Yippee-ki-yay, State of Hockey Legion!
Tonight, the Wild skates for first place in the Northwest Division against the Vancouver Canopeners, also known as the Canucks. With a win tonight, the Wild will be tied with the Canucks in points, but the club has more wins, which would give them the edge in the standings. Tonight’s contest also marks the midway point of the shortened season for the good guys.
The Wild looks to avenge a couple of losses last month at the hands of the Canucks and will proceed with Niklas Backstrom in net. The netminder wants some revenge as well because he was pulled after the second period at Xcel Energy Center on Feb. 7. He is coming off a 24 save shootout win in Nashville last night, and I saw him walking in the catacombs of Xcel Energy Center and he looks locked in for a big game tonight.
Minnesota will roll the same lineup as last night’s win, hey, if it’s not broke don’t fix it, right? That means forwards Mikael Granlund and Pierre-Marc Bouchard and defenseman Nate Prosser are tonight’s healthy scratches. Goaltenders Darcy Kuemper, lower body, and Josh Harding, dealing with multiple sclerosis, are both on Injured Reserve.
The Wild is rocking its Iron Range Red sweaters, while the Canucks wear its road white Orca shirts.
As always, follow the action on @mnwildLIVE in in-game updates. We’ll be recapping the periods here.
Let’s do this!
Period 1 - MIN 2, VAN 0
In a very entertaining first period of hockey, it was the Minnesota Wild striking first early and second late.
Just 24 seconds into the game, Zach Parise got the Wild on the board, finishing on an odd-man rush. Mikko Koivu took a pass through the neutral zone from Jared Spurgeon and crossed the blue line. He found Parise on the left side and the winger buried a one with an strong-side one-timer.
At the 18:31 mark, Jason Zucker scored his fourth goal of the season on a beautiful set up by Matt Cullen. Cullen swooped around behind the goal and slid the puck between defenders right onto the tape of Zucker for a tap in goal. Clayton Stoner had the second assist on the play.
Well, it looked like the Wild had no ill effects from last night's game as it came to play that period. It was a tense, contested period, with this happening. The Wild racked up 15 minutes in the box, while the Canucks had 11. Shots were pretty even with the Canucks holding a slight advantage, 12-11. Expect to see more action in the second period.
Period 2 - MIN 3, VAN 1
The Wild kept things rolling in the second and it was the power play that took advantage of the Canucks.
After some great in-zone pressure, the Wild moved the puck around the perimeter and Jared Spurgeon hammered home his third goal of the season. He was stationed at the top of the left circle and one-timed a Ryan Suter pass through Schneider. Zach Parise picked up the other assist on the play.
The Canucks finally got on the board about midway through the period. After some sustained pressure, as Minnesota was unable to clear, Chris Higgins one-timed a puck from the right dot that found its way through the legs of Niklas Backstrom. Assisting on the goal was Minnesota-native Andrew Alberts, but that doesn't mean we like him when he sports a Canucks' sweater.
The game slowed down, compared to the first period, but the Wild tightened up defensively after the Canucks got on the board and look to lock things down in the final frame.
Period 3 - MIN 4, VAN 2
The Canucks got on the board early in the final period, but the Wild responded with another goal later in the period.
Henrik Sedin scored on a rebound that went off his leg and past Backstrom 1:02 into the period. After a Jason Garrison point shot, Sedin was going to the net and his stick was tied up by Kyle Brodziak, but the puck hit off his leg and trickled in.
After a review, the ref called it a good goal, but he's from Europe and likes soccer. I have my suspicions if this was 'unintentional' by one of the twins.
The Wild answered as Charlie Coyle went into beast mode with one of the better NHL shifts you'll ever see, and he didn't even score. First, Coyle banged through two defenders. Then after keeping the puck in at the top of the circle, he went down low and took a pass from the point. He bulled over another Vancouver defender and found Suter at the point. Suter fired a shot on net and Parise made a slick move to drag the puck around Schneider's pad and jam it home for his second goal of the game.
Your Wild are now on top of the Northwest Division! We'll see you all back here on Tuesday as the club hosts the Anaheim Ducks.