Following Wild games, Managing Editor Glen Andresen will give the five takeaways that he'll remember from each contest. Tonight, we look back at a 5-2 win over the Maple Leafs.
Owen Nolan scored an empty netter with three seconds to play during Toronto’s 6-on-3 advantage. Although I don’t have confirmation, I believe that’s the Wild’s first-ever goal when the other team has a two-man advantage. It was a great reward for Nolan, who took Petr Sykora’s spot on a line with Eric Belanger and Martin Havlat. This trio was superb tonight. It seemed as though every one of their shifts in the first period included at least one scoring chance. I thought Belanger especially played one of his best games, which is saying something considering how well he has played this season. He was great in the offensive zone, but where I really noticed him was on the penalty kill. He led two rushes into the Toronto zone while killing off one penalty.
There is a lot of hype in Toronto surrounding goaltender Jonas Gustavsson, also known as, “The Monster.” I have to say that I was thoroughly impressed with the rookie. He was stellar in the first period, and really through most of the game. Some of his saves were of the spectacular variety, including sprawling saves on Mikko Koivu
, Owen Nolan and Andrew Brunette.
However, most goalie coaches will tell you that the best goalies don’t need to make spectacular saves because you should always be in position. With that in mind, I’ll take the guy who made 37 saves in his 100th career win and was at his best during a late 6-on-3. I won’t be surprised if I see “The Monster” being named along with John Tavares or Ryan O’Neill as Calder Trophy candidates. Plus, what a great nickname for a goalie, right up there with Curtis Joseph, or CuJo.
I’d like to raise the roof for the Maple Leaf in-game entertainment crew for making me laugh out loud on more than one occasion tonight. In fact, I was sitting next two seats down from Hall of Famer Steve Yzerman, and I even caught him laughing at some of the video pieces. A small sampling: they showed video clips off “Classic Maple Leafs-North Star Moments,” all of which featured a North Star player getting dumped on his kiester or slammed into the glass. That was immediately followed by a camera shot of a longhaired dude in the crowd wearing a North Star sweater and a disgusted look on his face.
They also featured a video piece of various “America’s Funniest Home Video-style” clips of people trying various stupid stunts that inevitably ended up with them getting hurt or looking foolish. At the end of the video, the screen read, “Minnesota’s Greatest Athletes.”
This was the Wild’s first-ever win at the Air Canada Centre. There are now just two cities that the Wild has never won a game – East Rutherford/Newark, New Jersey and Raleigh, North Carolina. The Wild has a chance to check Raleigh off the list on Sunday, when it wraps up this four-game trip. Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention that the Wild is now 4-0-0 against the Eastern Conference this season.
It was a cool experience to be in Toronto when the Hall of Fame induction ceremony was taking place. I didn’t participate in the festivities, but there certainly was a lot of commotion around the hotel, and a whole lot of media coverage in Canada. And, what a class! For a lot of people in my generation (the MTV generation), this was the first class that featured players we actually watched growing up. I’m even old enough to remember watching Brett Hull routinely score goals for the UMD Bulldogs, and I remember how sad I was when I heard he was going pro after his sophomore season. That kind of thing doesn’t really register with a six-year-old, but Duluthians like me always hold Hull in high regard. In fact, I got the chance to caddy for him a couple times when he returned to Duluth in the offseason. He was always funny, friendly, and a huge tipper.