Sometimes, it takes a pissed-off Finn to get things going. Nobody likes a p.o'ed Finn.
Just ask the Tampa Bay Lightning, especially after Mikko Koivu's 3rd-period goal while being summarily pushed to the ice in front of the Tampa goal. The sixth goal of the season for the man they call 'Franchise' turned out to be the game winner, as the Wild beat the 'Bolts 4-2 on 'Wes Walz Day' in front of the 337th straight sellout of 18,568 at Xcel Energy Center on Friday afternoon.
The Wild came out as lackluster as they have in the other four games of the now-completed 5-game in 9-night homestand, only getting off long-range shots against Tampa goalie Mike Smith, until the 'Irish God of War', Owen Nolan, beat Smith from close in just over 12 minutes into the contest.
After Tampa worked for nearly 30 minutes to take a 2-1 lead, James Sheppard started the comeback with a tip-in of a MAB shot from the point at 2:02. Koivu, while getting worked over in front of the 'Bolts goal by ex-Canuck Lukas Krajicek, rebounded Antti Miettinen's shot from the mid-slot at 6:10. After that, Tampa's big line -- Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, and Ryan Malone, the ex-Penguin -- worked feverishly to get the tying goal throughouot the latter stages of the third period.
But it was the rookie, Steven 'Don't call me Steve' Stamkos, who caused the greatest upset to the Wild, as he sold a high sticking call on Nick Schultz to the officials, who also whistled the Franchise off with 5:05 remaining. Stamkos' Avalanche-quality dive job -- along with Mikko's protesting -- not only sent Schultzie to the box for the stick work, but Koivu for unsportsmanlike conduct as well as a 10-minute misconduct, meaning that if the game went to OT, Minnesota's best offensive player would not be available.
The Wild, however, for once protected their slim lead, punctuating the afternoon's scoring with an Eric Belanger empty-net goal with 23 seconds left in the contest. Finally, as the Wild surrounded Belanger, a Black Friday game which did not turn out to be a ... turkey.
We found the assembled multitude after the game, chowing down on leftovers. Here's what they said between bites:
Chicken Little said: When are the Wild going to get decent officiating? Decent offense? Something for Gaborik? Gaborik himself off the IR? You can't depend on your defense forever, especially when your best defenseman is now a forward (Brent Burns). Pass the cranberries?
Pollyanna said: Mikko was great, Zidlicky came thru, even MAB, Shep and the IGoW joined the party. Maybe this is the game where they turn the corner and pull out of the funk.
Bottom Line: It was ugly, it was not pretty, but it's 2 more points in the books. And considering the Wild are at the exact same point this year for the month of November that they were at this date last season, that's not all that bad.
Leftovers: the Wild are now 5-2-1 all time on the Day after Thanksgiving.
Stud: we rip him for being a Dud enough. Marc-Andre Bergeron is the Stud today; 2 assists, and he came to play, folks. Honorable mention to James Sheppard (1 goal, 1 assist) and to Owen Nolan for his grit and determination on the ice. And, of course, the 'Franchise'...
Dud: The defense would be much better if we could put Brent Burns back on the blueline, where he really belongs. How long will the 'experiment' go on??
Next: at Nashville, Sommet Center, Saturday, Nov. 29, 7 PM Central Time, FSNorth (in HD!), XM Ch. 239, for 'Sci-Fi Night' (so bring your Lightsaber and Vulcan ears!)