Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 6-3 win against the Carolina Hurricanes:
Forget about flowers or chocolate—give a hockey fan a win on Valentine’s Day. The Minnesota Wild skated to a lovely victory tonight against the Carolina Hurricanes. The club tied its record for most consecutive games earning a point at 10, going 8-0-2 during the streak. At the time of writing this, the Wild moves into a tie in points with the Calgary Flames for eighth in the Western Conference (Calgary plays in Vancouver tonight), so it could be a very special Valentine’s night for Minnesota.
The second line of Mikael Granlund, Justin Fontaine and Thomas Vanek led the team against the Canes. The trio all had multi-point games (Vanek 2G, 1A; Granlund 2A; Fontaine 2A), but we’ll have more on them in a moment.
Even a former St. Cloud State Husky can give a little love to the University of Minnesota alumni on the Wild on Valentine’s Day. All three former Golden Gophers scored, with Jordan Schroeder getting his second of the year while Erik Haula tallied his fifth.
Vanek scored two quick goals in the opening period, both coming on sweetheart feeds from his linemates. His first, only 1:15 into the first was about as easy a goal as the 31-year-old will score. After a strong forecheck by Fontaine—the wing dumped the puck and tracked it down to pop it out—Granlund slipped a one-touch pass to Vanek, who placed it into the virtually empty net. On Vanek’s second of the period, Fontaine made a great pass from behind the net to the Austrian, who one-timed it past Canes netminder Anton Khudobin.
Vanek must’ve been feeling the love because he helped set up the Wild’s fourth goal, too. The wing made a beautiful cross-ice pass to the defenseman, who had a lane to the net. Prosser tried to be unselfish and made a centering pass, but it was picked off by Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk. Fortunately for Prosser, or unfortunately for Faulk, the Canes’ blueliner knocked the puck into his own net.
There are a few of the Wild staffers that play a game called Light the Lamp when the team plays home games. Essentially, we each pick a Minnesota player we think will either score or get an assist; the caveat is that we can’t pick a player who was selected in the previous contest. Points are awarded and we track them throughout the season. Like any competition, there is some good-natured trash talking between the employees on email chains we hope HR will never see.
Tonight, I had Vanek so I was feeling pretty good about myself. However, as competitive people, we might be taking the contest a little too seriously, especially since the stakes are not very high. I won’t name names, but there might’ve been more than a few calls from the press box for a specific player to not score, because the game’s leader picked him. In all seriousness, it’s a good way for us to have a little fun during a long regular season. I’ll let you know who won the competition after the team’s final home game. Thanks to Vanek’s big night, I’m back!
The refs didn’t have much love for Mikko Koivu, because I don’t know if I’ve seen an embellishment call quite like we saw tonight. Typically, they come on either a hooking or tripping call, but tonight Koivu was handed an embellishment penalty after taking a crosscheck to the back from Andrej Sekera. Koivu had the puck in the corner and was set up to shield it from the Canes defenseman. Sekera gave the Wild captain a jolting crosscheck to the lower back and knocked him head first into the boards.
That’s when the confusion began.
The Wild retained possession of the puck and went on the attack in the offensive zone for several seconds. After the Hurricanes finally touched it, the ref blew the play dead. Sekera went to the box and the man in stripes motioned to Koivu to sit for two, as well, giving him a penalty for embellishment. Koivu looked like the ref was speaking a different language, because he couldn’t understand the call. Frankly, neither could anyone else in the building. The play should’ve been blown dead immediately when a Wild player touched the puck, since Koivu also was going to the box. In closing, who thinks to embellish a play by throwing themselves noggin first into the boards? It seems like bad way to try and draw a penalty.
There was a lot of red in the arena and it wasn’t because both the Wild and Hurricanes have the color prominently featured on their uniforms. Of course, it is the time for love: Valentine’s Day. The arena had a number of Valentine’s Day-themed events tonight, including Date Night. The Let’s Play Hockey! call was made by Jenna Zevnick and Kevin Markgraf, the Twitter couple who was selected from a hashtag contest #LoveTheMNWild. On the video board, the club’s game ops had Candy Harts with hockey-centric messages like “Parise on the Eyes” (which I came up with, you’re welcome). The Gold’n Plump Challenge featured famous fictional couples with real life couples competing. Even the team’s Twitter accounts were spreading the love.
The Delta Dental Kiss Cam, typically a green border, was the color of love: red. One Wild fan appearing on the smooch cam wore heart-shaped shades before giving his special lady a peck. The love was flowing like draft beer—or maybe because of draft beer—because fans were smooching when they were on the big board even after the in-game feature ended.