Considering the Wild plays every game like it's a road game, perhaps this one should not come as a surprise considering the Avalanche can't seem to stay healthy - even during the game, when they had players going down faster than a Russian submarine.
But good teams capitalize on the misfortunes of their opponents, and, perhaps surprisingly, the Wild has suddenly decided to play like a good team again. A stirring victory over the Sharks on New Years Eve, a loser point against the Red Wings Saturday night and then two regulation points against a division foe, on the road, after a tough overnight turnaround for a five-points-in-three-games run that seems almost impossible after the angst and drama that this team has produced since November turned into December.
This night it was all about God.
The Irish God of War, to be more specific. Owen Nolan has finally answered our prayers and filled the grizzled veteran leadership hole that has been haunting the team since Wes Walz laid his shoes at the edge of the mat. Incidentally, Mr. Nolan has also filled a void that dates back to the inception of the team: that of a forward who is willing and able to go to the front of the net and score the ugly goals that are so critical in the game today. Nolan bagged his 8th and 9th of the season, his third and fourth in the last three games, and his third on the power play, and first at even strength, respectively, in that time period.
The Wild are just a different team when he's in the lineup. Maybe it's his moxie, maybe it's his balls, maybe it's his gray stubble. Whatever it is, the guy gets 'er done like no one else on the Wild roster, arguably ever. Craig Leipold ought to invest in a hyperbaric chamber for the team, strictly for Nolan's use this season, so valuable is his contribution.
Backstrom, Schultz, Burns and PMB were also strong last night, but the night was all about Nolan. (Cal deserves an honorable mention for getting Darcy Tucker to take a dumb penalty that basically ended any hope the Avs had for a comeback.)
Odd note: for all their struggles to score the first goal lately, the Wild has scored the first goal as often (19 times) as their opponent has (19 times) this season.
Chicken Little says: I hope they don't think 2 goals is enough against healthy teams. Would have liked to see them get another one.
Pollyanna says: Just goes to show you that you can't count a Lemaire-coached team out, ever.
Bottom Line: That was just their second win in 8 division games this season. But it was a win nonetheless.
Stud: IGoW changes the complexion of the team - for the better - when he's in the lineup. Who else can we say that about?
Dud: No one really jumps to mind, so everyone gets a pass.
Up Next: The Wild's tour of division leaders continues on Tuesday night, in Boston to face the Bs. 7:00PM ET start, Versus.