Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he'll remember from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 4-3 win against the Chicago Blackhawks:
If we’ve learned anything about the Wild this season, it loves the late-game fireworks. If you went to tonight’s game, I really hope you stuck around until the end of this one. I mean really, really hope you weren’t trying to avoid traffic and icy roads. I understand why you might’ve wanted to leave after the Wild gave up a two-goal lead, but, if you did, you missed one heck of a finish. Of course, if you are a Blackhawks fan, I hope you stuck around until the end for another reason.
The comeback started with the Wild going on the power play late in the third. The Wild had been struggling on the man advantage heading into tonight (we’ll get to that), but Jonas Brodin scored the team’s second power play goal of the evening to tie the game at three.
Then, Macro Scandella received a cross-ice pass at the blue line with less than two minutes left in the game. The left shot gathered the puck, quickly pivoted and in one motion took a half-slapper bullet that had eyes and beat Chicago netminder Corey Crawford for the game winner and his first of the season.
They sure didn’t do it the easy way, but the Wild improved to 13-0-3 when leading after two periods.
The Wild got off to the start it wanted tonight from a line that drew the assignment of checking Chicago’s top trio (we’ll get to that). Well, technically, it was two-thirds of the Wild’s third line that got the team on the board first.
Recently called-up from Iowa, Erick Haula was in the lineup tonight because his speed would give Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo a few more options amongst the forwards against a fast Hawks team. Haula was caught on a shift with Matt Cooke and Torrey Mitchell, with a great result.
The rookie took the puck through the neutral zone and chipped it in behind the Blackhawks defense. Haula easily beat Brent Seabrook, no small task, to the puck and got it to Mitchell, who was trailing in support. Mitchell found Cooke in the high slot and he fired a laser over Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford’s glove. The play was exactly how coaches at any level draw up a two-man forecheck, with the first forward in hard, the second player in support along the boards and the third forward slipping into the slot when his teammate gains control. Cooke's goal 4:23 into the game ended a six-game span with no first-period goals.
Yesterday, the Wild spent a lot of its practice working on the power play. That work paid off today, as the team scored its first power play goal since Nov. 20 against Ottawa (although the team only had 11 man-advantage opportunities in those six games). One thing Yeo wanted out of the power play unit tonight was more movement and he got it on the team’s second period goal.
While it might’ve looked like a bit of a fortuitous bounce that led to Zach Parise’s second period goal—which it was—it also was his drive to the net moments before the goal that set up the opportunity. Parise took the puck at the top of the right circle, fed it down low to Mikko Koivu and broke to the front of the net. Parise cut below the Blackhawks forward, Marcus Kruger, who had to turn his attention momentarily off of Ryan Suter at the point. This gave Mikko Koivu, who was moving into the open area left by Parise, an open lane to find Suter. Two bang-bang plays later the puck landed on Parise’s stick for a goal.
After skating most of preseason together, Kyle Brodziak, Cooke and Mitchell have been reunited since Saturday’s game in Colorado and have taken on the opponent’s top offensive lines. For most of the night, the trio drew one of the toughest assignments in the NHL, Chicago’s top line of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa.
Tonight, the line did its job limiting the Toews unit during 5-on-5 action. Hossa, Sharp and Toews all ended minus-1, while Hossa’s goal game during a power play. The Wild’s third line is a mix that works well when drawing top defensive assignments. All three are responsible in the defensive zone and don’t take shortcuts, like cheating on the wrong side of the pucks for breaks or turning instead of stopping and starting. Their play in the D-zone has resulted in chances in the offensive end, and you can’t ask for much more than that.
The win tonight was the Wild’s first in regulation against the Blackhawks at home since Oct. 27, 2008. Admit it, you thought Minnesota would have to wait a little while longer to get that elusive ‘W’ at Xcel Energy Center. But one man kept the faith: the one and only Jimmy Buffett. He was kicking back with a cheeseburger in paradise during the game because knew the Wild would come out on top.
Yeah, you might think that after Patrick Kane took the Stanley Cup to Margaritaville a couple years back that the eternal pirate would be a Blackhawks fan. Well, rumor has it he’s had a change in attitude and latitude, because Kane lost his (blank-blank) salt. Buffett showed his alliance with the Wild at yesterday’s concert at Xcel Energy Center. Don’t believe me? Check out the photo below: