Typically 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 Colorado Avalanche:
Let’s just establish some honesty right from the get go here. That was a large 3-2 Minnesota Wild victory tonight. Last game before the All-Star break. The chance to build on a big win on Saturday. The chance to end an 11-game road skid. And, of course, the chance to leapfrog a team in the standings to grab the eighth spot in the Western Conference.
But the best part about this win was the Wild earned it. They showed up, played a hard, physical game and came away with two points. During the team’s recent slide, the common phrase was “we need to get back to our game.” Typically, that includes tight, mistake-free defense, a relentless forecheck and guys helping each other out.
That’s what we saw tonight in the pop can, and we also saw some timely goals, and clutch saves in the third period by Niklas Backstrom
Two of the three goals deserve their own takeaway tonight. Sorry Dany Heatley
, I know you’ll be crushed by that. But you’ve scored plenty of big goals. These other two guys haven’t, at least not in Wild uniforms.
First there was Justin Falk
, who was playing on the power play in the first period. Yes, on the power play. I’m not sure if the coaching staff liked what they saw during Sunday’s outdoor shinny game at the John Rose Oval when Falk scored a pretty goal, or what.
But there was the guy they call “Juicer” calmly firing a wrister from the top of the left circle, beating Jean-Sebastien Giguere. For the second straight game, a Wild player scored his first NHL goal (Chad Rau
It came at a great time too, with the Wild trailing early after a pretty backhand goal by TJ Galiardi. Carson McMillan
already has one NHL goal, but that came in an end-of-the-season loss to Detroit last year. This one mattered, and this one stood as the game-winner.
Having just served a high-sticking penalty, McMillan emerged from the sin bin and was on his way to the bench when Shane O’Brien skated the puck through the neutral zone right toward him. McMillan poked the puck loose, and sure enough it was the all-too-common two-on-oh the other way.
McMillan took this one to the house as they say, calmly juking to the right before sliding a backhand through Giguere’s five-hole. He then turned in one of the better goal cellys of the year so far.
But huge goals aside, this is the most important thing to know about McMillan. He looks exactly like Jason Segel.
So the Wild’s last two game-winning goals have been scored by guys who’ve spent the majority of the season with the Houston Aeros. The time-on-ice leader was Nate Prosser
, another Aero, who suffered an upper body injury in the waning seconds of the game.
Guys are stepping up again. There are some big-name players that aren’t in the lineup right now, whether due to injury or performance. But since the Wild called up four guys in one day and put them in the lineup, good things have happened. The energy has been there and the results have followed.
Okay fine, I’ll mention Heatley one more time, but not just because he scored a goal after a heads up play by Brodziak centering him the puck. Heatley has looked spectacular the last two games. He was everywhere against Dallas, notching a goal and two assists.
Tonight, he was a force again. He was on the ice for all three of Minnesota’s goals, and wasn’t on the ice for any against. He also made a great steal in the defensive zone and carried the puck the length of the ice with two Avs players draped all over him.
Heatley is now at 15 goals. He’d have to turn in a big post-break performance to get to that 30-goal plateau we all love so much. Whether he does or not won’t matter though if he keeps turning in these kinds of performances. The Wild will win plenty of games.
And one more thing about the man they call "Heater:" He did all of this after taking an ugly hit from behind by Gabriel Landeskog that sent him face first into the boards. Heatley, who hasn’t missed a game all year, shook it off.