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 against Colorado.
A one-goal game is a foregone conclusion when the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche get together. Ten of the last 14 meetings between the two clubs have been decided by one goal. And considering the Avs are a desperate team in danger of falling into a tailspin, they weren’t about to get blown out in a must win game.
That’s what was most impressive about this 3-2 Wild victory. Leading 3-1 after two, the Wild had to be prepared for a third period onslaught. If they weren’t in the first 23 seconds when David Jones recorded his second goal of the game, they were the rest of the way. With the help of more Niklas Backstrom
brilliance, and another solid defensive effort, the Wild withstood wave after wave of Colorado attacks, and they never buckled. In fact, the Wild applied some pressure of its own in the third, and didn’t look like a team trying to sit on a lead.
With 29 games to go, it’s time for a nightly postgame check of the standings. Lo and behold, there is your Minnesota Wild, once again sitting in the top eight in the Western Conference.
How do you measure the importance of a man? The number one method is whether or not he’s allowed to have his dog come to a Wild game. If you play 1,000 games in the NHL, you can pretty much do whatever you want, so Brunette was allowed to have his beloved Golden Retriever, Simon, accompany Jamie Brunette (Andrew’s brother) during the Let’s Play Hockey declaration.
Simon’s appearance was preceded by a wonderful video tribute
that included appearances from Ray Ferraro, Joe Sakic and Wes Walz, and showed some great photos of Bruno in his youth. That was followed by an on-ice ceremony
with Brunette’s family in which he was given a crystal from the NHL, a silver stick from Brad Bombardir and the Wild organization, a Rolex watch from Mikko Koivu
and the rest of the Wild players, and a check for $15,000 in his honor to the Valley East Hockey organization, where he played his youth hockey.
Much to Bruno’s relief, the celebration of 1,000 NHL games will now die down, and he and his teammates can focus on a stretch run to the playoffs.
It’s funny how two teams that entered tonight with a combined nine periods of scoreless hockey can immediately start scoring goals like it’s easier than driving over orange cones with a Zamboni. The Wild was shut out in its last game on Saturday night in Phoenix. And the Avs were shutout in each of their last two games before tonight.
Sure enough, with five minutes left, Antti Miettinen pumped a slap shot into the upper corner. Eleven seconds later, David Jones slipped a low shot underneath Niklas Backstrom
from the low slot. And 51 seconds after Miettinen opened the scoring Martin Havlat scored the third goal of the game with an outstanding effort, shaking off a persistent Paul Stastny and tucking a turnaround shot between the near post and Craig Anderson’s right toe.
Amazingly, that wasn't the fastest three-goal flurry in Wild history. That happened on Dec. 28, 2002 when Buffalo's Ales Kotalik and Stu Barnes and Minnesota's Antti Laaksonen combined for three goals in 35 seconds of a 4-3 Wild win.
Two Wild players really stood out in this one for the red, and Backstrom doesn’t count because, quite frankly, I’ve written enough about that ink hog.
It felt like Matt Cullen
was out there for 60 minutes tonight. He set up two goals for his second two-helper game of the season, and his eighth and nine points in the last eight games. All night, he was hitting his teammates with passes right on the tape. He couldn’t miss, and that was huge on Madden’s game-winner. Cullen danced in the offensive zone and then put a dart onto the stick.
He could have had one of his own on a third period power play. A tipped shot was kicked to the side of the cage. Cullen, showing no signs of being hampered by the lower body injury that sidelined him for a game, raced to the puck and fired a shot off the post.
He didn’t score, but he did provide a huge boost to the lineup, which certainly missed him in Phoenix.
The other noticeable force was Eric Nystrom, who once again was held off the scoresheet. But nobody battled harder and caused more havoc in the offensive zone than the gritty winger. He came close, putting a beautiful tip on a Brent Burns shot that clanked off the post, but he still racked up some nice numbers. Nystrom tied for the team lead with five hits tonight.
The previous two games against the Avalanche have been pretty docile, considering the animosity that grew during that December 23rd game in Denver. Tempers flared tonight, however, which may set the stage for an interesting battle on March 8, when these two teams meet for the last time.
In the third period, Burns pulled up short of Peter Budaj’s crease after the Avs netminder covered up a rebound. Several flakes of snow found their way into Budaj’s mask, and that sparked a mini-donnybrook. Three guys in white went after Burns, and that brought everybody into the fracas. Well, except one.
I thought we might see the first-ever Wild goalie fight when I saw Budaj in the corner going after several Wild players. Backstrom didn’t move. He apparently didn’t want to pull a Rick DiPietro, and considering he’s 3-1-0 with a 1.23 GAA and a .960 save percentage, I’ve got zero problems with that decision.
The incident didn’t escalate into any punches being thrown, but it seemed to rile up the fans, and the Wild players, who refused to back down the rest of the way.