Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at an 5-4 shootout loss against the Detroit Red Wings:
If you started to write off the Minnesota Wild tonight, there is a simple shortcut on Apple keyboards: command-A-delete. The Wild erased a three-goal third period deficit to force overtime before succumbing in a shootout. Although the club didn’t earn the skills-contest point, Minnesota can go into the All-Star Break feeling better about its effort as the team’s play is trending in the right direction.
Minnesota played pretty well through 40 minutes, outshooting the Red Wings, 22-13, but the home team got the home breaks and was up 4-1 after two. In the final 20 minutes, Zach Parise and Thomas Vanek led Minnesota’s comeback charge. Parise scored twice in the third period, including the game-tying goal, while Vanek scored once and added an assist. The team stayed with its game and finally broke through in the third period to force overtime and earn a point.
With the Wild trying to make up ground in the Western Conference, the team has to be disappointed with only coming back to Minnesota with one point. That’s the tough thing about the shootout, you can outplay your opponent and still feel gut punched on the plane ride home.
Goaltender Darcy Kuemper saw his first action since going on Injured Reserve with a lower-body injury on Jan. 7, though it probably wasn’t in the fashion he’d have liked. The netminder was called in to relieve starter Devan Dubnyk, who gave up four goals (we’ll get to the unlucky number four in a moment). After losing track of the first shot on net, Kuemper settled down and finished with 14 saves.
With Detroit looking to add to its lead, Kuemper made an athletic save on Wings forward Drew Miller. After a shot from the point, Luke Glendening followed the rebound and made a backhand pass right onto the tape of Miller. The left-handed shot took a quick one-timer on his strong side. Kuemper slid from post-to-post and stuck his waffle board out to knock the puck wide.
Hopefully Kuemper can take this performance into the break and gain confidence with the time off and the Wild goaltenders can help steal a few wins in the stretch run.
The hockey gods have been unkind to the Wild this season. After hitting the post last night, Justin Fontaine was the unfortunate victim of an own goal and there was nothing he could do about it. The Wings entered the zone and captain Henrik Zetterberg threw the puck to the front of the net. Minnesota did a good job of collapsing on the play to break up the pass, but it deflected out to the point. Detroit defenseman Xavier Ouellet tracked it down to keep it in the zone and pushed, what looked to be, a harmless shot that was headed wide of the net. However, the puck ricocheted off Fontaine’s skate and past Dubnyk, who was pulled after the goal.
There is no worse feeling of helplessness than an own goal. Fontaine was doing the right thing by collapsing on the play and getting into defensive position, but the puck just found his skate and then the back of the net. Like Dr. John, he was simply in the right place at the wrong time. You could see the look of exasperation on all six Wild players on the ice, as their collective body language screamed, “Are you kidding me?”
What is in the water in Grand Rapids? I want some. It seems like the Wings have a never-ending wellspring of talent coming through their American Hockey League farm club, the Griffins. Last year, Gustav Nyquist was a mid-season call up who took the National Hockey League by storm, scoring 48 points (28-20=48) in 57 games. He was at it again against the Wild, scoring on a deft deflection on a second-period power play and winning it in the shootout. Tonight, forward Teemu Pulkkinen scored his first-career goal in his sixth game with Detroit this season (he skated in three last season). When the rookie was in the AHL before being called up, he was the league’s leading goal scorer with 20 tallies. Last year, he had 59 points (31-28=59) in the AHL.
While Nyquist has become one of the Wings’ go-to offensive threats, Pulkkinen is attempting to become an everyday NHLer. Both Nyquist (2008) and Pulkkinen (2010) were fourth-round picks by Detroit and have gained seasoning in the AHL. While they might not have been highly touted in their respective draft years, they worked in the minors to gain experience and develop, and are good examples of the Wings’ model of drafting and developing players.
Following games tomorrow, the League will break for NHL All-Star Weekend in Columbus. The festivities start on Friday at 7 p.m. State of Hockey Time with the “fantasy draft,” as team captains, Columbus Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno and Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, pick their squads.
On Saturday, the teams will compete in the Skills Competition at 6 p.m. with six events:
· Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater
· Honda NHL Breakaway Challenge
· DraftKings NHL Accuracy Shooting
· Gatorade NHL Skills Challenge Relay
· AMP NHL Hardest Shot
· Discover NHL Shootout
Unfortunately there is no Longest Shift Contest for the Wild’s representative, Ryan Suter, but he’d probably be pretty good at the Accuracy Shooting.
The weekend culminates with the All-Star Game on Sunday at 4 p.m. All-Star Weekend is all about fun and fans of hockey. Sure, the game isn’t playoff intense, but there are still memorable moments because get to see the best players in the world perform against each other.