Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 4-2 win against the Calgary Flames:
The Minnesota Wild is hotter than a, um, flame. The club kicked off its longest homestand of the season with a convincing win over the Calgary Flames. Minnesota helps its own cause by taking two points from the Flames, now trailing the Wild by six points in the Western Conference standings. The team will get another chance to improve its playoff chances tomorrow night, as it hosts the Los Angeles Kings, who are five points back. With the Chicago Blackhawks losing to Columbus tonight, 5-2, the Wild is only a point behind the Hawks in the Central Division (Chicago still has a game in hand).
After playing a stalemate in the first two periods, the Wild was again explosive in the third period, scoring three goals to secure the victory. Minnesota leads the NHL with 26 third-period goals since Feb. 22.
The club’s veterans blazed a trail for the Wild in the final frame. Thomas Vanek scored his 20th of the season, while Zach Parise extended his team lead to 30 with a post-and-in breakaway. Captain Mikko Koivu notched the game winner with a one-handed tip, capitalizing on a Chris Stewart entry pass from the wing. The Flames kept things close, but couldn’t douse the red-hot Wild.
Only a year apart in age, Mikael Granlund said that growing up he and his younger brother, Markus, were competitive in just about everything, especially hockey. For the second time in their NHL careers, the sibling rivals met at Xcel Energy Center. Funny enough, Markus was actually selected by the Flames at the arena in 2011, the year after the Wild picked Mikael in the first round.
Before the game, Mikael said that he and his brother play a similar offensive style. Well, the older brother’s full skill set was on display tonight, seemingly finding teammates with a set of eyes in the back of his head. Mikael did note Markus was more of the shooter in the family and he had two pretty good looks during the game and tipped home his sixth of the season late in the third period. Well, their play on the ice isn’t the only connection, check out this split screen of the brothers.
Tonight, a defenseman from each team used savvy veteran moves to deny their opponents breakaway attempts. The Wild’s Ryan Suter and Calgary’s Kris Russell used parallel moves to deny forwards Sean Monahan and Vanek from scoring attempts.
In the first, Monahan had a step on Suter for a shorthanded break. The blueliner knew that he didn’t have a good angle on the lefty, who was coming in from the left side. Rather than try to cut Monahan off on the right side, Suter jumped to his left and lifted the Flames forward’s stick. The disruption was just enough to throw off Monahan’s timing and he fanned on the shot attempt. Similarly, Russell was trailing a streaking Vanek towards the end of the second period and popped over to the right side and hooked the wing’s stick.
Both forwards probably would’ve argued for a hooking penalty, but if you called one, you’d have to call the other. So, to stay consistent, it was probably good that the refs allowed both plays to go uncalled. Speaking of uncalled plays…
Justin Fontaine isn’t the biggest player on the Wild, but he’s one tough customer. In the second period, he took a big hit at his own blue line to get the puck out of the Wild’s zone. In the third, Joe Colborne blindsided the wing without the puck (surprisingly, interference was not called on the play) and completely launched him out of his skates onto the ice. Fontaine went down the tunnel to the locker room area, but quickly returned because he’s a bulldog.
On his very next shift, he helped set up the go-ahead goal by Vanek. The pair has gotten along better than a dog and ground squirrel since the two have been placed on a line with Charlie Coyle. Speaking of college players…
The NCAA College Hockey National Tournament started today with a number of schools representing the State of Hockey in the mix. Before the Wild game, Fontaine had a big smile (speculating) on his face because his University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs eliminated the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers (sorry Erik, Thomas, Keith, Jordan and Jordan). Tomorrow, the number one seeded Minnesota State Mankato Mavericks skate against the Rochester Institute of Technology.
But the big news out of the tourney was that the St. Cloud State Huskies advanced with a thrilling overtime game against Michigan Tech. Jonny Brodzinski tied the game with under a minute to go to send it beyond regulation. In the extra frame, Judd Peterson punched the school’s ticket for an elite eight matchup with NCHC foe, North Dakota. Honestly, I knew nothing about Peterson before tonight’s game. Now he’s a Cloud Town legend. He’s going to have a good time when he gets back to campus after the season ends (hopefully with the school’s first National Championship).