Tonight's game was a tale of two defensemen. One saved the game for his team, and possibly their dwindling playoff hopes. The other might as well have stayed home and played 'When Irish Eyes are Smiling,' for all he was worth this evening.
Of course, we are talking about Marek Zidlicky and Marc-Andre Bergeron here, y'know. The Minnesota Wild came back in the latter stages of the third period to once again (fifth time in their last seven games) force overtime, and then after that didn't decide the issue, forced a shootout in which Zidlicky wristed home the game-winner, as the Wild defeated the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 on St. Patrick's Day night at Xcel Energy Center before a mostly-sober (hey, it was a workday for most of us!) 18,568 crowd.
Zidlicky, although his play was not what one would call overly stellar, did not get his team beat. The same cannot be said of Bergeron, whose inattentiveness and lazy play combined with bad puck luck and, possibly, the worst stickhandling he's done this season nearly cost the Wild the game in both regulation and in the OT session.
Martin Skoula's rebound shot from the left point in the second period was deflected en route by Stephane Veilleux for his 12th goal of the season. After Ryan Smyth scored on a scramble with just over six minutes left in the second period, the Wild were held off the board for the next 24 minutes until Nick Schultz's laser shot grazed Wojtek Wolski's stick, goalpost and crossbar and found twine with 1:46 remaining in regulation to send it into the extra session.
Now, let's not get ahead of ourselves here. Don't think the Wild can miraculously revive their demi-moribund playoff hopes. Not with a trip to beautiful Downtown Newark, N.J., in their immediate future.
The Assembled Multitude were staring into their empty 'goaltender' coffee mugs, tonight's give-away:
Chicken Little: The worst team in the West and this is the best they can do?
Pollyanna: Scoring from the defense, from the checking line, it's on now!
Bottom Line: If the Wild had not come away with two points tonight, they would have been relegated to the 'spoiler' role (even Bob Kurtz, Wild Radio PBP man, had intimated something to that effect tonight). Even with the win, the Wild are still in 10th place in the West, thanks to yet another 3-point game between two teams they are trying to catch (St. Louis and Edmonton). This team has to find a way to win every possible game remaining in regulation, so as not to give other teams a chance. Next game, the Wild face the NHL's all-time winningest goalie, Martin Brodeur. Things certainly don't get easier from here.
Stud: Schultz, no question. Also a good night for Skoula, Cal (+2) Clutterbuck and, believe it or not, Derek Boogaard, who actually was introduced as the starter when the Avs started the Laperriere-McLeod-McCormick line. Boogaard kept his cool and his focus on hockey.
Dud: Does the first paragraph give you a hint? It should! MAB for D-U-D.
Next: at New Jersey, Friday, March 20, 6:00 PM Central (7:00 PM Eastern) Time, Prudential Center, Newark. (TV: MSG Plus (in HD), XM Ch. 209.)
NOTE: No local TV of this game in Minnesota (due to the WCHA Final Five tourney and the Minnesota State HS Basketball Tournaments), so in order to see this game, you will have to watch the New Jersey feed (on NHL Center Ice).