Following Wild games, Digital Media Coordinator Kelly Erickson will occasionally give Five Takeaways that she'll remember from the contest. Tonight, she looks back at a 2-1 shootout win against the Colorado Avalanche:
Between Josh Harding’s glove and a pair of shootout goals from Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu, the Wild capped a three-game road trip with a shootout win over the Avalanche, handing Colorado its first loss in OT or a shootout and its first loss when scoring first (snapping a 17-0 run).
As the third period trundled on, Colorado held a 1-0 lead and the Wild scrambled for a score, flashbacks to Nov. 30 were inevitable. The last time the Wild and Avalanche squared off in Colorado, the Avs held a 2-0 lead, but Matt Cooke netted a goal with 3:28 to go and Koivu tied it up with six seconds left, forcing overtime and an eventual 3-2 shootout loss.
Sure enough, the Wild finally caught some puck luck as Ryan Suter fired from the point and Nino Niederreiter deflected the puck down and in past Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov with 3:53 left in the third. The goal snapped a seven-game point skid for Nino, who’s last point was an assist against Colorado on Nov. 29, and a 10-game goal drought.
The déjà vu really set in when an extra session couldn’t determine a winner and was settled in a shootout, but this time the Wild came away with the two points.
Josh Harding’s glove has been astounding this season and it was on display again tonight. Harding made several glove saves early to keep Colorado at bay — including a robbery of an almost certain P.A. Parenteau goal in the first — and then within reach. He rung up 26 saves on the night, but his two biggest came in the shootout. After a allowing a Matt Duchene shootout goal blocker side, both Parenteau and Ryan O’Reilly got fancy and went glove. The netminder continued to channel his cool, Julie “The Cat” Gaffney demeanor and gloved a pair of saves for the win.
We’ve seen him make glove saves time and again this season, but each time you can’t help but marvel at how quick he’s able snatch the puck out of the air, like a Venus Fly Trap clamping its jaws for the kill. It doesn’t get old.
As much as we all faced some major déjà vu on the score sheet tonight, the game was also a tough defensive grind once again.
While the Wild and Avs each had stretches of pressure in their respective offensive zones, both teams clogged the zone and kept one another frustrated much of the night. Minnesota and Colorado each notched 27 shots on goal as well as 15 blocked shots, leading to the low-scoring affair.
The even stats exemplify just how closely matched these teams are currently. With the shootout point, the Wild pulled up alongside the Avalanche in the standings, sharing third place in the Central Division with 43 points apiece.
Managing Editor Mike Doyle was supposed to write tonight's Takes, but he was having some technical issues watching the game (or so he led me to believe), so I took over. But as someone who has hiked in the Rockies (briefly), I was still curious about playing at altitude and we had this little exchange via email.
Kelly: You played in Colorado for a while right? How big of a factor is altitude?
Mike: Yeah, playing at altitude sucks. When I was 16, I played in Vail. The first time I skated, we were doing a stationary passing drill and about five minutes in I thought I was going to pass out. We were out there with a bunch of squirts and they were flying around because they grew up there and were completely unaffected. It's something I'll never forget; red faced huffing and puffing leaning against the boards because I think I'm going to pass out while these little kids are skating circles around me.
Vail is about 8,000 feet above sea level, so when teams would come up to play we would just wear them down, even if they were coming from Denver. And when we played at sea level for tournaments, you could easily stay out on the ice twice as long or double shift. You could play Ryan Suter minutes when we played at sea level.
Kelly: Haha, I can just imagine you getting shown up by a bunch of squirts. How about when you went to Denver in college?
Mike: CC (Colorado College) and Denver were pretty much my least favorite places to play. Your shifts are much shorter and it takes longer to recover if you get caught out on the ice too long. Then you're pretty much screwed for the rest of the game. The lactic acid gets into your legs and it starts to feel like you're skating with weights around your ankles.
Kelly: Maybe you should've just been in better shape...
Mike: (response unpublishable)
Tonight was a special night at Pepsi Center as the Avs celebrated NHL Trophy Night. The Stanley Cup, Conn Smythe, Vezina, Calder Memorial, Art Ross and Hart Trophies were all on display throughout the game. WildTV was able to put together a quick video on the set up with some up-close action on the Cup.
Now I haven’t seen Lord Stanley’s Cup in person (I know, I know, I’m terrible), but seeing Josh Harding’s Masterton Trophy at Xcel Energy Center was a pretty cool sight, so I can only imagine what it’s like getting up-close and personal with hockey’s Holy Grail. If you ever have the chance to meet it, I urge you to do so.