How confident was Jacques Lemaire when he sent Mikko Koivu
out for the fourth round of the shootout? So confident that he was figuring out his next shooter, which would have been Pierre-Marc Bouchard
. You can hardly blame Lemaire, with how the shootout had gone. Seven incredibly skilled players from both team went - and none scored. Brent Burns hit the upper right corner of the crossbar.
But Lemaire didn't need to worry, as Koivu buried his seventh career shootout game-winner, with 31 representatives from TPS Turku in attendance. Koivu starred for Turku, and is now part owner. The team was brilliant for a 20-year stretch but has fallen on hard times in the last decade. So Koivu had 31 guests - plus his parents - in town for the last four days, ranging from staff members to corporate sponsors of TPS Turku. All attended the games, wearing signed red Koivu jerseys with the "C" sewed to the chest. Several times during the game, you heard "KOIVU, KOIVU, KOIVU" being chanted from the club level. After the game, a dozen of them sprinted to the bottom of the club level - one wearing a helmet with the goal light lamp on top of it - and were acknowledged by Koivu when he was called out for No. 2 star of the game.
What a night for the Finns. Koivu the game winner in the shootout. Antti Miettinen, his first career shorthanded goal. Niklas Backstrom
survives getting thrown around in the crease for a 28-save performance. He stopped all four shootouts attempts, improving to 4-0, after going 4-10 his first two seasons. He has stopped 11-of-14 attempts this season.
The Wild will skate at 11 a.m. tomorrow - an hour earlier than usual after a game, but today's game was a matinee. The Aeros are scheduled to bus in late tonight and practice in the afternoon, their first of four practices in St. Paul this week. Speaking of the Aeros, I'm watching Foster's first rehab game - you can too: http://ahl.neulion.com/team/console.jsp.
Post-game notes are below
G Niklas Backstrom
made 28 saves and C Mikko Koivu
netted the lone shootout goal in the fourth round, leading the Minnesota Wild to a thrilling 3-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers in front of 18,568 at Xcel Energy Center. RW Antti Miettinen scored his first career short-handed goal, C Eric Belanger also scored, RW Owen Nolan had an assist in his 1,100th NHL game and D Nick Schultz provided a helper in his 500th game for Minnesota, which improved to 2-1-0 on a four-game homestand that finishes Wednesday against Colorado at 7 p.m. The Wild moved to 57 points – tied with Dallas for sixth in the Western Conference. The Stars play Nashville later tonight.
The Wild won its ninth straight home meeting with the Oilers, tying the team’s franchise record for home winning streak over an opponent. Minnesota defeated Chicago nine straight times Feb. 5, 2003-Oct. 4, 2007. The Wild has outscored the Oilers 33-11 in the winning streak and tonight trailed for just the second time in that stretch. The Oilers have not beaten the Wild at Xcel Energy Center since a 2-1 decision Jan. 16, 2007.
G Niklas Backstrom
made 28 saves plus four in the shootout, improving to 9-0-0 with a 1.21 GAA and a .951 SV% nine home starts against the Oilers. Backstrom -- 4-10 in shootouts entering this season -- is 4-0 in 2008-09, stopping 11-of-14 shots (78.6%).
C Mikko Koivu
improved to 14-for-31 all-time in shootouts, with a franchise-record seven game-winners.
RW Antti Miettinen’s first career short-handed goal helped him tie his career-high with 34 points (11-23=34).
RW Owen Nolan became the 26th active player to skate in 1,100 games. Nolan, who returned from a two-game injury absence, had an assist.
D Nick Schultz became the first Wild player ever to appear in 500 games and recorded an assist.
C Eric Belanger scored his 11th goal of the season – second in the last four games. Belanger, who had 13 goals in his first season with Minnesota in 2007-08, has five points (2-3=5) in the last six games.
The Wild improved to 2-7-1 in the last 10 games against a team which played the night before. Edmonton lost 8-3 in Detroit yesterday.
RW Cal Clutterbuck
had seven hits, giving him an NHL-best 201 this season.
Minnesota’s 39 shots on goal tied a season-high, having also done it Dec. 19 against the Islanders.
leads the Wild back on the ice and here we go, a power play to start the third for the Wild, after that roughing penalty to Sam Gagner for running over Backstrom on a breakaway.
The Wild, caught deep in its own zone again, goes shorthanded as Pierre-Marc Bouchard
goes for tripping.
15:40The Wild goes ahead on Antti Miettinen's first career shorthanded goal. Mikko Koivu led a 3-on-2 rush, got the puck to Nick Schultz on the right side. Schultz' cross-ice pass hit Miettinen, who fired a shot near side by Roloson for his 11th goal, and the Wild's third shorthanded tally this season. It's 2-1 Wild.
That "Koivu group" from Finland is screaming a chant at the top of their lungs from the club level. I'm not sure what they're saying, but they are loud and in unison.
This game was cruising right along, and then...Sam Gagner's rebound from the mid slot beats Backstrom. Gagner, the son of former North Star Dave Gagner, ties this thing up at 2-2 late in regulation.
The Wild almost answered back, but Pierre-Marc Bouchard
rings a transition shot off the outside of the far post.
is inside the Oilers' heads. Smid and Pouliot just combined to throw Clutterbuck - all 210 pounds of him - about 30 feet.
A little too close for comfort late. Backstrom makes an oustanding save, and Nick Schultz has to clear the puck out of harm's way.
There's not been a penalty in the last 16 minutes, and Bouchard goes for holding with 33 seconds left. IF the Oilers don't score, it'll be 4-on-3 in overtime.
Nick Schultz gets into it with Dustin Penner after Niklas Backstrom
makes a save. This thing is as intense as we've seen it all year.
I mentioned Nick Schultz' 500th game earlier, so I'd be remiss to not mention Owen Nolan's 1,100th NHL game today. He's the 26th active player to reach that milestone. Nolan would be even higher, but not for missing an entire season with an injury.
Nolan, out the last two games, can't pull the trigger on a point-blank attempt from the left circle.
The Wild will get its first power play longer than 10 seconds, as Sheldon Souray goes for hooking.
The Wild couldn't find the net on that power play, but it's outshooting the Oilers 7-1 in this period. Hits through one period, by the way, were 14-2 in favor of the Wild, including three by Cal Clutterbuck
Owen Nolan crushes Ladislav Smid into the boards in front of the Oilers bench. Smid looked to see who hit him, and backed off when he saw it was Nolan.
almost gets lucky when hit centering pass out of the corner goes off Steve Staois' skate and on net. But Roloson stayed with the deflection.
Away from the action, and the officials' eyes, Ales Hemsky two-hand slashes Stephane Veilleux
in the back, after a good, clean hit by Veilleux.
Remember last period, when Erik Cole nailed Niklas Backstrom
? Bakky got the ultimate revenge there, with a dynamite save on Cole from about five feet away.
Sam Gagner cruises in on Backstrom with Nick Schultz trailing him as time is about to expire. Backstsrom makes the save, then gets run over for the second time tonight. Gagner will go to the box (for roughing?) and the Wild will have 17 minutes to set up a power play to try to take the lead.
End 2nd period
Shots 21-18 in favor of the Wild. We'll see if we'll need more than 20 minutes to decide this.
Rob Murphy, the No. 1 star of Friday's Wild Fantasy Camp, led us in Let's Play Hockey today. The Wild start Koivu between Miettinen and Brunette, with Zidlicky and Skoula on the blueline. For Edmonton, it's the Oilers' fourth line of Penner/Brodziak/Stortini, with Sheldon Souray and Steve Staois on the blueline.
Terrific play by James Sheppard, after a good Cal Clutterbuck
forecheck, setting up Dan Fritsche in the left circle. But Roloson moves far to his left to stop the shot.
The Wild gets pinned deep for a long time, leading to a James Sheppard hooking call. The Oilers get the game's first power play.
trips up Tom Gilbert
at center ice, and it's 21 seconds of a 5-on-3 for Edmonton. The Oilers clearly think this is going to be a tight game, as Craig MacTavish takes a timeout. This is the hockey equivalent of a baseball team bunting with a man on first and no out in the first inning.
13:34The timeout works. The Oilers have led just once in their last eight games here - all losses - but take a 1-0 lead here on Sheldon Souray's power play boomer from the point. It comes before Sheppard's penalty expired, so still another 1:42 on the power play for Edmonton, which leads 1-0.
Clutterbuck takes a headman pass from Sheppard after breaking from the box and nearly beats Roloson from the left circle, but Roloson makes the save. He juggled the rebound, but the puck was quickly cleared aside.
Derek Boogaard goes for slashing Zack Stortini off a faceoff. This place is booing, but a pretty good call. The pair was talking before the draw, and it looked like they were going to fight. The Oilers with a third power play of the opening period. Wild with none thus far.
Things are evened up as Sheldon Souray - who knocked Craig Weller out for a month (thus far) in a fight last month - gets a hit up high on Nick Schultz, who is playing in his 500th game tonight. We're 4-on-4 for the next 1:50.
goes for slashing, setting up the Oilers' fourth power play. The Wild has one - 10 seconds worth.
Erik Cole steamrolls Niklas Backstrom
, with no call. Backstrom is slow to get up, I think partly so he can get the ear of referee Tom Kowal. Nick Schultz was in the area, but didn't appear to push Cole in any way.
That'll give the home team a big lift heading into the locker room. Eric Belanger streaks across the blueline at the left side and unleashes a furious slapper under Rolosn for his 11th goal of the season. We're tied 1-1. Owen Nolan got the puck to Belanger, with Kim Johnsson also picking up an assist.
Antti Miettinen with the perfect set-up by Mikko Koivu
, but Roloson makes the save.
End 1st period
An entertaining first period ends 1-1. Shots 10-9 in favor of the Wild.
Dwayne Roloson will indeed face his former team,despite allowing five goals in the first 20 minutes against Detroit yesterday afternoon.Niklas Backstrom
is in net for the Wild, and both he and his team are in search of their ninth straight home win over the Oilers.
The Wild's lone healthy scratch is Colton Gillies. Owen Nolan returns after missing two games with an upper body injury. Craig Weller is on injured reserve.
The Oilers' scratches are Shawn Horcoff and Theo Peckham.Sunday, 10:30 a.m. CST
The Oilers come into Xcel Energy Center having been blown out, 8-3, in Detroit yesterday in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score would indicate. The Wings chased Dwayne Roloson with five first-period goals.
We’ve seen this script before, no?
The Oilers have to be the only team in quite some time to allow 10, nine and eight goals in separate games in a single season (much less the first 50-plus games). But a couple nights after being embarrassed at home and allowing 10 goals to Chicago in late January, Edmonton rebounded for a 3-1 win over the Wild. They’ll be looking for more of the same today. Shawn Horcoff and Minneapolis’ own Tom Gilbert
are both banged up and didn’t play yesterday. It will be interesting to see if Craig MacTavish comes back with Roloson, whose 11 losses against the Wild are tied for the most ever against the Wild. Niklas Backstrom
, meanwhile, is 8-0-0 at home against the Oilers with three shutouts.
Matinees (today’s game is a 2 p.m. start) are great for fans. And they’re great for media relations workers after about 5 p.m., when you’re leaving the arena and it’s still light out. But being here before 8 a.m. today to start copies wasn’t much fun.
Today’s game is televised in high definition on KSTP-5 Eyewitness News.
A great doubleheader today for Wild fans, who can watch Kurtis Foster
’s return with the AHL’s Houston Aeros at 5 p.m. For $6, fans can watch the game via AHL Live at: http://ahl.neulion.com/team/console.jsp
The Aeros are practicing Monday-Thursday this week at Xcel Energy Center, in between games in the Midwest. We may have more media covering the Aeros practice tomorrow than the Wild.
The Finland group that I talked about in Friday’s blog, all decked out in their Koivu jerseys, were getting a tour of the locker room this morning. They’ll meet Wild owner Craig Leipold in a few minutes.
Today’s press meal is:
Chicken Wild Rice
Sausage and Bacon
Assorted Pastries and Desserts