Following Wild games, Manager of Digital Media Ryan Stanzel will occasionally give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 3-2 win against the Winnipeg Jets:
The Wild began a month’s worth of play without Mikael Granlund tonight, an injury that led to some new faces in new places, and a successful night for them all as the Wild took two much needed points from Winnipeg in the Western Conference playoff race.
Minnesota got a pair of goals from combinations of its third and fourth lines. Ryan Carter was awesome all night (see take 2), Brett Sutter (first career two-point game) and Kyle Brodziak were great as well. Justin Fontaine was buzzing all evening, including the Wild’s second goal, which came moments after a failed power play that could have easily deflated the Wild.
The Wild’s “new” top line of Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Jason Pominville was a standout too. They combined for 15 shot attempts. The trio also set up Marco Scandella’s booming shot (which deflected off Jets defenseman Jay Harrison) with 11.4 seconds left in the 2nd that gave the Wild its first lead of the game. Scandella, who was playing additional minutes due to Jonas Brodin’s injury, has nine goals in just 30 games. Only six Wild defensemen have ever scored 10 or more in a season, led by Brent Burns (twice, including 17 in 2010-11). Scandella was also plus-3.
Yogi Berra once said ninety percent of baseball is half mental. Hockey is similar, so it always helps having some brains on your team.
What a play tonight by Ryan Carter (proud White Bear Lake and Minnesota State product) to get the comeback started. Carter hit the puck with a high stick in front of the net. While many players would just stop chasing and wait for the whistle, Carter skated towards the puck. He delayed, with the Jets players seemingly thinking he would touch it and the whistle would blow. Suddenly, Paul Postma flicked at the puck to get it out of the zone. Postma fanned on it, and the puck popped to Kyle Brodziak who quickly fed Carter for a short breakaway. Carter easily beat Michael Hutchinson for his third goal of the season.
Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo loves the phrase, “It’s what winners do.”
Down two goals tonight after a Jets tally 20 seconds into the second period, after nearly two minutes of a failed 5-on-3 in the first period, playing without one of its top center and first pair defenseman, the Wild could have easily looked onto Columbus on Wednesday. But it didn’t, recording its second three-goal period on the road this season — the other coming in a similar comeback in Boston. Even the Wild’s second goal came after what could have been a deflating man advantage that saw chances but no goal. But just five seconds after Matt Halischuk was released from the penalty box, Fontaine scored and all was forgotten.
While it remains to be seen the importance of this one game in the Western Conference playoff race (48 games left after tonight), it allowed the Wild to get within five points of eighth-place San Jose —with two games in hand — and within seven of the seventh-place Jets — with three games in hand — with plenty of hockey action left in the coming three-plus months.
Familiarity breeds contempt. A less-than-an-hour plane ride, and nine of 10 games being decided by one goal don’t hurt either. You can just tell the Wild and Jets are ramped up to play each other, tonight being the second game between the team in three nights.
Of course, the Wild lost both Granlund and Brodin to upper body injuries in Saturday’s game. The Wild was fortunate tonight after a couple hits on Pominville. He was head-butted by Ben Chiarot in the first period, although the penalty came on Dustin Byfuglien for coming in late and knocking Pominville over. The winger also took a two-handed cross-check in the second period. It’s only a matter of time until these teams meet in the playoffs and take the rivalry to even another level.
Tyler Graovac made his NHL and Wild debut tonight in what could be an extended audition, with Granlund expected to be out for four weeks. Graovac skated 9:02 over 15 shifts, and had a big shift, and clear, with five minutes left in the third with the Wild holding a one-goal lead.
Graovac was the Wild’s seventh-round pick in 2011, a season after netting 21 points (10-11=21) in 66 games for the Ottawa 67’s of the OHL. After two more junior seasons, Graovac tallied 25 points (13-12=25) in 64 games for the Iowa Wild last season but was minus-23. His game has made huge strides since, he had a great training camp, and after leading the iWild with 12 goals, he was summoned to the big club yesterday morning.