Any athlete will tell you that victory comes at a high personal cost. Sometimes, however, that cost is a bit TOO high. The Minnesota Wild found that out, first-hand, on Sunday afternoon at Xcel Energy Center, as the Wild, although shutting out the Edmonton Oilers 3-0, lost Captain and leading scorer Mikko Koivu in the second period to a described knee injury (which, for those of us who know Wild policy, means it's definitely serious, as they are actually describing it.)
Koivu's injury -- which happened seconds after he came out of the penalty box -- was caused when he was hooked by an Edmonton player at center ice, a hook which was not called by either referee (Brian Pochmara or Mike Hasenfratz) at the time of the infraction. Koivu continued to play for the rest of the second period, but did not re-appear from the Wild dressing room for the third period.
Koivu's injury overshadowed a two-goal performance by the 'Irish God of War', Owen Nolan, as he scored the first two goals of the game in what is becoming typical Nolan style -- the dirty goal in front of the net, putting away a rebound, and then the deflection of the crisp pass from James Sheppard for the second goal of the game. Edmonton gave Stephane Veilleux the third goal as Tom Gilbert's pass from the corner of the Edmonton zone glanced off Sam Gagner's skate, and past Oilers' goalie Dwayne Roloson, who became the all-time losingest goalie against the Wild with his 12th loss to his former team. Niklas Backstrom played a strong game in goal for the Wild to gain the shutout.
The Wild snapped the Oilers' three-game winning streak, and gave the Oil their fifth loss since Feb. 8th, when the Wild last played the Oilers at the 'X'.
Oh, by the way: Marian Gaborik actually did make an appearance today. Actually was credited with six shots, but other than that, was mostly ineffective in his first game back from labrum surgery. Scratched for today's game: Zidlicky, Burns, Weller, Gillies and Olvecky.
The assembled multitude was outside in the afternoon sun afterwards:
Chicken Little: Well, only two shots by the Wild in the first period, even with the almighty Gaborik back in the lineup. Not good!
Pollyanna: Didn't I say that get them home and they'd do better? Didn't I?
Bottom Line: This was a game the Wild had to have in regulation, and they got it, but at a very high price. Koivu's knee will be re-evaluated before the team leaves Monday afternoon for New York, but don't count on him anywhere on the Big Apple trip. Nolan shows again why he and Koivu are considered the real team leaders (along with Brunette). Hopefully, Koivu's knee will recover enough to allow him to play in Alberta this coming weekend.
Stud: Nolan. Where wasn't he on the ice today? Scoring, making plays, hitting, being in the right spot when he needed to be...showing the kids (both on the ice and in the seats) how to really play the game.
Dud: For a while, I thought that if the Wild would lose this game because of MAB single-handedly. Another awful game for the defenseman. Out of position, no puck control at times, horrible decision-making...in short, another MAB 'classic.' Ugh.
Next: at NY Rangers, Tuesday, March 24, 6:00 PM Central (7:00 PM Eastern) Time, Madison Square Garden. (TV: Versus (in HD); XM Ch. 205)
Personal Note: I (and my wife) will be at the next two Wild games in NY, both at the Garden on Tuesday, and at Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday. Nick in NY will be at both games also. In addition to all this, Michael Russo, Minneapolis Star-Tribune Wild beat writer, makes an appearance on NHL Radio's 'NHL Live' Monday afternoon at 12 Noon Central (1 PM Eastern) Time from the Reebok/NHL Store studios, West 47th St. & 6th Ave. in Manhattan. 'NHL Live' is carried on NHL.com, the NHL Network, and on NHL Home Ice, XM Ch. 204.