Starting Monday, May 26, Wild.com will host the Top Plays of the Year Tournament, presented by Dairy Queen. That will give fans the chance to vote on their favorite play of the year. It’s no secret that over here on Wild.com we love helping select the top plays each week for fans to vote on. Since there were a handful of great plays from the Wild’s Stanley Cup Playoff appearance, and you really can’t throw them into a regular-season Top Plays Tourney, Managing Editor Mike Doyle is counting down his Top 5 Playoff Plays. His favorite play comes from Nino Niederreiter.
No. 1: Nino’s Series Clincher
Was there ever any doubt? In the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Wild forced a Game 7 against the Colorado Avalanche. The Central Division champions might’ve had the home ice advantage, but the Wild had a breakout performance from 21-year-old, Nino Niederreiter.
Minnesota acquired the Chur, Switzerland native from the New York Islanders on the day of the 2013 National Hockey League Entry Draft for fan favorite Cal Clutterbuck and a third-round pick. The newly acquired wing quickly became a new fan favorite in the State of Hockey, scoring 36 points (14-22=36) and earning a plus-12 rating in his first season with the Wild. During the regular season, Niederreiter showed his flexibility as a player, used in various roles when called upon, from a checking liner to a top-6 forward. However during Game 7, the big wing showed that untapped potential that had him selected fifth overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
In the third period of Game 7, the Wild trailed by a goal. Niederreiter took an entry pass from Kyle Brodziak at the top of the right circle and fired a laser past Colorado netminder Semyon Varlamov’s blocker for his first-career playoff tally. The Avs responded and took another one-goal lead, but Minnesota sent the game into overtime, as Niederreiter set up Jared Spurgeon with 2:28 left in regulation. In sudden death, Dany Heatley sprung Brodziak and Niederreiter on a 2-on-1. Brodziak slid the puck to Niederreiter, who sent the Wild into the Second Round with a snipe under the cross bar and earned the top spot in the countdown.