Second chances are one of the best things the sports world offers to players and fans alike. Redemption is both sweet and generally readily available. Conversely, playing a team soon after vanquishing them gives you an opportunity to really make a statement.
Such was the stage as the Wild faced off against the NW division rival Flames on Saturday night. Recall that it was the same Flames - with a solid history of beating up on the Wild - who ended the Wild's undefeated start to the season, and with a stunning, resounding, come-from-behind victory no-less, a mere 10 days prior.
Since then the Wild have been losing games and giving up ground to the Flames and the Avalanche in the division. Indeed, Saturday's game offered Calgary a chance to take the lead in the division with a regualtion win.
In the last game, the Wild dominated the first period (ultimately building a 3-0 lead) only to see it crumble away for an eventual 5-3 loss.
In Saturday's game, the Wild got off to a similar start. But this time the Wild were able to hold the lead, and ended up finishing off the Flames in a strong 4-1 effort.
Stevie Ray Veilleux had another strong game at both ends of the rink, and nearly set up Radio off the opening face off. Radio, who can't finish to save his life, worked his tail off too, and was rewarded at the end of the game with an empty-netter. The third member of that line was Mikko Koivu, who apparently can do anything Lemaire asks of him - and do it well. Koivu continues to impress me as the most complete player on the team. Those guys were primarily tasked with shutting down noted Wild-killer Jarome Iginla - and they did, save for an amazing tip in at the end of the second period.
In other news, Gaby's back! He scored twice, and had a couple other very nice moves. As a bonus, his first goal was on a breakaway - where he has some well-documented issues. His second goal was equally promising in that it was A) on the power play and B) a result of him being, and going to work, in the front of the net.
Finally, Backstrom redeemed himself after his brutal outing against the Flames last time out. He stopped several redirections, and made key saves all game long. The Flames were not without chances, and Backstrom was the answer more-than often enough to be a difference in the game.
Young Shep continues to show that he's not afraid of the Show and has the game to contribute. He did not look out of place on his shifts with Gaby and Demo.
...Although Demo did leave the game in the second period with a "leg injury". Coming so soon after his previous groiner, there is certainly some concern there.
Boogey had a long fight with Godard (one of the very few with a legit chance at beating Boogey in a fight) and did not return after with an injured hand.
Carney earned his paycheck with one brilliant play, breaking up a rush and setting up Sheppard's outlet pass to a cherry-picking Gaborik for the breakaway goal. JL has been saying that Carney's play had not fallen off from last year, but it was just a numbers game. I don't care what game it is, Carney has to be in the lineup. The whole defense is calmer and steadier when he's in.
I know he let in three goals and took the loss, but Kipper was very good in that game. He made that sick initial save on Radio, was screened on the Rolston goal, maybe would have liked the Gaby breakaway back, and was left all alone with two Wild players on Gaby's PPG. He made as many big saves as Backstrom did. All-in-all, it was another solid Finnish Goalie Battle Royale.
CHICKEN LITTLE SAYS: Better. Though now with Demo out we'll see if Gaby puts out or pouts.
POLLYANNA SAYS: There was the 60-minute effort we've been looking for!
BOTTOM LINE: Redemption Song. Evened the season series with Calgary, and put down the mutiny.
STUD: Gaby. 2-1-3 and a very strong game overall. Proved that he is absolutely still our most deadly offensive threat.
DUD: Foster. Got a raw deal on a big shot that hit the post, but otherwise was the worst defender on the ice. Still won't hit (even when he's in a fight - nice take down, Sally!) and is a worse finisher than Radio.
UP NEXT: Edmonton, Monday.
Also, Russo's reporting that Walz is contemplating retirement.