Following Wild games, Managing Editor Glen Andresen will give the five takeaways that he'll remember from each contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings.
Monday night’s 3-2 Minnesota Wild win over the Los Angeles Kings was the perfect example of how a fantastic hockey game can come out of nowhere. A late Monday night start against a West Coast team with the playoffs close to being out of reach seemed like a recipe for a snoozer. Instead, after an uneventful first period, Wild fans got 40 minutes of one of one of the most entertaining team efforts of the season – and there have been plenty at Xcel Energy Center this year.
This one had it all: great offensive plays, amazing saves, some chippiness, standout performances and one of those penalty kills that you will never forget if you witnessed it in person.
And here’s where we talk about it.
One of my all-time favorite moments in Wild history occurred during the 2005-2006 season, when the Wild killed off a full two-minute 5-on-3 against the Nashville Predators. Watching three guys and a goaltender take on five guys with all the time and space in the world just revs a crowd up, and when those penalties expired, I had never heard the crowd get as loud for a non-goal in all my eight years here. I named it one of the Top Ten Wild moments of the first decade of the team’s existence.
Tonight, the Wild penalty killers matched it, and perhaps most remarkably, they did it with two penalty-killing defensemen – Nick Schultz and Marek Zidlicky – in the box for two minutes with the score tied at 2-2 in the third period.
I was a little surprised that L.A. took a timeout in the middle of the power play, giving the likes of Greg Zanon, Mikko Koivu
and Brent Burns a break. But still, this was incredible to watch. The Kings seemed to have a sure goal on multiple plays, but there was always a Wild stick, or shin pad or goalie pad taking the shot away at the last moment.
And just like against Nashville, the Wild capitalized on the momentum and the crowd noise shortly after. Martin Havlat blew the roof off the barn 3:38 after the penalties expired.
Undoubtedly, the most remarkable and scariest moment came on that penalty kill. Zanon proved that he is either the one of the most courageous and slightly insane players ever to pull on the Iron Range Red sweater. The guy was a Dikembe Mutombo on skates tonight, blocking everything that the Kings, in particular Jarret Stoll, sent toward the net.
During the two-man advantage, Stoll ripped a shot from the point that the already-hobbled Zanon (who has an injured ankle, was hit earlier in the game with a shot that knocked him down and was also upended by a Jack Johnson hip check) slid and blocked the blast. The puck bounced right back to Stoll, who fired again. This time, Zanon was off balance, but still tried to block the shot by diving toward it with his back facing it!!!!!
Stoll should feel lucky that Zanon wasn't with him the night he met Rachel Hunter, or the red-bearded warrior would have blocked him that night as well.
Burns also stood out in this one, and not just from the penalty kill and a season high 27:45 of ice time. He scored a highlight reel goal that showcased the offense he can bring to this team from the backend. During a four-on-four in the second, Burns caught a point-to-point pass from Mikko Koivu
and looked to give it back. But at the last instant he made a toe-drag move to step around Brad Richardson. Within about two strides, Burns was in alone on Jonathan Quick and roofing a quick wrist shot. It was a beautiful goal and hopefully a sign of many more to come.
As happy as I am to see the Wild win, I am pulling for the Los Angeles Kings to right the ship. With a fourth straight loss, the Kings apparent lock on the playoffs is loosening by the day. I like the Kings, and I think their appearance in the postseason would be great for hockey (but not at the expense of the Wild). They’ve got both likable and entertaining guys on the team, but it just feels like something bad happens to them at this time every year. Certainly not being able to convert on a 5-on-3 in the third period of a tie game on March 29 with the playoffs depending on it would qualify as “something bad.”