Cheers, State of Hockey Legion!
Hope you had a chance to enjoy that sunshine today Minnesota, because its time to bunker down and watch the Wild skate to clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Yeah, it’s been a long time since anyone here at Wild.com has been able to write those words, so I’d be okay if you plagiarized it for your Facebook status. Actually, use that for your status and create a link back to this page so your friends can easily check in, as the Wild hosts the Edmonton Greasers, better known as the Oilers.
It is the final meeting of the season and final meeting as Northwest Division foes between the Wild and Edmonton. The rivalry has been heated, if not one-sided leaning in favor of the Wild like the big kid on the teeter-totter. The main reason for Minnesota’s success has come in goal. That’s because Niklas Backstrom owns the Oilers like Ron Burgundy owns many leather-bound books. At Xcel Energy Center the goaltender is a perfect against the Oilers, literally. He’s 17-0-0 at home with a 1.34 goals against average and a .948 save percentage.
Forward Mike Rupp will be back in the Wild lineup tonight after missing five games with a lower-body injury. The bruising winger will skate with Zenon Konopka and Jake Dowell.
Jason Pominville will be out of the lineup with an upper-body injury, suffered from a Dustin Brown elbow against the Kings on Tuesday. Brett Clark and Nate Prosser will be tonight’s healthy scratches.
The Wild is rocking its Forrest Green third jersey, while Edmonton wears the road whites with circle Oilers crest.
I’ll be live tweeting the action at @mnwildLIVE, and this page will be used for period recaps.
Let’s make the playoffs!
Period 1- MIN 0, COL 3
The Wild held a 15-5 shot advantage over the Oilers in the first period, but Edmonton capitalized on its chances.
After a scrap on the opening faceoff between Zenon Konopka and Mike Brown, the Oilers held the play and scored thirty seconds later. After a strong forecheck, Ryan Smyth took the puck behind the net and found Corey Potter at the point. The blueliner one-timed the puck past a screened Backstrom. Jordan Eberle was credited with the second assist.
The Oilers extended the lead on a laser wrist shot from Taylor Hall. He stole a Wild outlet pass and walked in on the right side, and from the faceoff dot, blasted a wrister past Backstrom's glove.
Potter extended the lead with his second goal of the year. After Nikolai Khabibulin made a big breakaway save on Matt Cullen, the Oilers had a transition play that ended up on the stick of Potter, who went high over the shoulder of Backstrom. Eberle and Sam Gagner picked up the assists.
Josh Harding replaced Backstrom after the third goal and looks to provide some inspiration for the rest of the team. I also expect the Wild to come out strong in the second and start chipping away at this lead.
Period 2 - MIN 0, COL 6
That period did not go as planned as the Oilers doubled up its lead.
Eberle extended the Oilers' lead by scoring on a sharp angle shot high to Harding's blocker side. Ryan Smyth picks up the lone assist.
Nail Yakupov scored back-to-back goals to make it a six-goal lead for Edmonton. His first was a wrist shot through the 5-hole and his second was on a backhand redirection on an entry pass from Hall.
The Wild is outshooting the Oilers, 28-14, and needs Khabibulin to start letting in a few soft ones.
Period 3 - MIN 1, COL 6
The Wild got on the board with Mikko Koivu's 11th goal of the season. Charlie Coyle came out of the corner, mishandled the puck and it went right to Koivu, who fired a one-timer home.
The Wild controlled much of the play in the first two period and dominated in shots, 39-17, but were unable to solve Nikolai Khabibulin.
Minnesota gets another chance to clinch a spot in the playoffs tomorrow night against the Colorado Avalanche with a win or, in a tiebreaker, if Columbus loses to Nashville.