invited the AHL guy?”  Either way, Johnson’s passes during the team skills event were not going over all that well with shooters like Steven Stamkos and Kris Letang.  Considering Johnson is a key energy player, perhaps he can use the rest although I doubt he taxed himself too much threading a few bad passes during the skills competition.  Yet if this was there just so Minnesota had a representative beyond just having Nordy in attendance would the Wild have been better served sending no one at all? 

2012 NHL All Star Game  Would Minnesota had been better off having no one there at all?

Maybe its just me but I think the All Star break caught the Wild at a bad time.  The team was starting to turn things around, the effort that was such a big part of its fast start was back only to be put on hiatus for about a week.  The Wild must find that groove right away as they begin the home stretch over the last 32 games of the season.  Minnesota has a tough challenge to start out with the Nashville Predators.  The Wild will have to find that extra level of effort right away if it expects to be successful.  So will they play with lots of energy like you’d expect from a well-rested team or will they look like a team with jet lag from wherever they traveled off to during their only long break they have in the middle of the season?

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Devin Setoguchi

1st Period Thoughts:  Minnesota had the first quality chance of the game after a few minutes of grind it out type of play as Nick Johnson fed a pass to the top of the crease that was directed on goal by Kyle Brodziak but steered wide by Pekka Rinne.  The Predators tried to answer back with a scoring chance of their own as Jordin Tootoo that skittered harmlessly through the slot.  Nashville continued to swarm as Craig Smith won a battle along the boards and he fired a shot from near the left faceoff dot that was stopped by Josh Harding.  Both clubs were not giving up much of anything in terms of time and space.  The teams spent about 4 minutes just working the puck deep and not getting much accomplished offensively.  Nashville would nearly strike off the rush as Patric Hornqvist fired a shot that hit the side of the net as Minnesota’s defense was caught a little flatfooted.  After the initial failed chance Hornqvist would gather up the puck and drive to the net where he tried to backhand a shot by Harding who was strong in the blue paint and David Legwand narrowly missed as he lifted a shot up and over the Wild goal.  Minnesota would be patient and they would light the lamp as Nick Johnson made a nice play along the wall down beneath the goal line and he delivered a perfect pass out towards the slot where Dany Heatley buried it on a nice one-timer to give the Wild a 1-0 lead.  The goal seemed to add a little more jump to Minnesota’s game as they’re 3rd line of Darroll Powe, Warren Peters and Carson McMillan dumped the puck deep and out worked the Predators in their own zone as Powe flung a shot on goal.  Nashville tried to answer back and it was Craig Smith the former Wisconsin Badger using his feet to draw a weak hooking call.  On the power play the Predators moved the puck well enough but Minnesota was able to keep Nashville to the perimeter for the most part.  They were able to work a play near the top of the crease but Hornqvist was denied on a nice stop by Harding.  Minnesota’s penalty killers was not giving the Predators’ power play much to look at, and they were able to get the big kill.  As the penalty expired, Clayton Stoner did a nice job to use his body to seal off a Predators’ forward and then push it up to Kyle Brodziak who just kept moving his feet and in the process drawing a penalty.  On the delayed penalty Brodziak put a wrist shot on goal that was stopped by Rinne and the Wild were pouring it on before Weber was finally able to earn a whistle.  Minnesota would make Nashville pay for its mistake.  The Wild worked the puck down low and a bad decision by Kevin Klein not to clear the zone when he had the chance, turned into Matt Cullen chipping a pass off the shoulder of Klein and the puck fluttered to right in front of the crease where it was batted perfectly out of the air by Heatley to lift Minnesota to a 2-0 lead.  With the crowd still roaring from Heatley’s 2nd goal of the game, the Wild nearly added another as Heatley and the top line nearly cashed in again only to be stymied by the leg pad of the Rinne.  A few moments later, Rinne had to come up with another big save on a slapper by Nick Johnson that had the 6’5″ stretching to make the stop with Heatley prowling about near the Predators’ crease.  The Wild started to raise their physical game as Clayton Stoner blew up Craig Smith and if he forgot that big check just seconds later it was Matt Kassian who erased Smith along the boards.  Nashville tried to answer back and Colin Wilson dropped his shoulder to make a nice backhand pass to Hornqvist who fired a shot that was stopped by Harding and out of frustration the Predators forward shoved the Wild goalie into his own net and a pushing and shoving match ensued as Justin Falk and Nate Prosser moved in to protect their goalie.  Smith seemed to be the only Predator that had the jump in his skates to create space for himself and he’d pick up a puck in the neutral zone and fly into the Wild zone before unleashing a wrister that was juggled a bit by Harding before he was able to make the save and draw a whistle.  The Predators tried one last time to score late in the period as Matt Halischuk tried to backhand a shot near the post that Harding stopped and as Nashville jammed away at it to no avail.  The Wild had to feel pretty good going into their 1st intermission up 2-0, out shooting the Preds 11-10.  It was good to see the Wild respond with good shifts after the goal to apply some serious pressure on Nashville, something we haven’t seen in quite a while.  Its a good sign. 

2nd Period Thoughts:  Minnesota was hustling well to start the 2nd period, and their effort would be repaid with a goal early in the period.  Kevin Klein inexplicably let Cal Clutterbuck motor right around him for a shot on goal that was initially stopped by Rinne’s stick but the puck stuck the big goalie’s skate and then trickled in 5-hole to give Minnesota a commanding 3-0 lead.  It was a soft defensive play by Klein and a soft goal by Rinne who gave up 3 goals for the first time in 10 starts.  The Wild continued to move its feet well and the effort continued to lead to good things as the Predators Shea Weber tried to wait for an icing call that never came and as Heatley got to him on the forecheck Weber tried to chip it along the boards that was stolen by Nick Johnson who flung a wrister that was just directed up into the netting by the shoulder save of Rinne.  The solid effort was infectious as the 4th line had a chance of their own as Jed Ortmeyer out hustled the Predators for a puck and he drove a shot on goal that Rinne steered wide and the top line had a good opportunity of its own just moments later as Brodziak set up Heatley for a quick shot that was held onto by the struggling Nashville goalie.  Jordin Tootoo tried to get his club energized by trying to start something with Minnesota’s agitator Cal Clutterbuck and both would sit in the box and exchange words with one another in the penalty box as they both were tagged with minors for slashing and roughing respectively.  With the ice a bit more open 4-on-4 the Wild had a great opportunity as Kyle Brodziak tried to work a 2-on-1 with Jared Spurgeon who had joined the rush and Brodziak’s chance was knocked down by the blocker of Rinne and Spurgeon just wasn’t able to get enough of the rebound.  A few minutes after some sloppy play in their own end, the Predators would cut the Wild lead to two, as the failure to control the puck in their own zone turned into a point shot for Kevin Klein that was perfectly redirected by Halischuk by a stunned Harding to make it 3-1.  Nashville was continuing to try to claw their way back into the game and a nice play by Martin Erat to feed Mike Fisher for a one-timer that was stonewalled by Harding and a few seconds later they’d have another chance as Tootoo hammered a shot that was blocked away by the Minnesota netminder.  Minnesota would settle things down and the top line would try to put Nashville back on the defensive as Nick Johnson made a nice play down low to work the puck back out to the point to Stoner who thought about it before passing it to Brodziak for a one-timer that was absorbed by Rinne.  A few moments later the top line nearly set Heatley up for a hat trick as Brodziak gave him a pass that Heatley blasted high and wide of the mark.  Minnesota would take control of the game with more hustle, winning the races for the loose pucks and keeping Nashville worried about keeping the Wild from extending its lead.  Yet the Wild came very close to doing so as Devin Setoguchi got a little space and he nearly was able to backhand a shot by Rinne who was just able to keep the puck from crossing the goal line before the whistle blew.  It was a not bad recovery after Minnesota’s small lapse in effort that cost them a Predators’ goal.   

3rd Period Thoughts:  Minnesota got out to another great start in the 3rd period as Nick Johnson drove to the net where he stuffed a shot that snuck through the leg pads of Rinne and as the puck moved to the goal line it was finished off by Kyle Brodziak to give the Wild a 4-1 lead.  The Wild went back on the forcheck with its 3rd line of Peters, Powe and McMillan that kept Nashville bottled up in its own end for nearly another 45 seconds.  Minnesota was playing with a little swagger, as the 4th line tried to be a little fancy as Jed Ortmeyer tried to connect on a diagonal pass off the rush to a crashing Matt Kassian that just failed to click.  Nashville tried to answer back with some hustle of its own, but an open shot from the slot by Nick Spaling missed wide.  After a few minutes of sort of aimless hockey the Predators tried to pour it on with its big-bodied line of Wilson, Legwand and Hornqvist but Minnesota was poised and circled the wagons around Josh Harding and kept the Predators to the wall although former White Bear Lake star Jack Hillen was stopped by the Wild goaltender who reached back to make the stop.  Nashville continued to swarm and it was Matt Halischuk driving the puck to the crease where he managed to swing a shot from the blue paint that Harding didn’t not really stop but the puck appeared to cross the line as the officials whistle blew.  The replay seemed to indicate Halischuk scored (although the goal was later given to Brandon Yip), but after a lengthy review veteran NHL referee Don VanMassenhoven pointed to center ice saying it was a good goal, 4-2 Wild.  The goal seemed to give Nashville a boost, as they started to go on the attack.  Shea Weber fired a few times that nearly found the back of the net, and Minnesota was scrambling a bit in its own zone.  The Predators were continuing to move well, and Martin Erat fired  a dangerous shot from the point that nearly ping-ponged off traffic but was somehow steered to the corner as Harding struggled to see the shot.  Minnesota was trying to play defense by stepping up offensively and Clutterbuck and Cullen worked a 2-on-1 where Cullen was denied on a great save by Rinne.  The Predators kept battling and their big line of Wilson and Legwand would cause Minnesota problems as Colin Wilson just drove to the net and kept poking and pushing until the puck trickled in to cut Minnesota’s lead to one, 4-3.  Nashville would not have to wait long for the equalizer, and some great passing by Wilson who actually fanned on the pass that went between the legs of a Wild defender for an easy tap in goal for Fisher just 21 seconds after Hornqvist’s tally.  Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo called a timeout to talk things over.  With the game tied at 4-4, the game had a more cautious feel to it as both clubs hoped to avoid making the crucial mistake to give up the go-ahead goal.  The Wild were a bit guilty defensively of standing around as the Predators were moving their feet well and Craig Smith nearly snapped home the game winner.  The game seemed to be destined for overtime, but the Predators kept battling along the boards and it was Fisher who fired a shot from the wall that fooled Harding to give Nashville a 5-4 lead with just 20.8 seconds left.  The Predators called a timeout to talk things over defensively as they knew the Wild would try one last rush for the equalizer.  Minnesota would get its chance as Matt Cullen won the draw and Kyle Brodziak skated into the zone and fired a shot towards the crease but unfortunately no one was able to get a stick on the puck to do anything with the opportunity and the Wild would lose to a serenade of boo’s 5-4. 

Josh Harding was good for about 55 minutes of this game, where he gave up two goals through the first 50 minutes but three goals in the final 3:21 to kill the Wild.  Defensively, Minnesota wasn’t too bad for most of this game as well.  Falk, Prosser, Zanon and Stoner were feisty and physical early but towards the end of the game they were resorting to stick checks and the Predators’ forwards were able to go to the crease and make the plays they needed to win the game.  I am still very glad (no matter the outcome) the team chose to sit Mike Lundin and Marek Zidlicky, neither of them would’ve helped Minnesota in this game and certainly not down the crucial stretch that cost them the game.  Zidlicky should keep his mouth shut and watch his games and if he doesn’t think he was the worst player on the ice throughout most of those games he’s either delusional or in denial (he can take his pick). 

Offensively, the Wild had great production from its top line which combined for 3 goals, two from Heatley and then got another from the 2nd line in Cal Clutterbuck and it should’ve been enough to win this game.  The team was at its best on the attack and forechecking, which really caused the smallish defense of the Predators to struggle.  The 3rd and 4th lines need to shoot the puck a bit more than they did, but other than that I thought they provided decent hustle in most of their shifts.  It was good to see Heatley being assertive early but he was largely invisible after a great 1st period.  Yet overall its pretty tough to say the offense didn’t do enough. 

I have to admit I was a bit disturbed by the “what can you do” attitude of Nick Johnson after what was a colossal collapse tonight.  This was the type of loss that should’ve led someone to smash up the locker room, it was an epic failure.  This game was determined by a team that wanted it more versus another team thinking the game was already over.  The Wild must learn it can not take any game for granted no matter what sort of lead it may have.  Harding at least seemed a bit more realistic albeit useless words when he told Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune “No way in a 100 years should we have lost that game.”  Ya think?  Yet what would the Wild Head Coach have to say after the State of Hockey’s biggest choke in quite a while?  “You ever been punched in the stomach real hard?  That’s what that felt like.  It didn’t feel like there was a sense of panic on the bench, but we looked completely out of gas, but its no excuse.”  He talked about how there was a lack of pressure in the defensive zone and said fatigue was the reason for the loss.  Perhaps Yeo’s best summary was “It seemed like two different games, you saw what happens when we execute as we can and then you saw (phew) its tough, really tough.”  No question, and the Wild have only themselves to blame.   

Wild Notes:

~ Wild roster tonight is as follows: Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi, Nick Johnson, Matt Cullen, Cal Clutterbuck, Jed Orymeyer, Warren Peters, Chad Rau, Kyle Brodziak, Darroll Powe, Carson McMillan, Matt Kassian, Nick Schultz, Greg Zanon, Clayton Stoner, Justin Falk, Nate Prosser and Jared Spurgeon.  Niklas Backstrom backed up Josh Harding.  Mike Lundin, Marek Zidlicky and Brad Staubitz were the healthy scratches. 

~ The 3 Stars of the Game as selected by the fans were: 1st Star Dany Heatley, 2nd Star Mike Fisher, 3rd Star Cal Clutterbuck

~ Attendance was 17,235 at Xcel Energy Center.

He did what? 

This is a short feature on a Wild prospect or player doing something no one thought he was capable of.  This is Casey Wellman dropping the gloves against Florida prospect Michael Repik last Saturday night.  Enjoy! 

Wild Prospect Report:

Erik Haula  Minnesota’s Erik Haula

F – Erik Haula (Minnesota, WCHA) ~ It was a huge weekend for the Golden Gophers and the Pori, Finland-native scored a huge goal on Saturday night as Minnesota swept the series after a 3-2 victory.  Haula had a strong game, showcasing his ability as a sniper as well as being a gifted playmaker too chipping in an assist on Friday night.  Haula is 2nd on the Gophers in scoring with 11 goals and 30 points in 29 games. 

LW – Jason Zucker (Denver, WCHA) ~ Last year Zucker was named the WCHA’s ‘Rookie of the Year’ and after a slow start Zucker has been raising his game, being a regular contributor on the score sheet.  This weekend against Alaska-Anchorage was no different as Zucker had 3 points in the two-game series; 1 goal and 2 assists.  The speedy forward has 14 goals, 32 points in just 22 games. 

G – Stephen Michalek (Harvard, ECAC) ~ Harvard versus Yale is your ultimate Ivy League match up.  The games these schools have are for the pride that goes beyond its impressive list of graduates.  Enter Wild prospect and freshman Crimson goaltender Stephen Michalek who made 19 stops in dramatic 4-3 win for Harvard Friday night against the Bulldogs and then stopped 24 shots in a 3-1 win over fellow Ivy league squad Brown on Saturday.  Michalek has 6-5-7 record, and while his numbers may not be eye popping he’s playing very well as a freshman in a decent college hockey conference with a 2.98 goals against average and a .900% save percentage. 

F – Mario Lucia (Penticton, BCHL) ~ Maybe its a bit presumptuous of me, but perhaps the BCHL just ought to give the league championship to Penticton already.  The Penticton Vees are obliterating their opponents routinely in 1980’s Edmonton Oilers’-like fashion.  With so many weapons, many of whom hail from Minnesota the Vees crushed the Salmon Arm Silverbacks 8-1 Saturday night.  Lucia got things rolling for the Vees, potting the first goal of the rout.  The former Wayzata star’s numbers are very impressive with 30 goals and 72 points in just 41 games! 

Nick Seeler  Muskegon’s Nick Seeler

D – Nick Seeler (Muskegon, USHL) ~ Nick Seeler has certainly been challenged playing for the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the USHL.  Seeler has found points far tougher to come by but he is trying to be a factor on the score sheet, as he buried a power play goal Saturday in Muskegon’s 5-3 loss to Indiana.  The former Eden Prarie star has 3 goals and 15 points in 31 games for the Lumberjacks. 

C – Zack Phillips (Saint John, QMJHL) ~ Phillips banged home his 26th goal of the season to help lift the Sea Dogs to a 6-3 win over Blainville-Boisbriand on Sunday afternoon.  The Fredericton, New Brunswick-native was very strong on his draws going 10-for-13 (76.9%), and his goal brings him up to 65 points in 44 games. 

RW – Charlie Coyle (Saint John, QMJHL) ~ While Phillips buried a goal, Coyle was helping setting them up as he contributed two helpers in the 6-3 victory.  So far Coyle has 5 goals and 3 assists in 6 games played in the ‘Q’ thus far. 

Wild Tryout Camp Spotlight:

Kyle Thomas  Norwich’s Kyle Thomas

F – Kyle Thomas (Norwich, ECAC-Div.III) ~ Thomas’ tremendous speed and hustle made him a standout at the Wild’s prospect camp this summer.  So if he impressed at a tryout camp he should be dominant playing at Division III Norwich right?  The Waltham, Massachusetts-native is 3rd on the Cadets in scoring with 11 goals and 25 points in just 15 games. 

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!

Hard work by Minnesota Wild not enough in shootout loss in Nashville

Wild vs. Predators

This really is one of my favorite times of the year, the true tournament time in Minnesota.  Yes, the annual State Tournament is one of the big showcase, but only for the 32 teams for boys / girls in Class A and Class AA.  The holidays also brings us statewide tournaments which feature just about every team in the state.  Whether its the Schwan’s Cup or the St. Paul Premier Tournament, these tourneys provide plenty of great hockey and competition that any hockey fan should love to watch.  Personally, I’ve made it a bit of a tradition the last 10 years to go to the St. Paul Premier Tournament held in South St. Paul’s Wakota Arena.  Its a great chance to watch some great high school hockey in an arena that has plenty of history.  These tournaments are also a boon for scouts of college, junior, and professional ranks to get a good look at players and its not uncommon to see all three groups represented at a single tournament.  As former North Stars General Manager Lou Nanne reminds all of us in the State of Hockey each spring that many of the kids we see play will be the future stars of the game and who doesn’t like a sneak preview if they can get it?  Yes, the stakes are not as high as they are in the Sectional and State tournaments, but it gives all of these teams an opportunity to perhaps add a little hardware to the trophy case along with lots of lasting memories in the process win or lose.  Isn’t that really what its all about?  

Eagan's Michael Zajac   Baraboo Thunder

Meanwhile, back in the NHL the holiday is basically over and you are more or less near the halfway point of the season.  Its a time where clubs put their progress in perspective and get ready for the grueling push for the playoffs.  Two clubs that hope to be a part of the post-season this year are the Minnesota Wild and the Nashville Predators.  In the past, these teams have combined for some tremendously exciting, high scoring games which is not what you expect from two teams who are not known for producing a lot of goals.  So will we see another exciting, back-and-forth offensive barn burner or will the Wild be the Predators prey? 

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Mikko Koivu

1st Period Thoughts: Early on, it was obvious that Minnesota came to play tonight.  They were not going to play this game defeated, nor were they going to make things an easier for their opponent than their already depleted roster was going to make things.  The puck was moving and making it to the net, but only to be stopped by Pekka Rinne time and time again.  Both teams had some great chances in the period, however Rinne and Josh Harding stood tall in their respective ends.  If both teams had different goaltenders altogether, most likely this period would have ended differently than a 0-0 tie.  With the way both teams skated, one would have expected at least one goal, but that was not to be.

2nd Period Thoughts: It was a scary start for the Wild this period.  They appeared to look a little sluggish.  Of course it could have been more the fact that the Predators came out with some pep in their step.  They definitely had more energy in the first few minutes of the second than they appeared to have in the entire first period.  However, the crazy part of that is that with 12:13 remaining in the second, the Predators still had no shots on goal.  That just seems impossible, especially since they had a power play due to a Nate Prosser hooking call.  One thing that was definitely noticed, was just after the Wild went on their first power play of the night, was Matt Cullen and Nick Schultz having a long conversation on the bench while pointing to zones on the ice in front of Pekka Rinne.  That kind of communication, combined with coaching staff talking especially to the younger players during the breaks in play often will bode well for teams.  However, that off-ice communication needs to translate to on-ice communication.  That didn’t exactly pan out, as the Wild were called for the unforgivable too many men penalty.  That is proof of lack of communication, and right now, Minnesota simply cannot afford those kinds of mental mistakes.  Minnesota appeared to redeem themselves by not only killing the too many men penalty, but they picked up their game.  Feet are moving, shots are being taken, and there was all out hard work being demonstrated late in the second period, not to mention a potential game saver by Greg Zanon who sprawled on the ice to poke the puck off the stick of Sergei Kostitsyn.  A gold star also has to go out to Colton Gillies for his absolute fantastic and inspired play late in the period.  I honest cannot think of another time this season where he has been so visible and visible for excellent play as opposed to what Wild fans have usually seen from him.  The Wild and Predators headed to the locker room still locked in a 0-0 tie, with Minnesota clearly leading in the shot department.  With that alone, one has to think that the Wild eventually have to score, even though Bridgestone Arena has not been good to the team when it comes to goals.

3rd Period Thoughts: Once again, Minnesota’s third and fourth lines have had another great game.  Time and time again, we see them not only outwork their opponent, but even worse, their teammates on the first and second lines.  Their energy and hard work, just continue to generate offensive chances.  You just have to wonder why the same cannot be said of the more skilled players.  Unfortunately, the best chance of the game, came early in the third period, on an off the pipe shot by Kyle Brodziak.  Sadly, just shortly after that pipe, Jonathon Blum scored.  Even though Minnesota found themselves down a goal, they didn’t find themselves down on themselves.  They simply picked themselves back up and got to work.  It should come as no surprise to anyone, that it was Brodziak getting the shots on goal.  The only thing standing between the Wild and a game tying goal is one Pekka Rinne, who takes up more of the net than just about any other goaltender in the league.  Of course, the Predators are probably wondering a bit what it will take to get more past Josh Harding as Minnesota’s goaltender has had a very, very good game as well.  The hard work would eventually pay off, as Dany Heatley finally got the tying goal with just under four minutes left in regulation.  Heatley somehow found the smallest of holes, as Rinne is known for covering all the corners of the net.  I don’t care how he did.  All that matters is that Heatley pulled us back into this game.  Late period penalties by both teams were not enough to break the tie, and the two teams would head into overtime, with the Wild killing a short amount of penalty time.

Overtime/Shootout Thoughts:  This has been the Wild’s period.  The hardwork and effort have been all Minnesota.  They outshot the Predators, and some of them came very close to turning into goals, including one by a snake-bitten Marek Zidlicky.  For whatever reason, all the hard work failed to be rewarded, and the two teams headed to the shootout.  In reality, all anyone has to know is the attempt by Cullen that didn’t really even net a shot on goal.  As Cullen raised his head, the puck simply fell off his stick and he was unable to get a shot off.  Mikko Koivu for whatever reason chose not to use his tried-and-true shot.  Then Pierre-Marc Bouchard opted for his characteristic spin-a-rama shot.  While Bouchard had Rinne down and had an open net to work with, somehow Rinne’s leg pulled Bouchard off his shot therefore, not one Wild skater was able to get one past Rinne.  All Nashville needed for the win, was the lone shootout goal by Colin Wilson.   

Wild Notes:

~ The Wild roster was the following: Matt Cullen, Mikko Koivu, Darroll Powe, Dany Heatley, Brad Staubitz, Colton Gillies, Kyle Brodziak, Cal Clutterbuck, Nick Johnson, Jon Disalvatore, Warren Peters, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Marek Zidlicky, Greg Zanon, Marco Scandella, Nate Prosser, Justin Falk, Nick Schultz.  Niklas Backstrom backed up Josh Harding.

~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st star, Pekka Rinne; 2nd star, Josh Harding; 3rd star, Jonathon Blum

~ Attendance was 17,113 at Bridgestone Arena. 

Wild Prospect Report:

Brett Bulmer  Brett Bulmer faces the Canadian media

LW – Brett Bulmer (Kelowna, WHL) ~ I wonder what is going through Brett Bulmer’s mind as he watches Team Canada dominate early at the World Junior Championships, a team he probably feels he deserves to be on.  Bulmer meanwhile gets to ply his trade with the Rockets, but it has required a lot of heavy lifting as Kelowna just lacks the firepower it needs to win most games.  However, Bulmer is doing his part scoring the Rockets lone goal (his 14th) in a 4-1 loss on Tuesday as well as dropping the gloves with Spokane’s Davis Vandane.

D – Josh Caron (Everett, WHL) ~ The Everett Silvertips felt they were not tough enough, so they went out to get one of the toughest players they could find in Wild prospect defenseman Josh Caron.  Caron has tried to bring that edgy game to the Silvertips, but so far its been a story of mixed results.  Prior to the move, Caron was +9 for the surging Kamloops Blazers, but after 7 games with his new team he’s an ugly -8.  The Campbell River, British Columbia-native dropped the gloves on Tuesday night with Seattle’s Mitch Elliot in a 2-1 loss to the Thunderbirds.  These two have a bit of a history that you can see here in a fight between the two that occurred almost a season ago. 

U-20 World Junior Championships Update:

Finland 4, USA 1 ~ After an 8-1 drubbing by tournament host Canada, you had to figure the Finns were going to answer back.  In a patient, defensive game Finland scored early in the 2nd period on a goal by Miikka Salomaki.  The United States was at times guilty of being a bit too cute with the puck but they still peppered Sami Aittokallio with 16 shots on goal but couldn’t get any by him.  Chicago Blackhawks’ prospect Brandon Saad tied the game up for Team USA but that as close as the Americans would get to a victory.  During a USA power play, American goaltender John Gibson made a foolish decision to trip up Markus Granlund as he tried to give the breakout a bit more space to work with.  The ill-advised penalty killed TeamUSA’s momentum and the Finns took advantage of the confusion by lighting the lamp 3 times.  Buffalo Sabres prospect Joel Armia scored twice, and Wild prospect Mikael Granlund got his first goal of the tournament when a pass of his caromed off the skate of John Merrill and in.  TeamUSA looked fatigued and demoralized as they got hit with their second loss of the tournament.  It doesn’t get any easier for TeamUSA who faces Canada next.  Wild prospect Charlie Coyle had an assist on Saad’s goal.

Sweden 4, Switzerland 3 ~ After blowing out Latvia 9-4, the Swedes had a much tougher test against a pesky Swiss squad late this afternoon.  Luckily for Sweden, they got much better goaltending from Wild prospect Johan Gustafsson who stopped 24-of-27 shots he faced (88.8%).  The Swedes got goals from Max Friberg, Ludvig Rensfeldt, Sebastian Collberg and Joakim Nordstrom.  Wild prospect forward Johan Larsson went 8-for-13 on his faceoffs but didn’t have any other points, while their top selection in last summer’s draft in defenseman Jonas Brodin had just a single high-sticking minor to his credit. 

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!