The Ducks tried to give the game away, but had an answer each time the Stars scored, and by going to overtime tonight, the Ducks have clinched a playoff spot and have eliminated the Wild from the playoff race.
Lots to do, with notes for tomorrow's game. The Wild still alive - barely - with Dallas and Anaheim tied in the second period. I'll try to update the blog after that game ends.
Jacques Lemaire said he just wonders what if, what if his whole team had been healthy all - or most - of the year. And they're still missing Bouchard and Burns and Schultz. He did say that his mind is decided on whether he'll coach next year, but he's keeping it to himself.
Post-game notes are below:
D Marc-Andre Bergeron recorded his sixth career two-goal game, and C Dan Fritsche (1-1=2), C James Sheppard (0-2=2), C Mikko Koivu
(1-1=2), RW Marian Gaborik (0-2=2) and D Kurtis Foster
(0-2=2) each registered two points, as the Minnesota Wild tied a franchise record for goals in a game en route to an 8-4 win over the Nashville Predators in front of 18,568 at Xcel Energy Center. G Niklas Backstrom
made 31 saves, LW Andrew Brunette, D Kim Johnsson and RW Cal Clutterbuck
each scored for Minnesota, which ended its home slate with points in 10 straight games (6-0-4) – a new franchise-record for consecutive home games in one season with at least one point. The Wild needs a loss of any kind from St. Louis tonight, or a regulation loss by Anaheim, to keep its playoff hopes alive. Minnesota plays its regular season finale at Columbus at 6 p.m. (CDT) Saturday.
D Marc-Andre Bergeron notched his second two-goal game of the season, with the other coming Jan. 31 at Vancouver. It marked his sixth career multi-goal game. Bergeron has 13 goals on the season – best among Wild defensemen. Only Brent Burns (15 last season) has more goals in team history from the blueline. D Marek Zidlicky has 12 this season, including one tonight.
RW Marian Gaborik had two assists, extending his point streak to six games (5-5=10), although his goal streak was snapped at five games, one short of Brian Rolston’s team record. Gaborik has 13 points (8-5=13) in nine games since returning from a 38-game absence after having hip surgery Jan. 5. The Wild is 10-4-2 with Gaborik in the lineup this season. Since 2005-06, Minnesota is 117-65-24 with Gaborik in the lineup and 51-62-11 without him. In 501 career NHL games, Gaborik has 434 points (217-217=434).
C Dan Fritsche recorded a goal and an assist for his 12th career multi-point game – first with the Wild. Fritsche left the game with a chest injury, suffered midway through the second period on a hit by Nashville RW Jordin Tootoo.
C James Sheppard tallied two assists for his sixth career two-point game. Sheppard has eight points (1-7=8) in his last 10 games, and is also a plus-six in that span. Sheppard has 24 points (5-19=24) after recording 19 (4-15=19) in his rookie season of 2007-08.
LW Andrew Brunette scored a goal, giving him a point in seven of the last eight games, with nine points (5-4=9) in that span. Brunette is the Wild's second-leading scorer with 49 points (22-27=49). The Wild improved to 15-5-2 when Brunette scores a goal this season.
D Kim Johnsson scored his second goal of the season – first in 77 games since Oct. 16.
C Mikko Koivu
scored his team-best third short-handed goal of the season, becoming just the fifth player in team history to score three or more in a season. Koivu, who added an assist, is the Wild’s leader in points (65) and assists (46) and has 19 goals – one shy of his second 20-goal campaign.
D Kurtis Foster
registered two assists. He has four helpers in his last five games.
G Niklas Backstrom
made 31 saves to improve his home unbeaten in regulation streak to 12 decisions (8-0-4), with a 2.06 GAA and a .922 SV% in that span. He is 5-0-1 with a 1.47 GAA and a .946 SV% in his last six home games. He started his team-record 20th straight game.
The Wild is 6-0-4 in its last 10 home games, a new team record for a home point streak in a single season. The Wild went 5-0-4 from Dec. 13, 2000-Jan. 10, 2001. Minnesota hasn’t lost in regulation at Xcel Energy Center since a 5-3 defeat against Ottawa on Feb. 14.
The Wild tied a franchise record for goals in a game with eight, having also done it in an 8-2 win at Chicago on March 25, 2004. It also set a new team record for goals combined in a home game. The old mark was 12, set several times.
The Wild improved to 6-2-0 all-time in home regular season finales, including wins in each of the last six seasons.
The Wild holds a three-goal lead. St. Louis is still up 3-1 late in the second (thanks to a 5-0 advantage in power plays). It looks like we'll have to cheer on the Dallas Stars from the press box tonight.
Minnesota, with three PPG already, gets a chance for a fourth as J.P. Dumont goes to the box.
No dice on that man advantage, but Clutterbuck draws a high-sticking call on Dan Hamhuis.
An interference call sends Olvecky to the box. He upended Jordin Tootoo.
A slashing call to Eric Belanger, and 95 seconds of 5-on-3 time upcoming to Nashville, which could be in business here.
Nashville is going to make things interesting, as Norris Trophy candidate Shea Weber blasts a right point shot by Backstrom for his 23rd goal of the season. It's 5-3, Minnesota.
8:54Koivu makes it 6-3, or does he? He's hauled down on a shorthanded breakaway, the puck and Koivu both go into the net. Referee Justin St. Pierre doesn't make a call either way - just hold his hands up to stop play. So I guess this one is totally up to Toronto. UPDATE: It's a goal, and the Wild again leads by three.
Nashville with another answer, this time with the teams 4-on-4. Ryan Sutetr drew the D behind the net and slid a quick pass to Steve Sullivan, who finished inside the right post for his 11th goal in 41 games. It's 6-4 Wild.1:55
Needing a win, Barry Trotz pulls Pekka Rinne with his team down two goals. Be back post-game.
Ok, I'll be back before that. Clutterbuck gets the empty-netter as the Wild ties a franchise record for goals in a home game with seven. Clutterbuck snapped his stick on the shot and it's 7-4.
We're underway with a less than cheery update from the Gateway to the West. St. Louis is up 2-0 in the first period on Columbus. But a reminder, the Wild's playoff hopes remain alive with a win, and a two regulation losses by Anaheim, even if St. Louis wins tonight. The Ducks are at home against Dallas tonight, and in Phoenix tomorrow.
Scoring change to the Wild's second goal, which now reads Brunette from Sheppard and Foster. Sheppard whacked at the puck, getting a piece of it, before Brunette roofed it over Rinne.
The Wild was scrambling a bit in its own end, and it will lead to Nashville's first power play of the game. Kim Johnsson goes for hooking.
J.P. Dumont fires straight on from the left circle with no traffic in front. Niklas Backstrom
is going to make that save 99 times out of 100, though, and he does here.
Marc-Andre Bergeron makes it 3-1 on his 12th goal of the season, but attention turns to Dan Fritsche at center ice. Fritsche was absolutely leveled by Jordin Tootoo and laid motionless on the ice for several seconds. His left arm appeared by take the brunt of the hit. I'd tell you some Jordin Tootoo stories from my AHL days but I don't want to get fired up. Fritsche was helped off the ice, and I would say his return appears doubtful at this point. No penalty on the play. Fritsche's head was down, yes, but Tootoo led with his mighty elbow. Colton Gillies and Fritsche with the assists.
Nashville, which rallied from two goals down to beat Detroit last night, gets a chance on the power play here, with a slashing call on Kurtis Foster
Tootoo may get himself hurt. He shoves Marek Zidlicky after the whistle, then gets shoved by Scott. Meanwhile, Dan Hamhuis goes for tripping up James Sheppard (interference is the call), and the Wild with a chance here to extend the lead to three goals.
Brunette takes a puck to the mouth. After some digging on the ice, the linesman skates to the bench, presumably with Brunette's tooth.
And it's 4-1 as Kim Johnsson finishes off a nifty back-door pass from Gaborik. Johnsson went top shelf, hitting the water bottle, for his first goal in 77 games dating back to Oct 16 in Florida. Kurtis Foster with the second assist, his second helper of the night.
The elation doesn't last long, as Arnott nets his second of the game to draw the Preds again within two.
Tootoo goes for high sticking and it's a Wild power play.
And Bergeron nets his second of the game and 13th of the season, and the lead is back to 5-2. Gaborik and Olvecky with the assists. Holy Hannah, there's a lot going on. This update also from asst GM Tom Lynn - Dan Fritsche (chest injury) won't return to the game.
End 2nd period
A crazy second period. Attention in the press box turns to St. Louis, where the Blue Jackets have cut the two-goal lead in half. It's 2-1 Blues midway through the second. Never mind, it's 3-1.
The Wild starts Zidlicky and Bergeron on the blueline, and Gaborik/Koivu/Brunette up front. For the Preds, it's three defensemen - Hamhuis, Koistinen, Zanon and Smithson and Bonk up front. Hamhuis is playing wing.
A feeling out process between two teams who haven't played in two months. No shots thus far.
Radek Bonk squeezes a shot through Backstrom's pads, but it skids just wide of the far post.
Owen Nolan throws the puck on net from behind the cage. It nearly goes off Rinne and into the net, but the goalie pushed the puck out of the crease.12:42
Jason Arnott makes it 1-0 Nashville. Steve Sullivan flips the puck out of the corner to a cutting Arnott, who settles the puck and fires one inside the left post. Arnott began the play by hustling to keep the puck in the zone at the blueline.
Ryan Suter just leveled Marian Gaborik seconds after Marek Zidlicky fired wide on the rush.
That's my home skillet biscuit!!! With Backstrom skating off for the extra attacker because of a delayed penalty, Dan Fritsche grabbed a loose puck in the neutral zone and skated in alone on Rinne. Fritsche snapped a quick shot that Rinne got a piece of, but it floated into the back of the net for his fifth goal of the season (fourth with the Wild), and hisfirst in 19 games since March 3 at Vancouver. The unassisted goal evens things up at 1-1.
We're delayed a bit coming back from the TV timeout as Wild athletic therapist Don Fuller stitched up linesman Don Henderson.
Pekka Rinne is likely to be a finalist for the Calder Trophy, and we just saw why. Marek Zidlicky, skating along the far right wing boards, centered a feed for Miettinen, whose flip was right on target. But Rinne rotated back to make the stop.
The Wild is swarming. Eric Belanger fires a feed from Cal Clutterbuck
just wide. Nashville is back on its heels just a bit.
Gaborik tips Marek Zidlicky's point blast just wide.
You could see this coming a mile away, with the Wild pressuring the Preds. Andrew Brunette may not be that fleet of foot, but he keeps his moving his feet to draw a holding call on Radek Bonk, setting up the Wild's first power play. The Wild was in the zone with the same line for close to a minute.
And it makes sense that Brunette gets rewarded with the goal to make it 2-1. That line didn't start the power play, but it sure finished it. Kim Johnsson's shot from the left point gets blocked right to Kurtis Foster at the right point. Rinne gets a piece of Foster's bullet, but Brunette lifts the rebound above the fallen netminder for his 22nd goal of the season - and likely the Wild's biggest of 2008-09.
A terrific finish. The crowd is going crazy. And the Wild must, and I mean must, carry this momentum into the second period.
As expected, the Wild will dress the same lineup it did in Tuesday's 3-1 win over Dallas. It's Niklas Backstrom
in net for the Wild. Backstrom was just presented with his Toyota Three Stars award for this season. They taped it yesterday. I was too busy bobbing my head to "Let It Rock" to catch Nashville's goalie (the guy who comes out first, always starts) but you can bet with a must-win game, it'll be rookie Pekka Rinne who will make his 14th straight start.
Tonight's Let's Play Hockey will come from season ticket holder Steve Laroche.
Friday, 11:15 a.m. CDT
I’m back early from a quiet morning at Xcel Energy Center. It was an optional skate, and most of the Wild’s veteran players did not skate. Neither did Jacques Lemaire, who met briefly with the media before heading out.
Lemaire talked about the possibility of pulling his goalie in a tie game tonight. If the Wild wins in overtime or a shootout, it could end up tied with Nashville, which would win the tiebreaker. Both teams would make it, if St. Louis and Anaheim lost out, but the odds of that happening are slim. Lemaire knows his Wild really needs a regulation win. So, if it’s a tie game with a minute left and you see Niklas Backstrom
racing to the bench, don’t be surprised.
It’s hard to tell what the Wild lineup will look like, but my guess is it will be very similar to Tuesday. Derek Boogaard (upper body), Nick Schultz (head), Brent Burns (concussion) and Pierre-Marc Bouchard
(concussion) are all out. Craig Weller was skating later than the rest of his teammates at practice today.
Lemaire also talked about how even the league is, and how it’s really good for the game. But it’s tougher among the players for teams such as Nashville and Minnesota. “When you’re on a roll, it’s easier,” he explained.
Aaron Sickman is on the trip to Columbus tonight. We have Italian food ordered for after the game, so the players can eat before they even get on the plane. I’ll work on game notes, etc., from the press box while Sickman guides the team to Ohio.
The final regular season press meal is:
Hearty Vegetable soup
BBQ glazed Meatloaf
Beer battered fish and chips