Following Wild games, Managing Editor Glen Andresen will give the five takeaways that he'll remember from each contest. Tonight, Digital Media Coordinator Carly Peters fills in and looks back at a 3-1 win against the Rangers in New York.
Let's make sure we get to this right off the bat: Jose Theodore was the reason for the Wild win tonight. I'm not trying to discount the work that led to Minnesota's three goals, or the defensive effort of the guys in front of Theo who cleared the Blueshirts out of the way so he could see the puck. But looking back on this win, if Theodore hadn't played so well, the Wild would have taken a hefty deficit into the first intermission, and very likely, beyond.
All saves are important, but his early stops on the Wild PK really seemed to set the tone that he was in the zone tonight. I'm no NHL player, but I have to think that when you see your teammate robbing New York left and right, you begin to think it's your night to make a comeback.
Theo stopped 40 shots in the win, perhaps the most remarkable coming when he threw the paddle down
to stop Ryan Callahan on the power play in the first period. Then again, he did throw down the pads
to make a stellar save late in the game. He has now stopped 107-of-111 shots in his last three appearances, good for a .964 save percentage.
Perhaps it's because the Western Conference playoff race is so tight, or maybe it was the fact that the Wild played so poorly against a team it was "supposed to" win against last night, but for whatever reason, the Wild once again did not look like the confident team it has turned into during the first period of tonight's contest.
The Rangers jumped out to a 8-0 shot advantage, and Minnesota seemed to be gripping its sticks in desperation. It seems like much of the Wild's success in 2011 has come after scoring the first goal, so when the Rangers got on the board, you sensed the team might start to panic. However, perhaps thanks to the play of Theodore, the Wild didn't.
Minnesota only took a one-goal deficit into the second period, which might have felt like a win itself after the troubling opening stanza. And after Kyle Brodziak
got the Wild on the board, you could see a clear sense of relaxation on the Wild, which soon started playing like the team we're accustomed to seeing. Once the Wild started playing with the skill and team effort that's defined it over the past two months, it wasn't hard to believe the team could hold on for the comeback victory.
You've got to be happy for Casey Wellman on a night like this. He probably would have been called up (and possibly kept up) more often this season, but he's been sidelined in Houston with injuries. So, when he was finally called up today, you have to think he realized it was an opportunity to showcase his talent, and he certainly took full advantage of that tonight.
Wellman not only was recalled and spent the morning traveling to New York, he did so after playing for Houston yesterday. Any exhaustion didn't show in Casey's game as he played a solid 9:01 TOI and scored the game winner by driving to the net. His goal was not only important on the score sheet, it was clearly important in the minds of his Wild teammates, who calmed their tense play after his marker.
After he was leveled by a hit to the head from Trevor Gillies in last night's game, there was concern that Clutterbuck would be unable to play tonight in New York. Thankfully, Clutterbuck was able to take the ice tonight, and did so in important roles on both the power play and penalty kill, totaling 14:24 TOI.
He also registered two shots, a blocked shot and lest we forget, Clutter added to his NHL lead with six more hits, leading all players on the ice tonight. See, you might think that a head shot would make a player question whether he wants to lay of the physical play for a little bit, but apparently, that's not Cal.
Tonight was one game. If the Wild had lost, it's hopes of the postseason would not have suddenly faded. But, after such disappointing losses in its past two games, tonight's win was certainly important. The win not only stopped the bleeding in the standings, it helped the Wild climb back up into a tie for playoff position.
After having gotten used to the Wild's stellar play in 2011, much was being made of the Wild's performance over the past few games by fans and the media. In the second and third periods tonight, Minnesota seemed to find the play its been lacking over the past few contests. If it can take the momentum into Sunday's contest, some of the people claiming the Wild's season was over yesterday will hopefully realize they were being incredibly over-dramatic.