What’s up, State of Hockey Legion?
The two top dogs in the Northwest Division go at it tonight, as your Minnesota Wild travels to Vancouver to play the Baby Seals, also known as the Canucks. Currently, both teams sit with 32 points, but with 27 games played apiece, the Wild holds the tiebreaker thanks to more regulation/overtime wins.
Tonight’s contest is the fourth and final meeting between these two teams on the season. The winner will hold sole possession of first in the Division with 20 games left in the regular season. So (understatement alert) that makes tonight a pretty big contest.
Helping the Wild grab the point lead tonight will be Niklas Backstrom, who the club has relied on heavily of late. The netminder has started 11 of the team’s last 12 games, and is 10-3-1 in his last 14 games, posting a 2.20 goals against average, a .917 save percentage and allowing two goals or less nine times in that span.
Jason Zucker also will return to the lineup tonight against the Canucks. He’ll skate on the wing with Zenon Konopka and Torrey Mitchell. Nate Prosser is also in for Tom Gilbert, who is considered day-to-day after missing practice yesterday.
Zucker replaces Mike Rupp, who is the lone forward scratched. The healthy blueliner scratched is Brett Clark. Josh Harding is the lone player on Injured Reserve as he continues to battle multiple sclerosis.
The Wild will wear its road whites with Forrest Green arm sleeves. The Nucks wear its blue Orca 'C' logo with Vancouver scrawled across the top.
Follow the action on Twitter at @mnwildLIVE.
Let the battle begin!
Period 1 - MIN 0, VAN 0
Solid road period from the Wild in the opening frame. No scoring to report, but Minnesota had several quality chances.
The Wild looked very good on the penalty kill, negating two of the Canucks chances and not giving up much.
I have a feeling the Wild are going to rev things up in the second and turn some of those opportunities into goals.
Period 2 - MIN 1, VAN 1
After a slow start to the period, both sides added power play goals to break the scoreless tie.
First, Henrik Sedin shoveled home a rebound on the man advantage. The Canucks were pressuring and he took his brother, Daniel's, shot and forced it into the open net. Jason Garrison added the second assist on the play.
The Wild answered five minutes later with its own power play goal. Jonas Brodin took a pass from Dany Heatley and fired a howitzer through traffic. Canucks' goalie Roberto Luongo didn't have a chance as Brodin scored his second of the season. Pierre-Marc Bouchard got the second assist on the play.
Backstrom is having himself one heck of a game, making 23 saves through two periods, and the Wild offense is going to help him out in the final frame. Watch.
Period 3 - MIN 3, VAN 1
The Wild took its first lead of the game three minutes into the final frame and added an insurance goal midway through the period.
After a strong forecheck from Minnesota, Mikko Koivu kept the puck in at the point and fed Clayton Stoner across ice. Stoner accepted the pass and fired a quick half-slapper on net. Charlie Coyle was swinging in front and redirected the puck with the shaft of his stick off the post and in past Luongo.
The Wild padded its lead midway through the second period on a beautiful line rush between Matt Cullen and Devin Setoguchi. Cullen fed Setoguchi streaking up the left side of the ice and went hard to the net. Setoguchi fed the streaking Cullen who was then all alone on Luongo and beat him low for his fourth goal of the season.
With the win, the Wild moves two points ahead of the Canucks atop the Northwest Division. Minnesota travels to Detroit to face the Red Wings on Wednesday. We'll see you all then.