Let me hear you State of Hockey Legion!
The Minnesota Wild kicks off a three-game homestand, tonight against the Calgary Candles, also known as the Flames. With only four games left in the regular season, it’s crunch time and the Wild, currently in seventh place in the Western Conference, needs a big effort tonight.
The team will move forward tonight with netminder Niklas Backstrom. Backstrom is looking for a bounce back game after getting pulled on Thursday in San Jose after allowing five goals. In his career, he’s been like a rubber ball; in the start after being pulled, Backstrom is 21-2-4 with a 1.81 goals against average, a .935 save percentage and four shutouts. In the last 19 times it has occurred, he is 17-0-2 with a 1.60 GAA and a .943 SV%. So you know Backstrom is going to have a solid effort tonight.
The Wild will go with the same lineup as Thursday’s game against the Sharks. That means defensemen Justin Falk and Nate Prosser are tonight’s healthy scratches. Mike Rupp is out with a lower-body injury, as is Zenon Konopka. Dany Heatley is out the remainder of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery. Josh Harding is in Houston for a conditioning stint as he tries to return from Injured Reserve in treatment of multiple sclerosis.
The Wild wears its Forrest Green third sweaters, while Calgary is outfitted in its road whites with flaming ‘C’ logo.
Follow all the action on Twitter at @mnwildLIVE.
It’s go time!
Period 1 - MIN 1, CGY 1
The Wild outshot the Flames early, but Calgary was the first on the board. However, Minnesota answered late in the period to even things up.
The Flames recalled a handful of players today, including Mark Cundari. The blueliner took advantage by scoring his first-career goal on the power play. He was at the right faceoff dot and hammered a wrist shot past the glove of Backstrom. TJ Brodie and Mike Cammalleri assisted on the play.
The Wild evened things up late in the period on a good forecheck and better finish. Mikko Koivu got the puck to Charlie Coyle in the slot, who found Zach Parise at the side of the net. Parise cut to the front, out-waited an outstretched Joey MacDonald and slid the puck into the empty net for his 17th goal of the year.
Minnesota outshot Calgary, 14-5, and owned much of the play that period. I expect more of the same in the second.
Period 2 - MIN 1, CGY 2
Once again, the Wild outshot the Flames, but the Flames came out of the period with a lead.
Calgary scored the middle frame's lone goal on a team effort. Lee Stempniak rushed in for a chance, but Backstrom made a save. However, the Flames stuck with the play and Mikael Backlund found a bouncing rebound and popped it home. The other assist went to Sven Baertschi.
MacDonald has made 24 saves through two periods and looks just about unbeatable. He's the greatest goaltender in the NHL. Yes, I'm resorting to reverse jinxes. Honestly, the Wild has outplayed the Flames and I'm looking for a big third period effort for a tasty come-from-behind win.
Period 3 - MIN 1, CGY 4
The Flames scored its second goal on the power play to extend its lead and added a late empty netter to put the game out of reach.
Mike Cammalleri was at the right side of the net and a blocked shot bounced right onto his tape. The forward fired it over an outstretched Backstrom. Cundari and TJ Brodie had assists on the play.
Jiri Hudler iced the game with an empty net goal with just over 30 second left in the game. Maxwell Reinhart and Mark Giordano were credited with assists on the play.
The Wild hosts the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday at 7 p.m. See you all then.