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 overtime loss to the Sabres.
Sunday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres was one of those games where a disappointing finish did little to tarnish the brand of hockey that more than 18,000 people witnessed at Xcel Energy Center on Sunday evening. It was the kind of game where both teams looked like playoff teams despite entering play on the outside of the playoff picture in their respective conferences. It was the kind of game that makes you realize why we love hockey so much.
Both teams played hard. Both teams played tough, but clean. And both teams traded scoring chances and momentous bursts. Ultimately, it was former Shattuck-St. Mary’s product Drew Stafford that shoved a dagger into the Wild’s hope for two points. In a game like this, it was fitting that it was a beautiful play that he made that ended a game like this.
Fighting off a blanket in the form of Brent Burns, Stafford was able to muscle his way to the net and finally tuck one in on the far side.
The trend of guys having to step up in the absence of key players continued on Sunday when Cal Clutterbuck
was ruled out of playing because of an upper body injury. A TV booth in the Al Shaver Press Box was packed like a sardine can with Clutterbuck, Mikko Koivu
, Guillaume Latendresse
, James Sheppard, Cam Barker and Josh Harding
watching the action from afar.
Clutterbuck is as indispensable of a player as Koivu is with the energy he brings to the lineup, but the Wild had plenty of energy tonight. Most notable was Warren Peters
, who bagged his first goal in a Wild uniform
and the third of his NHL career. He also brought an edge to his game in the same vein as Clutterbuck.
There was no further word on when Clutterbuck might return to the ice, but with the Wild currently sitting one point from a playoff spot, he could make a huge difference.
Marek Zidlicky went from laughingstock to hero in a matter of 90 seconds tonight. On a delayed Buffalo penalty in the second period, the Wild was working the puck around with an extra attacker on the ice. Pierre-Marc Bouchard
sent a pass to the point where Zidlicky wound up like John Daly to try to make the padding inside the net explode. But like Glen Andresen, he whiffed mightily and fell flat on his face, allowing the Sabres to touch up and get the whistle.
Like a quarterback going right back to a receiver who dropped a touchdown pass on the previous play, Bouchard found Zidlicky cutting down the slot on the ensuing power play. Zid took a little off this one, but he put a perfect shot inside the post
and scored the goal that would eventually send the game to overtime.
It was the first goal for Zidlicky since coming back from a shoulder injury, and it came in the 500th game of his career. Since he started his NHL career in 2003-04, he ranks 10th amongst NHL defensemen in power play goals with 42.
Paging Ryan Miller? Some of us want to see this guy play a game against the Wild. The guy is one of the premier goaltenders in the League, but the Wild hasn’t seen him since before his Olympic brilliance last year. He backed up Patrick Lalime last year in a game the Wild won in Buffalo, 3-2. This year, he wasn’t even dressed the day after defeating the Philadelphia Flyers.
Jhonas Enroth was plenty good enough for the Sabres, however. He came up with 24 saves, and none was bigger than on an Andrew Brunette breakaway in the third period.
Finally, it was great to see Plymouth teenager Peter Best shout out the “Let’s Play Hockey” declaration before tonight’s game. As you may recall, it was Best who won the Wild.com “Backstrom Mask Contest”
over the summer when his submission was hand-picked by Niklas Backstrom
to be the goalie’s mask design for the 2010-2011 season.
It was one thing for Best to win the contest and meet the Wild goaltender, but it’s even more special when you consider that Best used this contest as a distraction from the death of his father last spring. To get away from the tragedy, Best would go to his room and churn out designs until he settled on his favorite. It turned out to be Backstrom’s favorite as well.