Glen Andresen's Five Takeaways vs. Tampa Bay
The Minnesota Wild’s 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday night seems to further confirm suspicions around here. While every once in awhile, the Wild can have an off night, a string of off nights don’t seem likely. Not with the way this team responds to poor performances, and not with the way that Head Coach Mike Yeo seems to squash any sense of complacency before it’s too late.
The Lightning presented a significant challenge to this Minnesota team that some felt was reeling after back-to-back 5-2 defeats. Tampa plays a tight-checking game, and they possess plenty of lethal scorers. The Wild waited out the Bolts after an uneventful first period and then turned up the pressure with scoring chance after scoring chance.
The win, which was highlighted by goals from Cal Clutterbuck, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Mikko Koivu’s 100th career tally, clinched the 10th win of Movember, the most wins by Minnesota in a single month.
“You have to accept that it’s going to be a hard game,” said Mike Yeo of playing through Tampa’s defensive system. “You’re not going to be able to dance through the neutral zone. You have to force them to keep going back and dealing with your forecheck…If we’re doing the right things, as the game keeps going we should get stronger and I thought we did that tonight.”
It’s a little cliché to pick out one play in a game that “swung the momentum” from one team to another. Doesn’t matter, because I’m doing it anyway. The Lightning had just scored the first goal of the game on a Steven Stamkos rocket and they were enjoying a man advantage shortly after.
Martin St. Louis set up Vinny Lecavalier for a wicked one-timer that beat Backstrom but clanked off the post and dropped right behind the Wild keeper. Backstrom was able to reach back and cover up for a whistle. Following the next faceoff, Clutterbuck pressured Eric Brewer into a turnover behind his own net, and Mikko Koivu gathered up the loose change. He quickly fed it back to Clutterbuck, who scored a mirror image of his goal yesterday, only this one was shorthanded.
Instead of a 2-0 deficit, the Wild had tied it at 1-1 just seconds later, and they maintained that control for the rest of the game.
But the eyes were on Mike Lundin, the hometown kid who finally got to make his debut that he waited so long for. Again, the results looked good. He saw 19:35 of ice time and blocked five shots. But his best play came in the second period, when he gathered the puck at his own net and fired a perfect long bomb pass to Kyle Brodziak at the Tampa blueline.
Brodziak clanked his shot off the post, but it didn’t matter. The Wild got the win, and Lundin was named third star of the game.
Koivu now has five assists in the last four games, and all five have been the first assist. That kept up tonight on Clutterbuck’s tally. But Koivu sealed the win with his 100th NHL goal, all with the Wild. Koivu joins Marian Gaborik and Andrew Brunette as the only players to score 100 goals in a Wild jersey.
Bouchard got closer to joining Koivu in that exclusive club. With his third tally of the season, Butch now sits at 92.
Finally, a tip of the Mo Bros cap to Niklas Backstrom. It was Backstrom who spent most of yesterday’s game wearing that hat after giving up three goals to the Calgary Flames. As he has shown so often over his Wild career, a rough outing does little to rattle him in his next appearance.
He turned in a rock solid performance against some of the most dangerous forwards in the game, allowing just one goal (a missile of a shot from Steven Stamkos) on 33 shots. His record is now an unbelievable 17-2-4 with a 1.91 goals against average and a .932 save percentage in games after getting pulled (not due to injury).
Here was his best save of the night, a robbery of Stamkos' bid for a second.