It wasn't a victory. But, against as star-studded a lineup as you will find in the sport of hockey today, most Minnesota Wild fans were happy with the result.
The Wild lost to the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings 3-2 in a shootout Saturday night at Xcel Energy Center, to open their calendar year 2009 by gaining their third point in the last two games.
Owen Nolan, the 'Irish God of War', scored for the Wild, as he tipped in a Brent Burns shot 36 seconds into the third period after Detroit had controlled the play thru most of the first two. It was Nolan's second goal in as many games since he forced himself back into the lineup after sitting out 11 games with a 'lower body' injury. The goal was also the second time in as many games where Nolan also opened the scoring for the Wild. Antti 'Mittens' Miettinen scored 16 seconds later when he stole the puck from Tomas Holmstrom and quickly put it in the net for a 2-1 Wild lead. Johan Franzen tied it up, 2-2 with just under 5 minutes remaing in regulation after a goal was allowed by the NHL's Toronto 'War Room' which looked originally like it was batted in with a high stick.
Burns, who was playing in his 300th NHL game, led all players in Time on Ice, playing 33:33 in the 65-minute affair. Kim Johnsson also played over 30 minutes for the Wild as well.
Pavel Datsyuk scored the only shootout goal, as 3 Wild attempts failed (by Krys Kolanos, Burns, and Mikko Koivu) to get past Detroit goalie Chris Osgood.
The Wild now embark on a 7-day, 4-game road trip, beginning Sunday evening in Denver vs. the Avalanche, followed by games in Boston, Philadelphia and Columbus.
We found the assembled multitude after the game slip, sliding away from the 'X':
Chicken Little: What do we have to do to beat Detroit? I thought we were getting better! Can we finally stop with the 'Hockey Prevent' in the last half of the third period??
Pollyanna: Owen Nolan really IS the 'IGoW' for this team. He really DOES make this Wild team better when he is in the lineup. Josh Harding had to stand on his head a good part of the night. Detroit is on a different talent level than the rest of the NHL; the only thing that the Wild didn't do is win in the shootout.
Bottom Line: While somewhat disappointing, the result actually bodes well for 'da Boys' as they head into one of their worst road trips of the season. Can they keep the momentum up during this 3,600-mile (approximately) 'week of wheels' marathon starting next game? I would hope they would come out of this with at least 4 points; anything else, and the wheels will start to come off again. Anytime the Wild can come out of a game vs. Detroit -- a team they do not match up well with -- with points, you've done well.
Stud: Although Burns deserves strong consideration due to his TOI and assist on Nolan's goal, his blown shootout attempt is a huge minus. Ditto Krys Kolanos, who also didn't put biscuit in basket. This one belongs to the player who stood out above all others; the 'IGoW' himself, Owen Nolan. He truly was a warrior out there, always drawing defenders away, scrapping in front of the net; in short, doing what has kept him in the NHL for 19 seasons.
Dud: Again, we have two for consideration: Andrew Brunette, he of the 'don't hit me in front of the net' appearance; why did the Wild bring you back again? To always be about 1 1/2 steps behind the play? Where's the creating havoc Bruno we used to know, the guy who would 'Back that big ass up' to get garbage goals? We haven't seen much of that lately, and we're getting worried.
The other temporary (we hope) convert to Dud-ism was Eric Belanger, who blew more chances than a pee-wee team to score goals last night, including at least two chances with wide-open nets in front of him. You gotta put it in to get victories, Eric. Not just on net. IN net.
The choice for Dud: Sorry, Bruno. Belanger did just that much less and 'earned' the award. We need ALL forwards to be contributing, Eric. Not just your linemates. You, too.
Next: at Colorado, Sunday (Tonight), Jan 4, 7:00 PM Central Time (6:00 PM Mountain). (TV: Altitude, FSNorth, RDS, all three feeds IN HD; NHL Network-Canada only (no HD); XM Ch. 206)