Old rivalry, meet new antagonist.
The Vancouver Canucks did just that Saturday night at GM Place, as the Minnesota Wild and rookie uber-pest and NHL hitting machine Cal Clutterbuck gave the Canucks a taste of their own medicine, reminding them of the days of the now-departed Matt Cooke and Jarkko Ruutu, while defeating the 'Nucks 4-3 in overtime to vault back into 7th place in the NHL's Western Conference.
Before being tossed out of the game early in the second period, after hitting Alex Burrows immediately after Burrows turned his back on him, Clutterbuck managed to get under the skin of at least two Canucks -- Alex Edler and Willie Mitchell -- drawing penalties against both. The Wild came away from the first period with a 2-0 lead, and the contest, from that point, was indeed 'on'.
After Ryan Kesler and Edler scored for Vancouver to tie the game at 2 all, Eric Belanger's patience with Mattias Ohlund was rewarded as his shot in the mid-slot found the net with 12:14 remaining in regulation time.
However, it was the end of regulation which Wild fans should be concerned about. Brent Burns was called for a tripping penalty with 1:32 remaining which, quite frankly, was the result of Burns taking a 'lazy break' against Kesler, who was carrying the puck across the Minnesota blue line. Despite the efforts of the Minnesota defense, the Canucks scored (as they do frequently against the Wild, in the last minute of the game) as Kesler's rebound 10 feet in front of a totally screened Niklas Backstrom found twine with 15.3 seconds remaining in the contest, and the Wild's lead was erased once again. Kesler's goal was the first time in three seasons that an extra-attacker goal has been scored against the Wild (Mark Bell, Chicago, Jan. 22, 2006)
In the extra period, the Wild came out flying, and were quickly rewarded when Daniel Sedin hooked Mikko Koivu to the ice 52 seconds into the OT. Marc-Andre Bergeron then sent the sellout crowd of 18,630 home for the night when his slapper from the point beat Roberto Luongo to end the game, giving the Wild their first OT road win since March 13, 2007, when the Wild beat the Canucks 3-2 at GM Place.
The Wild finished January with a 7-5-1 record, tying the franchise mark for most January wins. The win was also the 22nd all time vs. the Canucks, tying them with Edmonton as the team the Wild has been most victorious against.
Chicken Little: When are the Wild going to play 60 full minutes against the Canucks? Even when they're down, they still can't win in regulation.
Pollyanna: Mikko Koivu shuld be named permanent captain. There's no doubt.
Bottom Line: The Wild won a game they had to have. They shouldn't have given up the 'loser point' (thanks for nothing, Burnsie) to get the two, but they got the two, and right now, you take every point you can and worry about the semantics later. Backstrom showed tonight why he was an All-Star; come to think of it, so did 'Bobby Lu,' too. Great game by both goalies. Can the Wild carry this over into next week? We hope so.
Stud: A lot will say Backstrom. A lot would say Koivu. A few would say MAB for his two goals. But let's not overlook who got them those tallies, shall we? PMB is this blogger's choice; three assists on the night, and he limited the 'spin-o-turnovers' and the across-the-sheet passes.
Dud: Burns. Lazy play resulted in lazy penalty, resulting in Canucks goal which gave up the loser point and forced the OT. Dumb, dumb, dumb move. Burnsie can do better. For the Wild to reach the playoffs, he has to. (Sorry, Burnsie.)
Next: vs. Anaheim, Wednesday, Feb. 4, 7:00 PM Central (5 PM Pacific) Time, Xcel Energy Center (TV: KSTC-45, FSWest, XM Ch. 208)