If there was ever an opportunity for a statement game for the Wild, last night was it. The Avs are currently without Joe Sakic, Ryan Smyth and Paul Stastny. That level of casualties among your upper end talent would stagger most teams. True, the Avs have been very plucky of late, but still, do you think the Red Wings would have gone easy on them? Me neither.
And the Wild got off on the right foot. Fridge finished off a great pass from Demo - which Theodore misplayed, and right after he'd made a great save - to put the Wild up by one, and then Nummy-to-Gaby-to-Rolston for the cannon on the power play and the Wild were cruising. Moments later Gaby breaks in all alone and actually gets the puck through Theodore's pads but it was stopped short of the goal line. Still the first period could not have gone better for the Wild...until the final minute.
Gaby has a chance to clear the zone about five feet inside the blue line, and somehow decides (he's unchecked at the time, mind you) that his best play was to do a backhand snapshot between the legs - blind - which is easily picked off and then Brunette lobs a hospital shot in on Backstrom who was apparently still shaking his head at the Gaby play because it gets past him short side, but then Backs knocked it into the cage himself. Ugly, ugly play - and it gave the Avs hope going into the locker room.
...Which they used to kill off a second period-opening penalty kill and then tie the game. The first half of the second period looked like a photo negative of the first 19 minutes of the first period with the Avs owning the play.
But the Wild persevere, and then Ian Laperriere crushes Skoula in open ice (a tad late, but not Flyers-esque) and just like that the tide is turned. Mike Russo reports that the Wild bench was up in arms at the abuse of their brother. And The Momentum - that fickle phantasm, mercurial as a tendril of smoke - slithered back over to the Wild side long enough for Demo to corral a rebound left by Theodore off a Foster ICBM and deposit it in the back of the net for the GWG.
Overall, I'm pleased with the result, pleased that they got their game back on track, and displeased with the way they let the Avs up off the mat at the end of the first and through the first half of the second. The Wild needs a killer insinct. They need a game breaker who can consistently break games. They need a goalie who doesn't fold when the team breaks down in front of him on a play. Do they have all these pieces already? Maybe. If so, I hope they use this All-Star break to get their act together because the division, the second or third seed (and home ice) in the conference and maybe, just maybe a long playoff run is possible with this team.
Overall: Wild lead 3-2-0 (GF 13, GA 12)
In Minny: Wild lead 2-0-0 (GF 7, GA 3)
In Denver: Wild trail 1-2-0 (GF 6, GA 9)
CHICKEN LITTLE SAYS: It would sure be nice to see a 60-minute effort.
POLLYANNA SAYS: First in the NW!
BOTTOM LINE: They salvaged two points in regulation against a division team.
STUD: Schultz had a strong game in all zones, including 2 helpers.
DUD: Radio was ineffective and didn't add anything all night. A couple soft hits should not be enough to keep his spot in the lineup.