Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he'll remember from each contest. Today, he'll look back at a 3-2 overtime win in Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Chicago Blackhawks:
That’s the word Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo used tonight to describe how he wanted Minnesota to play, and the club came out desperate tonight.
Yesterday, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said that the club still hadn’t played its best hockey of the series. Well, it didn’t take long to right the ship, as Minnesota came out blazing tonight. Minnesota out-hit (34-13), out-chanced (37-27 shots) and, for most of the game, out-played (no stat for that) Chicago.
Tonight was definitely a leave-it-all-on-the-ice game for Minnesota. The club played a smart game, limiting Chicago’s chances. The Wild also was tenacious on the forecheck, sustaining pressure in the offensive zone and creating chances.
“We have to have an impact on their defensemen,” Yeo said after the game. “We stepped that part of our game up.”
When Duncan Keith scored late in the third period to send the game into OT, the Wild didn’t panic and came out fast in overtime…
Jason Zucker is clutch.
While in Houston, the rookie tied for the American Hockey League lead in game-winning goals. Tonight he scored his first playoff goal in dramatic fashion, 2:15 into overtime to give the Wild its first win of the series.
For many State of Hockey fans, Zucker’s goal probably trumped an earlier play for his highlight of the night. Not for me. With time expiring at the end of the second period, Zucker lined up Brent Seabrook and hammered him. Seabrook fell to the ice and Zucker stood over him like a boxer who just landed a knockout punch. I wasn’t the only fan of the play.
“I like seeing that, too,” Yeo said with a smile when asked about Zucker’s physical play.
Before Game 2, Yeo said that he wanted his team to bring a little more nastiness. Well, they went Janet Jackson with their nasty tonight. The Wild hacked, whacked and shellacked its way to victory.
In the first two games, we didn’t see a lot of face washing or scrums after whistles, a staple of playoff hockey. However, the Wild got down and dirty today. Stephane Veilleux, who was recalled from Houston today, face washed a Blackhawks player as he skated to the bench. Ryan Suter was giving Hawks forwards—especially captain Jonathan Toews—the business all night. I could go on and on about the little slashes and jabs after the whistles because there was a lot of it from the Wild tonight. Some people might call it a little bit dirty, but it’s not. It’s playoff hockey at its finest. And I loved every minute of it.
I know I’ve probably touched on this before, but Pierre-Marc Bouchard has one of the best backhands in the NHL. I can think of a handful of backhand beauties from the winger, but maybe none more impressive than tonight’s.
Bouchard was following up a Cal Clutterbuck chance. A diving Clutterbuck poked the puck to Bouchard, who fielded the puck on his forehand. In one motion he swept the puck to his backhand and roofed it off the post and in. If you’re in the NHL, you probably have a pretty good backhand. But what sets Bouchard’s apart is his ability to get it off with pace when he’s moving and not set. As he received the puck, he was cutting to his right and didn’t delay to change his body position. In traffic, if he tried to adjust his body for a split second, the Blackhawks back-checkers probably would’ve caught him.
Along with his goal, Bouchard added an assist on Zucker’s winner. But the winger played a complete game, creating chances and playing responsibly defensively.
“That was the best hockey game I’ve seen him play,” Yeo said.
So apparently all you have to do to beat Cory Crawford is fire a perfectly placed backhand over his glove. Zach Parise’s first goal of the playoffs was a carbon copy of Bouchard’s goal (cue Betty Hutton and Howard Keel singing “Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better”).
Josh Harding is quickly becoming the story of these playoffs. In the warm-ups, he took a puck up high and went down. I don’t think I took a breath for the several seconds he was on the ice. The goaltender was stunned, spent some time at center shaking it off and returned to the net for the remainder of warm-ups.
Apparently it didn’t affect Harding’s game, as he made 25 saves and was named the game’s Number 3 Star. Tonight, he had considerably less action than the first two games in Chicago, but was there when the Wild needed a big save. He stopped Toews late in the game, then when the Hawks forward crashed into him, Harding kept the puck out by anchoring his left foot in the back of the net.
A little bit of freudenschade here, but this photo is waaaay too good not to point out the dejected dude in the green Toews sweater. Meme it, Internets.