Good afternoon, State of Hockey Legion!
We’re on a Rocky Mountain High here in Denver as the Wild skates in the back end of home-and-home with the Colorado Snowdrifts, also known as the Avalanche. The Wild took the first game on Thursday, 5-3, at Xcel Energy Center. Minnesota looks to improve on its road record (4-7-1) with a big win tonight to kick off a three-game road trip.
On the day before we observe St. Patrick’s Day, the celebration of green beer, the Wild won’t need much luck of the Irish because goaltender Niklas Backstrom has been hotter than a leprechaun carrying a pot of gold up a rainbow. Backstrom is 9-3-1 in his last 13 games, posting a 2.06 goals against average, a .921 save percentage and allowing two goals or less nine times in that span. Pretty good, huh? Well, he’s even better against the Avs, going 22-5-3 with a 2.21 GAA, a .926 SV% and four shutouts in 30 starts. In his last 10 starts versus the Avalanche, Backstrom is 8-1-1 with a 1.89 GAA and a .938 SV%. At Colorado he is especially stingy, going 9-2-1 with a 1.94 GAA, a .940 SV% and three shutouts, including one in his last appearance there (2/2/12). Okay, I know that was a lot to take in, but those are pretty impressive numbers and I had to share.
Since it’s an afternoon game, the team didn’t hold a morning skate and Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo didn’t speak to the media, but Minnesota will go with the same lineup as Thursday. Nate Prosser and Brett Clark will be tonight's healthy scratches. On Injured Reserve, as he continues treatment for multiple sclerosis, is Josh Harding. Jason Zucker is out with an upper body injury.
The Wild sports its road whites, while the Avs go with the powder blue and Colorado scrawled across the chest.
As always, follow the action over on the Twitters at @mnwildLIVE.
Period 1 - MIN 4, COL 1
Holy action, Batman! A very feisty first period, as the bad blood from Thursday carried into the afternoon game, but the Wild countered with an offensive explosion.
Minnesota capitalized on its first power play of the game on a beauty. Jared Spurgeon had the puck at the left point, walked across the blue line and slid the puck right into Ryan Suter's wheelhouse. The blueliner one-timed the puck into a wide open net, thanks to a Kyle Brodziak screen in front.
Devin Setoguchi kept things rolling with his eighth goal of the season. He took a pass from Matt Cullen in the high slot and blasted a wrister past Giguere's glove. The second assist went to Clayton Stoner.
Cal Clutterbuck extended the Wild's lead with a tricky shot. Dany Heatley wound up form the left side and hammered a slapper off the post. Clutterbuck chased down the rebound in the corner, turned and fired a quick shot off Giguere's pad and in.
The Avs got on the board late in the period, as John Mitchell fooled Niklas Backstrom with a shot from the right side board. Mitchell was skating towards the top of the circle, turned and threw one on net that went over the glove of the Wild netminder. Aaron Palushaj assisted on the play.
Heatley hit another post and again a teammate mopped up the rebound, this time Kyle Brodziak finished. Setoguchi fed Heatley, who snapped a shot off the post from the left slot. Brodziak kicked the rebound up to his stick and slammed it into the open net for his fourth of the season.
The boys were ready to play tonight with a four goal, and two fight (Justin Falk and Mike Rupp both going) first period. I'm like that AT&T girl right now, "We want more! We want More!"
Period 2 - MIN 5, COL 3
Colorado opened the scoring in the second period and made things close before the Wild answered to give a little padding heading into the third.
PA Parenteau took a pass from Matt Duchene in the corner and walked to the front of the net. He was able to control a bouncing puck, driving to the net and slid it past Backstrom. Matt Hunwick picked up the second assist on the play.
The Avs brought the score within one with a goal from Gabriel Landeskog just after a power play expired. Landeskog controlled a bouncing rebound and shoveled it past Backstrom. Assisting on the play was Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly.
Just when Colorado looked like it took all the momentum, Pierre-Marc Bouchard went top shelf with a backhander to give the Wild a two-goal cushion. Bouchard took the puck at the right side and fired a puck over Semyon Varlamov's left shoulder, who replaced Giguere at the beginning of the period.
Wild need a strong third period effort to close this one out. I think they can do it.
Period 3 - MIN 6, COL 4
The Wild got an insurance goal midway through the second period.
Setoguchi scored his second goal of the game, after receiving a beautiful sauce pass from Bouchard, who crossed over the blue line and waited for the play to develop. Setoguchi was in all alone, dropped his shoulder and went through the legs of Varlamov.
Chuck Kobasew scored with just over a minute remaining in the third period to make it 6-4, but the Wild shut the door the rest of the way for a big road W.
The Wild recorded a season-high six goals in the win. The Wild is in Vancouver for a 9 p.m. State of Hockey time game against the Canucks on Monday. See you all there.