Get on board, State of Hockey Legion!
It’s time for another installment of Wild home-stretch hockey; tonight facing the San Jose Squids, pardon me Sharks. Minnesota trails the Sharks by only two points for the fifth spot in the Western Conference. So saying tonight’s game is kind of big is like saying the Jaws a fairly large fish; it’s freaking huge and so was the Carcharodon carcharias (Great White).
Niklas Backstrom will get the start in net and he’s been killing it like Brody this season. The goaltender is tied for the NHL lead with 22 wins this season and sports a 1.82 goals against average and a .921 save percentage in his last six games. Pretty good, huh?
The Wild will roll out the same lineup as its last contest, a 5-3 drubbing of Edmonton on Tuesday. That means Justin Falk and Nate Prosser are tonight’s healthy scratches. Forward Mike Rupp is out with a lower-body injury. Zenon Konopka didn’t make the trip and is considered day-to-day with a lower-body injury. Netminder Josh Harding is on Injured Reserve, but will skate for the Houston Aeros tomorrow in a conditioning assignment.
Like always, we’ll be live Tweeting the action over at @mnwildLIVE.
The Sharks took advantage of the games first power play, but the Wild was resilient and got on the board.
On the power play, Joe Thornton set up on the right hash mark. He fed a pass into the corner to Patrick Marleau, who one-touched a pass to the slot. Logan Couture was there and one-timed the puck past Backstrom.
Hands. Soft, silky-smooth hands. That's the only way to describe the Wild's first goal, a breakaway backhand shelf from Pierre-Marc Bouchard. The Minnesota forward caught a laser saucer pass from Jason Pominville, out of the freaking air, and went down and made it look easy, bar and in. Add a second assist to Tom Gilbert.
The Sharks added another goal, and again it was Havlat that was on the receiving end. Backstrom tried to clear the puck and Couture made a jumping play to knock down the puck with his glove. He quickly found an open Havlat in the slot, who finished before Backstrom could get back into the net.
The Wild need a big effort in the final frame, but I think they have it in them.
Period 1 - MIN 0, SJS 1
The Wild was bitten by a little bad luck against the Sharks in that opening period as San Jose got on the board first.
San Jose had an odd-man break and Martin Havlat cut across the blue line. He floated a pass towards a breaking Logan Couture. However, a back-checking Mikko Koivu broke up the pass, unfortunately into his own net. Magically, like a unicorn or leprechaun, Couture AND Patrick Marleau were credited with assists and Havlat the goal. Gotta love those home ice scorers.
Other than one unfortunate bounce, the Wild played a pretty strong road period. I think they'll build on it and come out strong in the second.