Just when you thought that it was over, that the Minnesota Wild were incapable of pulling out more than two points in a row, along comes the 'Irish God of War', Owen Nolan, to remind us of how real hockey players play the game.
Nolan's two third-period goals, 3:58 apart -- the 400th and 401st of his career -- allowed the less-than scintllating Wild to escape the Xcel Energy Center -- an ice surface which they were soundly booed off of at the end of the first two periods -- with one point as the Western Conference-leading San Jose Sharks defeated the Wild 5-4 in OT, as Christian Ehrhoff's low-angle shot beat Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom 3:34 into the extra session.
The Wild basically did not show up for the first 25 minutes of this game, and by the time they did, a flukey goal (Joe Thornton's deflected fluttering shot which eluded two defensemen and Backstrom) a shortie (Travis Moen's rebound of Patrick Marleau's breakaway attempt, which leaked thru Backstrom's five-hole and in) and a 'silver platter special' (Thornton's second-period rebound, conveinently put away after going past a startled Eric Belanger into a wide-open net) meant the Wild had for the second time in five days spotted the best team in the West a three-goal lead.
The Wild finally got back into it when Peter Olvecky's rebound made it past Brian Boucher -- yes, the same goalie who was in net Thursday night when the first three-goal lead vanished -- and the Wild were back in it, 3-1. For some reason, they stopped skating (again) towards the end of the period, hence another round of boos.
PMB's rebound of a Kim Johnsson shot made it 3-2 1:02 into the third. Could lightning strike twice? Maybe, maybe not after Milan Michalek got yet another weak goal past Backstrom, a low-percentage shot from a very sharp angle to Backstrom's left, which beat Backstrom glove side high. Sharks 4, Wild 2.
Then, it's 'IGoW' to the rescue, tipping a shot from the left point by Marek Zidlicky in past Boucher at 13: 56. Then as the clock wound down, Nolan again found himself in front of the net, and Mikko Koivu's rebound found its' way to Nolan, who put it away at 17:54.
In the OT, the back-and-forth nature of this game came to its' zenith when Ehrhoff, who had been quiet most of the night, sped away with the puck, chased by Zidlicky, and from a sharp angle to Backstrom's right side flipped it over his left shoulder for the winner.
The Sharks come away with their first win in their last five games (1-3-1), and the Wild take points away in three of their last four games. The Wild wake up Wednesday morning, headed for Denver in 9th place, one point ahead of the Dallas Stars, who lost to St. Louis Tuesday night.
The assembled multitude had a few things to say afterwards:
Chicken Little: Backstrom gave up three of the softest goals you'll ever see tonight. If he took the dagger for the LA game, what does he take for this one? A skewer? A pitchfork?
Pollyanna: Nolan with two goals, playing with a broken toe? We really need to get him, Brunette, and Koivu in the same room with Gaborik. Lock the door, and give the key to Clutterbuck. Let's show Mr. 'Me, Me, Me' what real fortitude is all about!
Bottom Line: No one really expected the Wild to come away with points tonight; after all, the only thing about the Wild right now that is consistent is their inconsistency. Nolan pulled them out of the scrap heap, after Backstrom's play put them three goals down for the second time in four games. Say what you will, but could this be the result of Backstrom's 'contract drive' being over?
Stud: Nolan. Still showing the young pups what real fortitude is, and what it means to your team to have it.
Dud: Backstrom. Those three goals were God-awful. Shame on you, Niklas. Do better next game.
Next: at Colorado, Thursday, March 12, 8:00 PM Central (7 PM Mountain) Time, Pepsi Center. (TV: FSN (in HD), Altitude (in HD), XM Ch. 205)
Personal Note: I will not be able to cover the next two games, due to a work comittment. Nick will take over until Sunday, when I will re-join you all, as I attend the Blues' 3rd Annual 'Free Food Game' at Scottrade Center, this year with the Minnesota Wild as the opponent. If you're going? Come hungry, as every seat is 'All you can Eat'.
WRT ('I'll have another, thanks'...)