A little of everything happened Friday night at Xcel Energy Center. Niklas Backstrom's 28-save game shutout and Pierre-Marc Bouchard's first NHL career fighting major combined to down the Vancouver Canucks 4-0 before yet another sellout crowd.
Bouchard's blood boiled over after Vancouver's Alexandre Burrows -- who skates with Bouchard in the off-season in Quebec -- speared the supposedly 5-8, 175-pound forward midway through the third period. Bouchard then wheeled about and two-hand slashed Burrows, earning them both the rest of the night off after coincidental 5-minute majors were called. The pugilism then amped up considerably after Brent Burns tore after Canuck goon wanna-be Nathan McIver, who went after Bouchard after Burrows' attempted shish-ke-bab of Bouchard. After Burns did his best imitation of a jackhammer on McIver, order was finally restored after Burns had racked up 19 penalty minutes by himself.
Burns also had the goal of the night, a really sweet blast from the top of the face-off circles which Roberto Luongo wouldn't have stopped even if he had been in position. It was a hard shot.
New daddy Luongo -- who flew to Fort Lauderdale, his off-season home, to witness the birth of his first child, a 7 lb., 6 oz. baby girl -- then flew back to the Twin Cities to catch up to his teammates, looked like he had flown 4,100 miles plus in less than 36 hours, as he gave up all 4 Minnesota goals in less than 34 minutes with 17 saves. The final straw in Luongo's evening came when Todd Fedoruk, trailing Marian Gaborik on a 2-on-1 rush, took Gaborik's pass and beat Luongo on his stick side for a 4-0 lead at 13:28 of the second period.
Relief goalie Curtis Sanford held the score at 4-0 despite several key chances including a complete robbery of a Gaborik attempt with less than 5 minutes remaining in the contest.
The Wild power play, at best anemic in the last six weeks, went 2-for-4 on the night, including power play goals by Bouchard and Burns as the Canucks were bottled up in their end most of the night.
The hitting started early, as Vancouver's Jeff Cowan was summarily sent head-over-heels into the Minnesota bench moments after the opening face-off, courtesy of Sean Hill, who re-checked him into the boards for good measure after Cowan attempted to right himself. Derek Boogaard and Cowan went at it two minutes before Burrows' attempt at skewering Bouchard occurred. Cowan did not fare well against the physically larger Boogaard, to say the least.
The loss puts Vancouver in a real bind. If the season ended Saturday, the Canucks would be out of the playoffs, as Nashville shutout Columbus 2-0 Friday night at Nationwide, putting the Predators ahead of the 'Nucks based on total wins. The Canucks next game will be Sunday night at GM Place, Vancouver, vs. the Calgary Flames, also fighting (literally) for their playoff spot as well. Calgary and Vancouver will play two games (of the four each team will have remaining) against each other this coming week, both games in Vancouver.
Chicken Little says: Edmonton didn't get the job done last night. 5.8 seconds left and Sakic scores sending the game to a shootout. Wild still aren't in the playoffs yet.
Pollyanna says: Vancouver can go beat on everyone else now -- if they can. Two games against Calgary at home in the next week. They won't catch the Wild, but if the 'Nucks can beat the Flames twice, that would be really good.
Bottom Line: Wild needed the game to solidify their 3 point lead in the Northwest, and the guaranteed home-ice advantage that comes with it. Now, even if Calgary wins at home against Edmonton Saturday night, the Wild go into their Sunday afternoon game against Colorado leading the Northwest Division.
Next Game: Sunday vs. Colorado, 5:00 PM CDT (FSN North, Altitude TV, XM Radio Ch. 209)