Well that was a whirlwind post-game.
First, for the news about the game. The talk was obviously about that third period 5-on-3 for two full minutes, although Jacques Lemaire thought (as did many others) that Ray Whitney dove to set up the penalty on Antti Miettinen. Both Lemaire and Mikko Koivu
commented on how loud the crowd was during the 5-on-3. It's a testament to how much the Wild fans know the game, Koivu said. And Lemaire said it was so loud, guys couldn't hear him when he called their names to go out for their shift, so he had to push them over the boards. From Niklas Backstrom
's post-game comments: "I was talking to the guys, we've never experienced anything like that, not even in the playoffs. It was huge."
Wild assistant GM Tom Lynn notified the local media after the game that Marian Gaborik won't play in the first two games after the break. Gaborik isn't re-injured, but the team wants to make sure he's fully healthy heading into the New Year, especially with two days completely off the ice for Christmas, followed by back-to-back games. That will give Gaborik almost a week of practicing until the New Year's Eve game against San Jose.
The Wild is off Wednesday and Thursday, as is every NHL team. They'll hit the ice Friday. I'm covering practice Saturday and I'll check in then.
Post-game notes are below:
Happy holidays everyone.
LW Stephane Veilleux
snapped a tie with a short-handed goal late in the second period, RW Marian Gaborik had a goal and an assist and G Niklas Backstrom
made 35 saves, as the Minnesota Wild rallied from a two-goal deficit to defeat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in front of 18,568 fans at Xcel Energy Center. C Mikko Koivu
had two assists and RW Cal Clutterbuck
added a goal and established a new franchise record for hits in a season for Minnesota, which hosts Chicago on Sunday at 5 p.m.
RW Marian Gaborik posted a goal and an assist. The Wild improved to 26-2-4 in the last season-plus when Gaborik scores a goal, and 15-4-3 when he has two or more points. Gaborik has four points (2-2=4) in three games since missing 27 contests due to injury.
C Mikko Koivu
registered two assists, giving him a four-game point streak (1-4=5).
RW Cal Clutterbuck
scored his third goal of the season. Both of his previous goals came Nov. 24 against Edmonton. Clutterbuck also recorded six hits, setting a new team record for hits in a season (115). Clutterbuck is sixth in the NHL in hits.
LW Stephane Veilleux
scored a short-handed goal late in the second period. It marked the Wild’s second short-handed tally of the season (C Mikko Koivu
, Nov. 20 against Vancouver). It was Veilleux’s second short-handed marker in 313 career games. His other came March 18, 2004, at Boston. Veilleux has three career game-winning goals – none since Oct. 21, 2006, at San Jose.
G Niklas Backstrom
made 35 saves to improve to 10-1-1 all-time against the Southeast Division.
D Nick Schultz recorded an assist, giving him a three-game point streak (1-2=3) to tie a career-high. Schultz had a pair of prior three-game point streaks, the last coming Jan. 14-17, 2004. Three of Schultz’s five points (1-4=5) in 2008-09 have come in the last three games.
C Eric Belanger returned after missing two games due to illness and posted an assist. Belanger has 10 points (4-6=10) in his last 12 games played.
Minnesota improved to 9-1-1 against the Eastern Conference this season, including 6-0-0 versus the Southeast.
The Wild hadn’t won when trailing by two goals since Dec. 18, 2007, against Nashville. In that game, the Predators led 2-0 after two, but Minnesota scored three times in the third for the victory.
Minnesota allowed the game’s first goal for the ninth straight game – a franchise-record. The Wild improved to 6-9-2 when its opponent scores first.
The Wild killed off four Carolina power plays, including a full two minutes of 5-on-3 in the third period. Minnesota went 1-for-1 on the power play after going 2-for-30 in the last eight games.
Minnesota has scored just two first period goals in the last 10 games.
The Wild had lost each of its last five, one-goal games (0-4-1) and was just 1-6-1 in its last eight, one-goal games.
Koivu centers Brunette and Gaborik to begin the third. Eric Staal between Tuomo Rutto and Sergei Samsonov for Carolina.
Carolina gets an early chance to tie things up, as Krys Kolanos got called for high sticking well behind the play. It's a double minor, meaning a four-minute power play for the Hurricanes.
A terrific, point blank save by Niklas Backstrom
on Sergei Samsonov from the low slot.
The Wild PK unit will really be tested here. Annti Miettinen called for hooking. There's 2:09 left on the Kolanos double minor, meaning the Hurricanes get two full minutes of a 5-on-3. The crowd sees the replay and voices its displeasure.
I was afraid to type during that penalty kill. This place is going nuts. We'll try to get a shot total on the 5-on-3, but it was a lot. Brent Burns, Mikko Koivu
and Nick Schultz killed off the first 90 seconds without clearing the puck - Backstrom made three or four awesome saves before they got the puck out. This place is probably the loudest it's been all year.
From what I just sent out to the media attending tonight's game: Officially, 6 shots on goal for Carolina during that 2-minute 5-on-3. Five of the six came in the first 90 seconds with Koivu, Schultz and Burns on the ice. Also one shot blocked (Koivu on Corvu).
has so far been credited with five hits, giving him a new team record 114 this season. We're only 33 games in. Stephane Veilleux
has 113 last season.
has a chance to perhaps put this one away, but his shot at an open net is deflected away by the defense.
The Wild hold on 3-2. I'm headed downstairs for post-game. Be back soon!
The Hurricanes quickly make it 2-0, but this one goes off Nick Schultz' stick and into the net. Schultz, if you remember, scored a goal that went off a Blues' player's stick Saturday. Ray Whitney gets credit for this one.
And it doesn't take the Wild long to answer, with a magnificent goal by Mikko Koivu. Taking matters into his own hands, Koivu takes a pass from Marian Gaborik in the left circles, barrels through traffic (three Hurricanes surrounded him) and slides the puck inside the far post for his team-leading 12th goal. EDIT: Cal Clutterbuck apparently tipped the puck in, he gets credit for his third of the season. The puck kind of hit him by accident, but he was definitely at the right place at the right time - at the net. He actually made a shooting motion after the puck was already in the net.
The Wild power play is mired in a 2-for-30 slump, and gets a chance here as Scott Walker goes off for hooking.
Make that 3-for-31, and the game is tied just like that. Marian Gaborik, at the left doorstep, finishes off a give-and-go with Mikko Koivu, who registers his second assist. It's Gaborik's third goal of the season. And need I remind you the Wild is 25-2-4 in the last season-plus when Gaborik scores a goal and 14-4-3 when he has two or more points. He assisted on Clutterbuck's goal.
Eric Staal gets loose in the left circle and fires, but Niklas Backstrom
makes the save.
The second minor of the game to Marek Zidlicky, who gets called for interference, setting up the 'Canes' second power play of the game.
And the Wild with a late goal , a shorthanded gally by to hopefully take a 3-2 lead into the third. Nick Schultz leads a 3-on-2 break, and passes to Eric Belanger. Belanger fires a shot and Leighton makes the save, but the rebound comes to a flying Veilleux in the right circle. Veilleux pops the puck by a stunned Leighton for his fourth goal - second in three games. It marks just the Wild's second shorthanded goal of the season (Koivu on Nov. 20 versus Vancouver), and just the second SHG of Veilleux's career (March 18, 2004, versus Boston).
Marian Gaborik nearly makes it 4-2 with a partial breakaway, but a nice glove save by Leighton.
End 2nd period
What an improved period by the Wild, which scores three times after falling down 2-0 to take a one-goal lead into the third. Koivu and Gaborik with two points each that period, Clutterbuck with a big goal and Veilleux's shortie late.
Santa Claus has led us in Let's Play Hockey, and we're underway. It was Koivu versus Eric Ctaal on the opening draw.
The Wild hasn't scored first in eight games - a franchise record - but Eric Belanger almost got Minnesota on the board there. But his backhand on a breakaway was stopped by Michael Leighton.
If you're following this game on KSTC-TV tonight, you'll notice that Niklas Backstrom
is wearing a new mask.
An offsides pass leads us to just our second whistle in the opening eight minutes. Not many scoring chances, but both teams are flying up and down the ice early.
, who may set a team record for "hits" tonight in the 33rd game, just went head-over-heels on a hit by Joe Corvo, but he appears to be fine.
On a rush up the left side, Joni Pitkanen flips the puck near the net, but Martin Skoula steers it out of harm's way with his skate.6:50
We've got the first power play of the game, and it'll go to Carolina, as Marek Zidlicky goes for tripping. The Wild's PK unit is No. 2 in the NHL.
An awesome save early on the man advantage by Niklas Backstrom
, who robs Rod Brind'Amour from low in the right circle.
Marian Gaborik finds Mikko Koivu
shorthanded between the circles. Koivu rifles a shot and Leighton makes the save, juggles it but the rebound is cleared away.
Patrick Eaves almost strikes first for Carolina, swiping a shot from the low slot between Backstrom's pads, but it ricochets off a post and into the corner.1:14
The Wild was just more than a minute away from a scoreless first, but the Hurricanes go on top late in the stanza. A beautiful passing play, and a cutting Rod Brind'Amour tips a Scott Walker pass from the right circle by Backstrom - who had no shot - for his eighth goal of the season and a 1-0 Carolina lead.
End 1st period
An ok beginning to the period, but not a great last 10 minutes, and the Wild is down 1-0. Shots are 10-4 in favor of Carolina.
A bit of breaking news into the RSS Feed. Michael Leighton - typically the Hurricanes' backup goalie - led his team onto the ice and will start tonight. Cam Ward, who led the Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup title in 2006 and in the process became the first rookie goalie to win the Cup since Patrick Roy, has started the last five games, but won't go tonight. Leighton once made 98 saves in an AHL playoff game that went five overtimes.
As expected, Weller and Pouliot are out for the Wild. For the Hurricanes, Niclas Wallin and Wade Brookbank will sit this one out.
11:30 a.m. CST
Happy Holidays to the State of Hockey and beyond. May you and yours have a safe and happy holiday.
The Carolina Hurricanes make their only trip of the season to St. Paul tonight. The Wild is 5-0-0 against the Southeast Division.
Jacques Lemaire tipped his hand to the media this morning, announcing scratches Craig Weller and Benoit Pouliot, the latter of whom had played each of the team’s first 32 games. Jacques said that he’s looking for more consistency out of Pouliot, who is as fast as Marian Gaborik, but “not all the time.” That means Krys Kolanos and Colton Gillies will both play, as will Eric Belanger, who is over his illness. Niklas Backstrom
will start in net.
Lemaire also stressed his team needs to be good with the puck tonight and support each other. The Hurricanes can turn defense into offense in a hurry if you turn the puck over.
Those seeking to listen to the game on the radio tonight (BOB FM/KBGY) will get a treat as Kevin Falness will call play-by-play for the second period. Bob Kurtz did the youngster (OK, he’s not that young) no favors by picking a team that Kevin hasn’t seen in two seasons! Kevin, who usually calls a period a year, will do a great job.
I wasn’t in the Wild locker room much today because the Carolina media spent some extra time with Lemaire. Often, teams we don’t see very much spend more time with Lemaire. When I did get into the locker room, Josh Harding
had some Christmas tunes blaring, with assistant equipment manager Matt Benz dancing up a storm. We had a lot of visitors at practice this morning, in particular Fox Sports North’s Kevin Gorg and his beautiful family.
Aaron Sickman and I worked out our coverage of practice for the next week this morning. He’s going to cover practice Friday, and I’ll go Saturday, for starters. I am also taking Sunday’s game off, so I can attend the Giants/Vikings game. I’ll be at the Wild/Blackhawks game Sunday, but as a screaming fan, which will be unique and fun. Aaron is taking the New Year’s Eve game off for his birthday, so I will be manning the mothership that night along with VP Bill Robertson.
I end with our annual pre-Christmas (also Opening Night and pre-Thanksgiving) meal:
Homemade chicken wild rice soup w/ crackers
Prime Rib w/ sautéed mushrooms & onions
Baked Mac and Cheese