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 5-1 win against the Anaheim Ducks in St. Paul.
Not bad for a team that was labeled offensively challenged and had a “bland” offensive attack according to the Versus “experts” on Wednesday night. Despite having only 10 forwards available for the most of the game, the Wild blitzed Anaheim Ducks goaltender Curtis McEhlhinney for five goals in an enormous 5-1 win on Friday night.
Once again, it was a whole cast of characters chipping in offensively as five different players – Mikko Koivu
, Matt Cullen
, Eric Nystrom, Kyle Brodziak
and Martin Havlat – scored goals. The Wild had to deliver a message tonight to Anaheim and the other teams in the top eight that two losses weren’t the beginning of the end, but really a signal that this team can put out a thoroughly dominating effort against anybody in the League. That didn’t result in wins on Tuesday or Wednesday, but the effort was the same tonight and resulted in a trouncing of the Ducks, a team the Wild has in its crosshairs.
“Obviously a great game,” said Head Coach Todd Richards. “We got contributions from all of our forwards. It was one of those games where they battled and competed extremely hard.”
Unfortunately, one of those goal scorers left the game shortly after scoring, and that was Koivu. After blocking a slap shot that appeared to hit his hand, Koivu immediately shed his glove and marched right to the locker room, not to be seen again. The official word from the team came back as an “upper- body injury.”
At this juncture, we don’t know the extent of the injury, but if it’s serious, it couldn’t come at a more inopportune time. The Wild just got a major contributor back in the lineup with Marek Zidlicky’s return after missing 21 games with a shoulder injury. With Guillaume Latendresse
also progressing, it appeared the Wild might have a full complement of players down the stretch. But if the team is without its heart and soul captain, who plays in every situation imaginable, everybody will have to continue to step up, as they have in the past two months of the season.
Zidlicky returned from his shoulder injury and only played 11:55, but that has a lot to do with the team dressing seven defensemen. In fact, if there was one player who was involved in the most physical situations tonight, it might have been Zid. On his first shift, he smacked Apple Valley native Dan Sexton into the sideboards and was called for interference.
In the second period, he got tangled up with Ducks behemoth George Parros and both went skidding into Niklas Backstrom
’s cage. Parros then got up and grappled with Zidlicky, who isn’t exactly Derek Boogaard, or even Sylvan Blouin. But Zidlicky never backed off, which leads me to believe he felt pretty good out there.
Every now and again, I find the opportunity to mention the job I’m lucky enough to have during the WCHA Final Five. For the Fox Sports North broadcasts of that event, I somehow get to be the guy that sits in the penalty box and turns on that red light that signals for a TV timeout. It’s pretty much the best gig ever.
While sitting there, I get to chat with the players that commit no-nos and sit helpless for two minutes. Assuming there isn’t a power play goal scored, every player will stand up with about five seconds left on their penalty, hoping they can time their escape to pick up a loose puck in the neutral zone for a breakaway.
Rarely, if ever, do you see it happen. But tonight, Matt Cullen
couldn’t have asked for a better scenario when his two minutes for goalie interference were up. On a five-on-three advantage for Anaheim, Kyle Brodziak
intercepted a pass at the exact moment that Cullen emerged from the box. Brodziak sent a pass ahead for what has to be the clearest breakaway the Wild has had all season. Cullen picked his spot and hit it
, turning a dire situation into a massive party in the first period.
I hate to drop Eric Nystrom down to number five, but with the puck luck he’s had this season, he’s probably used to getting snubbed. But with everybody needing to step up with only 10 forwards available tonight, everybody did. And Nystrom (and Brodziak) led the charge.
But with all due respect to Brodzy, who has to be the most underrated performer on this year’s squad, Nystrom’s goal was the highlight of the night. The guy has been snake bit all season, and even his lone goal early in the season was an empty netter and rang off the post before bouncing in.
But tonight, Nystrom looked plenty offensive in taking a pass in the slot from John Madden and then whipping a shot over the shoulder of McEhlhinney for a punch-in-the-mouth goal
“I don’t know if he was happier or the guys were happier for him,” said Richards.