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 4-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers.
The Minnesota Wild’s 4-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers was a lot tougher than it should have been. The Oilers shouldn’t have even been close, but goaltender Jeff Deslauriers was spectacular and held his team in a game that was tied at 2-2 when Josh Harding
left because of a hip injury. In came Anton Khudobin, and nine minutes later, the Wild had two more goals and two huge points to open a five-game homestand before the Olympic break.
Martin Havlat and Guillaume Latendresse
combined for three of the goals, while Antti Miettinen bagged the other for his career-high 16th goal. The win pushed the Wild’s home winning streak against Edmonton to 12 games, one shy of the current record held by Nashville’s home dominance over Columbus.
Havlat was the best player on the ice tonight, but first we have to talk about Khudobin, who became the story of the game after playing just 9:33 of the third. The scenario he entered into was quite the situation. The score was tied at 2-2, but could have easily been 3-2 Edmonton on the play before as Josh Harding
’s final play came on a miraculous diving glove
save on Jean-Francois Jacques. Unfortunately, that was the final straw for Harding’s hip, which was obviously bugging him in the third period.
In came Khudobin, who made his NHL debut and then faced an Edmonton power play just two minutes later. He was up to the challenge, and stopped all nine shots, and some of them were not easy. But Khudobin, who is quite the personality, showed it the most on a glove save on Shawn Horcoff. After making the save, he held his arm high in the air to the delight of another sellout crowd in Xcel Energy Center.
Now, we can get to Havlat, who was brilliant tonight. Not only did he show off his offensive flair by burying two goals, setting up another and generating numerous scoring chances. But he showed off his defensive awareness as well. I can’t even count how many turnovers he generated in the neutral zone that led to odd-man rushes the other way.
Havlat was even more noticeable due to the fact that Todd Richards dressed seven defensemen, and Havlat saw time on his usual line, and the fourth line with Andrew Ebbett and Robbie Earl. Make no mistake, he looked good on both lines, but he and Latendresse have something special going right now. With the outcome still in doubt in the third, the two worked a two-on-one to perfection with Havlat putting home a perfect G-Lat pass through two defenders.
For the better part of 60 minutes, the Wild completely dominated play, but were repeatedly denied by Jeff Deslauriers. The guy was making saves that shouldn’t be made, and the Wild did him a few favors by shanking some open net opportunities and putting some shots right into him when he was out of position.
Midway through the second period, it seemed like Deslauriers had single-handedly sucked all of the energy out of the building despite the score tied at 1-1 and the Wild dominating. Eventually, the dam finally broke, but Deslauriers’ effort deserves mention.
The only downer of tonight was seeing Harding get helped off the ice. He kept trying to stay in the game, but there was no way he was going to stay in the game after his final save. Harding had to be helped off the ice and it appeared he could barely put any weight down on one side.
That puts the Wild’s goaltending position into an even more precarious spot. Hopefully, Nik Backstrom can return for tomorrow’s practice, but it sounds like his flu has leveled him to the point where he’s dropped quite a few pounds. The positive is that it’s his turn to buy the team lunch tomorrow, so maybe that will encourage him to return so he at least gets to enjoy the fruits of his hard-earned cash.