Hey now, State of Hockey Legion!
Wish a happy birthday to our fearless captain, Mikko Koivu, as the centerman turns 30 today. Since birthdays should be spent with family the NHL scheduled a Koivu reunion, as Mikko’s brother, Saku, and the Anaheim Duds, also known as the Ducks, are in town tonight to face the Wild. But if you think that there will be any love lost on the ice between bros, you don’t know Mikko. I can only imagine the race for a corner piece of birthday cake between Mikko and his older brother when they were growing up in Finland.
Helping the Wild celebrate his big day, besides the 18,000-plus fans in attendance, is goaltender Niklas Backstrom. Lately the Wild netminder has been hotter than Daenerys Targaryen’s dragon fire. He’s 8-2-1 in his last 11 games, posting a 1.97 goals against average and a .924 save percentage.
Wild blueliner Tom Gilbert will be joining the party tonight, after missing last game with an illness. The defenseman will line up alongside Justin Falk. The forwards will be the same as Sunday’s win against Vancouver.
Minnesota made a couple of transactions to report today. First, the team reassigned forward Mikael Granlund to the Houston Aeros of the American Hockey League. This afternoon, the Wild acquired a sixth-round pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft for forward Matt Kassian.
Tonight’s healthy scratches are forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard and defenseman Nate Prosser. Goaltender Josh Harding is on Inured Reserve as he continues to go through treatment for multiple sclerosis and rookie netminder Darcy Kuemper is on IR with a lower body injury.
The Wild sports its Iron Range Red home sweaters, while the Anaheim wears its road whites with Ducks spelled out across the chest.
Let’s shake it!
Period 1 - MIN 1, ANA 0
The Wild came out of the gates flying in the first period and kept things right on rolling.
It looked like the club got on the board first, as Torrey Mitchell hit the crossbar and straddled the goal line, but the puck never fully crossed the red paint.
Devin Setoguchi made sure the next opportunity would go in on the power play. With 2 minutes left in the first period, Setoguchi took a beautiful cross-box pass from Matt Cullen and buried a wrist shot past Ducks' netminder Jonas Hiller. Tom Gilbert picked up the second assist on the play. It was Setoguchi's sixth goal of the season.
Minnesota outshot the Ducks, 8-3, in the first frame. The boys feeling good that period and look for them to open things up in the second period. Check back and you'll see.
Period 2 - MIN 1, ANA 0
Well, the Wild again controlled that period, outshooting the Ducks, 14-4, in the middle frame.
Scary moment as Jason Zucker took a blindside, late hit from Corey Perry. Zucker was on the ice for several minutes and had to be helped off the ice. Perry was assessed a five-minute penalty for interference and a game misconduct. Zucker didn't return to the game.
There was no scoring to report, but the Wild had a lot of great chances and it's only a matter of time till the floodgates open. Trust me.
Period 3 - MIN 1, ANA 2
The Ducks evened things up early in the third period and came away with the winner late.
Anaheim sustained some pressure in the offensive zone before a point shot from Toni Lydman. The puck caromed off the back wall to the side of the Wild net. Patrick Maroon reached out from behind the net and poked the puck past Niklas Backstrom with one hand on his stick. Brandon McMillan added the second assist.
The Ducks then took the lead on a goal from Luca Sbisa. The blueliner took a pass from Teemu Selanne and fired a shot high and past Backstrom. Daniel Winnik added the second assist on the play.
The Wild outshot the Ducks, 31-21, but come up empty handed as Hiller was the difference tonight. Minnesota ends its three-game home stand on Thursday against the Colorado Avalanche.