Minnesota vs. Vancouver. Division lead (and playoff berths) on the line. Packed house of 18,630 at GM Place, Vancouver. May we say one more thing?
When it comes to these two Northwest division rivals, karma's a bitch.
Branko Radivojevic's sweet tip of a Pavol Demitra pass gave the Wild a well-earned, very hard-fought 2-1 victory over the 'Nucks, who now are on the road for over a week.
The first period, although no goals were scored, had a lot of end-to-end action, as both teams fought for position. The Wild wound up actually out shooting the 'Nucks 11-9 in the first, the only period of the evening where the Wild would out-shoot Vancouver.
The second period started out much as the first ended, with both teams still trying to figure out how to beat the other's goaltender, as both Roberto Luongo and Niklas Backstrom were having equally stellar nights. The stalemate was broken at 4:52 as Brian Rolston's deflected pass went off of Willie Mitchell's right hip (thanks, Willie, you owed Wild fans that) and past Luongo for a 1-0 Minnesota lead.
After Branko's heroics early in the third to make it 2-0 'the good guys', Sami Salo blasted one past a totally screened Backstrom to cut the lead to 2-1 and bring the big Vancouver crowd back into the game. From that point, however, it was the Wild that stepped up and took it to the Canucks, frustrating Vancouver time and again with their frequent incursions into Luongo's end of the rink, not allowing him to be pulled for an extra attacker until 64 seconds remained in the contest. As the Wild scrambled to repulse every attempt to get the puck in front, Vancouver responded by circling the zone and not putting the puck in position to score. Time ran out as Sedin after Sedin tried in vain to flag the puck down in the Minnesota zone.
The Wild now have won 3 of their last 4, have come away with at least one point in seven straight games and have clinched the season series with Vancouver (4-2-1 with one game remaining).
The assembled multitude has gathered to party 'til 3 AM on Granville Street. Let's ask 'em about the game before they get TOO wasted...
Chicken Little says: It was a better effort than I've seen in a while. But, Johnsson was on the ice too much tonight, and we paid for it. But, even I can't complain about two points; at least 'til I've had a few Kokanee Lights...
Pollyanna says: Demitra was plus 1 on the evening. Gaborik nailed Willie Mitchell a couple of times. Backstrom stopped anything he even partially saw. And, to top it all off, 60 solid minutes of play from 'da boys'. Ya gotta love it...and the 3 AM closing time!
Bottom Line: Going into the hell-on-earth the Pengrowth Saddledome has become for the Wild, getting this game in the win column -- in regulation -- was a must on this road trip. Now, the trip doesn't seem so bad if they do lose tomorrow night to the Calgary Flames. And, it makes it all that much sweeter for the Wild should they win tomorrow. M-m-m-good!
Stud: Could really pick a number of players tonight. Burns, Branko, Veilleux, Pouliot, Sheppard, all had great evenings, even IF they didn't show up on the scoresheet. But, let's give it tonight to the senior Slovak-in-residence, Pavol Demitra. Plus 1, worked like a dog, and for once was willing to take (and take off) a hit to protect the puck.
Dud: Not much to talk about here, although Johnsson was on the ice almost too much (over 25 minutes of TOI tonight).
Next game: tomorrow night at Calgary, 8:00 PM MDT, Pengrowth Saddledome (KSTC-45, CBC)