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 3-2 home win against the Columbus Blue Jackets:
It was too early to call tonight’s contest against the Columbus Blue Jackets a ‘must win’ situation. However, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said that he wanted his team to be ‘harder to play against’ and for the first two periods of tonight’s game, the Wild executed the game plan.
In the first two frames, Minnesota was tenacious on the forecheck, rolling all four lines for the most part, and solid in its own end. Through two periods, the Wild generated 23 shots on net, while keeping Columbus to an anemic eight.
“In the very early part of the year, we’ve got to get wins, there’s no question,” Yeo said after the game. “We have to continue to look to the times, when we are playing the right way, we’re getting the right results.”
The first two periods was a look at the potential of this team, as Minnesota continues to find its game. The third period saw the Wild penalty killers get heavy action, as Columbus pushed for a comeback…
“We came out and played not to lose in the third period,” Yeo said. “We don’t want to just hang onto one goal leads all the time.
“We should be aggressive and make it difficult on them and play in the offensive zone and go for another one.”
In a one-goal game in the third period and coming off of three-straight losses, it’s easy to tense up and grip the stick a little tighter; it happens, even to professional athletes. Minnesota was on its heals in the third and penalties sure didn’t help the cause, but none of them were what you might classify as “bad penalties.” Darroll Powe was trying to be aggressive and was called for boarding while finishing a check; Mikael Granlund went down to block a shot and swung his stick at the puck as he tried to recover; Tom Gilbert was dinged for delay of game as he tried to glove a puck forward in the defensive zone and it sailed over the glass; and Zach Parise was attempting to pull a veteran move, by giving a little tug on the back of the sweater, as he was skating by a defender on the forecheck. All were forgivable penalties and the Wild did a good job of killing all but one.
The momentum was in the Blue Jackets favor in the third and the Wild needed someone to step up and make a big play. Pierre-Marc Bouchard was the guy, but all five players on the ice made a play before the puck got to PMB.
It started in the defensive zone with Zenon Konopka winning a board battle and chipping a puck to Marco Scandella behind the net. The blueliner made a perfect indirect pass off the boards, avoiding a forechecker, onto the tape of Bouchard. He curled to the middle and went cross-ice to Justin Falk. Falk then made quick blue-line-to-blue-line, cross-ice pass to Torrey Mitchell, who dumped a centering pass to a streaking Bouchard.
In 10 seconds, all five players touched the puck before it was returned to Bouchard. Of course, the finish, Bouchard’s 100th, was a thing of beauty all unto its own, but the puck movement was a collective work of art.
Tom Gilbert put up a monster game tonight. Aside from scoring the second goal of the game, the defenseman’s stat line looked like this: 26 minutes of ice time, three shots on goal, two hits, five blocked shots and plus-1.
His most impressive play came at the midway point of the second period. The Wild had the puck pinned in the Blue Jacket’s zone when Derek Dorsett took a loose puck and looked to have a clean break on Niklas Backstrom. Dorsett started at the top of the left circle, while Gilbert was at a stand still at the right circle. Gilbert exploded out of the gate, caught Dorsett from behind, and with one hand on the stick, altered the Blue Jackets’ shot without taking a penalty.
Tonight, the Wild played its 500th game (preseason, regular season and playoff) at Xcel Energy Center. That’s a lot of ice shavings from the Zamboni. Saint Paul’s host for concerts, rodeos, conventions and live performances, its main function has been home to the Wild. The building is still looking as good as it did in its first few years (I wasn’t working for the Wild at the time, but did go to a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers concert in the building’s earlier days).
Now, 500 times is a lot to do anything. At tonight’s game, the Wild honored the people that have been with the team the whole way. Wild employees Scott Sarkis, Tony DaCosta, Lance Vogt and Barry Fritz have worked all 500 Minnesota home games. Fans Mary Letourneau, Eva McClellan and Mary Williamson have attended every home game in the team’s history. Now that’s dedication. Stick tap to all the members of the Wild’s 500 Club and here’s to 500 more.