Friday, December 4, 2009

Game #27: Wild 5, Ducks 4 (SO): Disaster averted


Good news #1: Minnesota allowed just 22 shots in a solid defensive effort against Anaheim. Bad news: The Ducks still scored four times. Good news #2: It didn't matter anyway.

Two goals in the final five minutes got the Wild back even at 4-4, they survived a power play against in overtime and then Guillaume Latendresse once again proved his worth, scoring the deciding goal in the shootout to give Minnesota a 5-4 victory.

Wild offense: Antti Miettinen must have received some excellent treatment while he was out with the swine flu. The man known as "Mittens" - which is either a really good or really bad gangster nickname - scored twice, giving him three goals in two games since his return and five goals in his last five games overall. He also had an assist and was in the prime location to track down the rebound of Marek Zidlicky's shot that banged off the end-boards to slam the puck into an open net to tie the game at four.

Wild defense: Hard to nitpick any of Anaheim's goals, really, except for possibly the fourth. Two excellent shots by Joffrey Lupul, then a nice set-up and better shot by Bobby Ryan on his first one. Sometimes you just have to give the opposition credit.

Ducks offense: Lupul had an excellent game in his first after suffering an injury, scoring a pair of goals. He's been a disappointment in his return to Anaheim. Another early-season disappointment, Bobby Ryan, also scored twice and appears to be over his early struggles. They both needed to step up in the absence of Teemu Selanne to a broken hand. Of course, Lupul also gets a little of a "goat" status after his late penalty.

Ducks defense: A solid road-performance was ruined by a three-goal third period against. No one was around Miettinen on his first goal, and letting a 4-2 lead go by the wayside late won't make coach Randy Carlysle happy.

Leader: Miettinen. He tied the score twice in the third period.

Lagger: Saku Koivu. He ranks among the most "blah" of free-agent signings and did nothing Friday. He also failed to get a shot off in Anaheim's last shootout round that sealed the win for Minnesota.

Stud: Mikko Koivu. Saku's brother, on the other hand, was outstanding. A pair of goals, one assist, a whopping nine shots on goal and another seven that missed.

Dud: Shouldn't we call this the "Martin Havlat of the night" until he does, well, anything productive?

Turning point: Lupul's high-sticking penalty. It gave a chance for Minnesota to tie it with an extra-attacker without needing to pull Niklas Backstrom.

Key play: A faceoff win. Specifically, Koivu's win in the circle that preceded his second goal by a handful of seconds. That got the Wild back to within one with plenty of time.

Time to hand the floor over to the peanut gallery:

Chicken Little: Do we really have to keep Marek Zidlicky employed? I know his shot helped lead to the tying goal, but that was an accident, and he took a dumb penalty in overtime, and he passed on a glorious scoring chance later, and...

We had to institute a "character limit" on Chicken, who kept ranting about the uselessness of Zidlicky for another 15 minutes.

Pollyanna: Hot damn, a comeback from down two goals in the final five minutes. This ain't your Jacques Lemaire's Wild. It's not Dan Bylsma's Penguins yet, but when we get some additional talent, look out, NHL!

Bottom line: Whether it was pretty or ugly, it was critical for Minnesota to get four points from its brief two-game homestand before it goes on a five-game road trip against some tough teams, and several division opponents, that should answer the question of whether the Wild have turned the corner.

Next: Saturday, Dec. 5, at Nashville, 7 p.m. CT, on Fox Sports North and XM 239. The Wild beat the Nashville in overtime on Wednesday.

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