From start to Finnish, this game was as even as the opponents are.
The Minnesota Wild used their Finnish legion of players wisely, as goals from Antti 'Mittens' Miettinen in regulation and Mikko Koivu in the shootout -- the only goal of the four-round shootout -- and 28-save goaltending from the Oiler-killer, Niklas Backstrom -- finally subdued the Edmonton Oilers 3-2 Sunday afternoon at Xcel Energy Center.
With a number of Finnish visitors, including Koivu's father, in town for the week, the cheers of "Mik-ko! Mik-ko! Mik-ko!" reverberated throughout the arena. The man Wild fans call 'the Franchise' then five-holed ex-Wild goalie Dwayne Roloson in the shootout's fourth round, tying Roloson with Roberto Luongo as the goalie most beaten by the Wild in St. Paul.
The win, Minnesota's 3rd in its last 4 at home, takes the Wild to 57 points, two points behind the Anaheim Ducks and currently seventh in the Western Conference. The win also took the Wild to 2-7-1 when the opponent is on the second game of a back-to-back. The Oilers took away the 'loser point' for surviving regulation, and remain tied for eighth with the Vancouver Canucks.
Eric Belanger scored the other Wild goal, as he took the pass from the 'Irish God of War,' Owen Nolan, and buried it behind Roloson to tie the score at 1-all late in the first period.
The close, tight-checking game nearly got ugly as several runs at Backstrom were executed by Oiler players in desperate attempts to score, only one of which was called by the officials as the Oil went down to their second defeat of the weekend (they lost to Detroit 8-3 Saturday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena.) The Wild still have one game in hand on the Oilers, who now go home to face the Montreal Canadiens Wednesday night at Rexall Place.
Are you all a little happier today, assembled multitude?
Chicken Little: They didn't give up, but they could have done better. Can't be giving up the loser points...
Pollyanna: Mikko Koivu showed again why he is really 'the Franchise' player for the Wild. He stepped up after the Oilers tied it up. Well Done, Mikko.
Bottom Line: This game is a microcosm of what the rest of the season will be like. Close, low-scoring, tight-checking games, especially in your own division. The Wild really can't afford to give away the 'loser point' in games like this, as the consequences could be dire at the end of the season.
Stud: Koivu. No one else even comes close today (except Backstrom, who just keeps earning a bigger contract every game out.)
Dud: PMB was P.U. tonight. Two late penalties (one extending into the OT), no points and generally became lazier as the afternoon wore on. He didn't even spin before turning it over, again, and again, and again...
Next: vs. Colorado, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 7:00 PM Central (6 PM Mountain) Time, Xcel Energy Center. (TV: FSNorth, Altitude, XM Ch. 209)