Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 4-3 shootout win against the San Jose Sharks:
On the eve of Halloween, the Minnesota Wild turned its game against the San Jose Sharks from trick to treat, erasing a third period two-goal deficit and winning in a shootout.
The Sharks took a 2-1 lead into the second intermission and looked like it had the game on ice after Joe Thornton capitalized just 1:37 into the third. However, the Wild would come from behind to force overtime courtesy of Kyle Brodziak (we’ll get to that), and eventually win in a shootout to remain perfect at home (4-0-0).
Goaltender Darcy Kuemper rebounded tonight after his last outing, where he gave up five goals in the third period against the New York Rangers on Monday. The netminder made 25 saves, many acrobatic and sprawling, for his fifth win of the year.
Not trying to be a downer early in the Takes, but the win did come at a cost. Defenseman Jared Spurgeon left the ice in the third period after crashing hard into the boards following a hit from Joe Pavelski. The one bright spot is that Spurgeon skated off under his own power.
The Wild looks like it found a solid combination in Mikko Koivu, Charlie Coyle and Jason Zucker. The line was a force tonight, cycling in the offensive zone, creating chances and capitalizing on a goal by the captain.
The shift that led to the Koivu goal was an epic effort from the trio. At 12:08 of the second period, defenseman Ryan Suter rung the puck around the boards and Coyle was the first on the forecheck. The three, along with defensemen Suter and Spurgeon, cycled in the Sharks’ zone, won one-on-one battles and generated opportunities for the next 40 seconds. Suter then took the puck at the left point and wrapped it to Zucker in the right corner. The wing corralled the puck and opened up to his forehand, making a pass right onto the tape of a cutting Koivu. The captain squeezed the puck through San Jose goaltender Antti Niemi’s legs for his second of the year. Of course, he used his patented move for a goal in the shootout, which is pretty much money in the backhand.
In order to form the line, the Wild had to split Koivu and Thomas Vanek. Both players are talented offensively, but had trouble jelling…
After Erik Haula suffered an injury against the New York Rangers on Monday, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo needed a centerman to enter the lineup on Tuesday against the Boston Bruins. He inserted Brodziak, who was a healthy scratch for the previous five games, and put Vanek on his wing. The two seemed to click in Boston and continued their strong play tonight.
In the third period, Yeo put Justin Fontaine on their wing and the line got going. Fontaine helped set up the first play, as Vanek found Brodziak for his first of the year. Vanek to Brodziak got redundant, as the wing set up the center with a backhand saucer pass, which the center chipped home. Vanek could his get his own Food Network show, “Austrian Sauce” after that play.
There is nothing worse for a hockey fan than a waved-off score for goaltender interference. That is, unless it’s the opponent who scores and the call is in your team’s favor. If it’s against your team, the ref is an idiot and totally blew the call; if it helps your team, the ref made the right move to blow it dead.
In many cases, goaltender interference is a rule that’s very much up for interpretation—one of the reasons that fans can easily sway from best call ever to worst screw job depending on what color glasses they are wearing. Tonight, fans in Silicone Valley probably were siding with the latter, as the Sharks had a first-period goal disallowed as Logan Couture clashed with Kuemper.
Now, Wild fans definitely thought that Couture crossed into Kuemper’s crease and perturbed the netminder from making a save on Jason Demers. For fans supporting the black and teal, Kuemper was the one who initiated contact on Couture. Regardless of whom you root for, the ref waved off the goal. So he’s either a hero or a loser. Tough job.
Tonight, the Wild celebrated Youth Hockey Night at Xcel Energy Center. The Grand Rapids Bantam team gave the “Let’s Play Hockey!” call and during the second intermission the then team participated in a shootout. It looks like the next wave of State of Hockey produced talent will come from up north.
Tomorrow, all those youngsters cheered during Youth Hockey Night will be out celebrating Halloween (hopefully by knocking on doors for candy and not egging cars, like I did at that age). The Wild’s mascot, Nordy, got into the spooky spirit a day early, changing costumes tonight more than Lady Gaga during a concert. By my count, Nordy went through four costume changes: Frankenstein, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle (Raphael), Storm Trooper and Where’s Waldo. Where does a mascot purchase all those outfits? Better yet, how does a mascot pay for said getups? Stick tap to Nordy and his costume designer, whoever it is.