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 5-3 loss to the New Jersey Devils.
The effort was there for the Minnesota Wild in its 5-3 loss to the New Jersey Devils. The entertainment value was there as well. But for the first time in the franchise’s history, Wild fans got a taste of what it’s like to face a Jacques Lemaire coached team. Like the Wild used to do so many times in his tenure, his new team capitalized on mistakes, benefitted from great goaltending and put the clamps down when it mattered most.
The Wild battled to rally from an early 2-0 deficit, but trying to do that twice against Martin Brodeur is nearly impossible, especially late. The Devils are now 21-0-0 this season when leading after two periods, as they did tonight. Jamie Langenbrunner, the pride of Cloquet, picked up his first career hat trick in 12 NHL seasons.
Even though he was on the opposing bench, Lemaire had to be proud of the way two of his former players scored goals in this game. With the Wild trailing 2-0, the Devils had an odd-man rush that was broken up by a backchecking Eric Belanger. The play went the other way leading to a three-on-two, and Marek Zidlicky rewarded Belanger for his work by sending a perfect pass that Bella knocked in for his ninth of the season.
The Wild’s second goal was the seventh shorthanded goal of Mikko Koivu
’s career, tying him for second on the all-time Wild list with Brian Rolston. Koivu also made a great play to break up a Devils chance in the Wild zone, and then raced up the ice to finish the rush.
To truly appreciate Martin Brodeur, you have to actually watch him. With him spending his entire career in the Eastern Conference, we don’t often see him, but he’s happy to provide a reminder of why he’s so good when we do. Brodeur kept the Wild off the scoreboard in a first period that the Wild dominated. The Wild had almost every scoring chance, but Brodeur was there at every turn.
Even the goals the Wild did score were like pulling teeth. Brodeur robbed Koivu on his first shot before the Wild captain was able to put the rebound home. Andrew Brunette had to resort to deflecting one in off his face shield to pull Minnesota within one late in the third. Brodeur is 37 and appears to have many good years ahead of him, but it’s possible this may have been his last appearance at the Xcel Energy Center. His 29-save performance was another memorable one for those that saw it.
The overflow sellout crowd of 19,155 was the Wild’s biggest regular season crowd since 19,398 on October 2, 2005 – the first home game after the yearlong work stoppage. It was the largest overall crowd since a throng of 19,364 watched the Wild take on the Avalanche in a playoff game on April 17, 2008.
No doubt many were on hand to pay homage to Lemaire, and they got their chance to give him a standing ovation following a video tribute before the opening puck drop. Lemaire said he didn’t see the tribute, “but I could hear the fans. I thought it was neat. I thought it was nice. That, I enjoyed.
What I miss most about Jacques Lemaire is his ability to amuse himself, and reporters. At today’s morning skate, Lemaire offered a couple gems, including this one when he was asked about his style of play compared to the other teams in the League:
“As far as I know, they are trying to score in the other zone. The guys that don’t have the same sweaters, the goalie that doesn’t have the same sweater, they are trying to score on this guy. And prevent goals on their goalie.”
Of course, his best quote came after a game where his team won and scored five goals.
“It was that terrible, a bad game. Just a bad game. No puck control and no good thinking. We turned the puck over many, many times.”