Good evening from Edmonton, State of Hockey Legion.
Tonight, the Wild skates against division rival, Edmonton Greasers, also known as the Oilers. This is the first time these two teams have met in more than a year, as they last faced off on Dec. 29, 2011. Can you believe the last time the Wild and Oilers got together, the Internet was still obsessed with flash mobs? We’ve come so far since then, going gaga for Gangnam Style and now moving into the Harlem Shake. We’ll probably have another sensation by the time these teams get back together in March, but we’re getting way ahead of ourselves.
Pierre-Marc Bouchard is back in the lineup after missing last game with the flu. Bouchard loves playing against the Oil (spin-o-rama, anyone?) and leads the Wild in scoring with 41 points (12-29=41) in 44 contests against Edmonton. He’ll be on the wing with Kyle Brodziak and Cal Clutterbuck.
Starting in goal will be notorious Oil-leak plug, Niklas Backstrom. He returns to the net after missing last game with the flu and is 22-3-1 with a 1.81 goals against average, a .933 save percentage and four shutouts in 28 starts against the Oilers.
Tonight’s healthy scratches are defenseman Justin Falk and forwards Johan Larsson and Zenon Konopka. Josh Harding stayed in Minnesota to continue treatment for multiple sclerosis.
The Wild is wearing its road whites with Wild-head logo, while Edmonton wears its blue oil drip emblem.
As always, we’ll be live tweeting the game at @mnwildLIVE, so give us a follow.
Do it to it!
Period 1 - MIN 0, EDM 0
If the old saying, "absence makes the heart grow fonder" is true, the Wild and Oilers desperately missed each other, and it showed in that first period. The first period that was filled with big hits, but was clean and penalty free. Yeah, the Oilers led the good guys in shots, 8-3, but the Wild had the best chance with Dany Heatley taking a Mikko Koivu pass and ringing it off the post. That doesn't count as a shot on goal, but I think Head Coach Mike Yeo will tell the boys to fire the puck more in the second, so watch for a big second frame from the Wild.
Period 2 - MIN 1, EDM 1
The Oilers jumped on the board first, but the Wild evened the score late in the second period, each team getting goals from veteran leaders.
Ryan Smyth jammed home a wraparound after a short scramble and scrum in front of the Wild net. Eric Belanger and Ben Eager picked up the assists.
Matt Cullen evened the score on a beauty of a move. Ryan Suter gunned an outlet pass out of his own zone, that was broken up at the Wild offensive blue line. However, Cullen was breaking up the ice with speed and picked up the loose puck. He had a break in from the blue line and was coming down the left side of the ice. Cullen faked a shot, pulled it to his backhand and slid the puck through Dubnyk's legs for his second of the season.
The Wild outshot the Oilers, 16-10 in the second. Did I call that or what? Look for more of the same in the third and we'll take this thing home.
Period 3 - MIN 3, EDM 1
Well, if the second period was the preview, Cullen was the feature and closed things out in the final frame.
The 36-year-old got the period rolling by finding Devin Setoguchi out front. Setoguchi did the rest, sliding a quick wrister past Dubnyk low to the stick side for his third goal of the year.
Cullen then put the nail in the coffin, taking a 2-on-1 to the house. Cullen was skating down the right side, aimed and fired a puck low to the stick side. Picking up assists on the play were Cal Clutterbuck and Tom Gilbert.
Cullen was on fire all night and looks to keep things going on Saturday, as the Wild travels to Calgary to take on the Flames. See you then.