Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 5-4 win against the New York Islanders:
Tonight’s contest between the Minnesota Wild and New York Islanders had an unmistakable turning point at the 11:56 mark of the second period. With the Wild down, 3-0, Matt Martin ran Keith Ballard into the boards. The defenseman was injured on a very frightening play and didn’t return to the game. After the hit, Minnesota got angry, woke up and went to work.
Before the hit, the Islanders outshot Minnesota, 11-8. Afterwards, the Wild peppered New York, outshooting the Isles, 22-8. The team capitalized on its chances, rallying to a 5-4 victory, including four-straight goals in the final 20 minutes.
Wild captain Mikko Koivu was strong all game and kicked off the team’s third period comeback with his fifth goal of the year. Erik Haula finally got a bit of puck luck, as a spinning shot went in off of the leg of Islanders defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky.
After the Finns put the Wild in range, two former Islanders finished off their old team. Thomas Vanek and Nino Niederreiter scored in similar fashion, grinding goals from the crease, to tie the game and win it.
It was a heated, emotional contest and the Wild earned two points for their injured teammate, Ballard.
Defenseman Ryan Suter returned to the lineup after missing the previous two games with the mumps. Despite the layoff, the National Hockey League’s leader in ice time wasn’t exactly eased back into action. The blueliner seemed to get stronger as the game wore on, playing 29:08 and assisting on three goals. Suter’s absence was missed in all facets of the Wild’s game and tonight he showed why he is considered one of the best in the League.
Suter returned to his usual spot on the man advantage, quarterbacking the PP at the blue line. The defenseman got things rolling by assisting (initially it was credited to Suter, later changed to Jason Pominville) on the Wild’s first goal by putting the puck on net from the point. He threw the puck towards the net and it pin-balled around, eventually going off of Pominville and past Islanders netminder Chad “Don’t call me Ochocinco” Johnson.
Seriously, I hope this is the last time I have to write the word mumps in the Takeaways and the Wild is free of the virus moving forward.
Goaltender Niklas Backstrom played in his 400th career game tonight. The netminder signed with Minnesota in 2006 and has spent his entire career in the State of Hockey. In a career that has included being a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, an All-Star Game appearance and representing his Native Finland in a number of international tournaments, including the Olympics, tonight’s milestone will be a memorable one after a tough start.
It was a hard first period for the Backstrom, but it can be hard to make saves when you have an opponent draped all over you like tinsel on a Christmas tree. The Islander’s third goal looked like a classic battle of goaltender interference vs. player going to the net hard and creating incidental contact, depending on which color glasses you’re wearing. Late in the first, former Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck was heading to the net to screen Backstrom on a point shot from Lubomir Visnovsky. Suter tied up Clutterbuck in front of the Wild net and the Isles forward jumped up into the air to avoid the shot. His derriere made contact with Backstrom, knocking him to the ice. With Backstrom out of the way, Martin slipped the puck into the open net. Of course, if I were writing for the Islanders, I probably would’ve seen Suter knocking Clutterbuck into Backstrom, rather than the description from this paragraph.
The State of Hockey was alive and kicking on the ice tonight, as eight Minnesota natives skated between the Wild and Islanders. The Wild currently has five Minnesotans on its roster (Stu Bickel was tonight’s healthy scratch). Islanders had Brock Nelson of Warroad, Kyle Okposo of Saint Paul, Nick Leddy of Eden Prairie, and Anders Lee of Edina, in the lineup tonight.
In the game, Minnesotans on the bad guys were featured prominently on the score sheet. Nelson scored the team’s second goal on the power play by tipping home a one-timer from Leddy. Lee added the primary assist on the Islanders’ first goal.
On the Wild’s side, Ryan Carter and Zach Parise each chipped in with an assist.
Hockey is a physical game and players are always putting themselves in harms way. Of course, no one ever wants to see an injury and tonight we saw a very scary moment when Ballard went headfirst into the boards between the two benches. Ballard was retrieving the puck close to the wall and took a hit from Martin. The Wild defenseman’s face looked like it was driven into the glass/dasher area and went down in a ton of pain. At game speed, it was difficult to see exactly what happened, and I had no interest in watching the replay, but I’m sure the League’s Department of Player Safety will review this one.
After some time, Ballard was eventually able to get to his feet and was helped off the ice. The only update we have at this time was that Ballard was conscious and was taken to Regions Hospital for further evaluation and observation.