Mike Doyle's Five Takeaways vs. Phoenix
Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he'll remember from each contest. Today, he'll look back at a 4-3 overtime win against the Phoenix Coyotes:
When you’re hot, you’re hot.
The Wild kept up its winning ways, tonight in dramatic fashion. Minnesota extended its winning streak to seven games, by the closest of margins, tying the game late and then taking advantage in overtime. With the win, the team also regained the lead in the Northwest Division.
Minnesota didn’t play its best hockey of the current win streak, but found a way to pull out two points, and that’s what good teams do — they find ways to win. Tonight, it was a pair of team leaders that brought the Wild back from the brink.
After the game Yeo said, “We had a few individuals who said we’re not going to lose tonight…”
Right now, Ryan Suter has my vote for the best defenseman in the National Hockey League. He’s not going to wow you with flash, but the blueliner consistently makes the right play and makes everyone around him better (just ask any forward who is on the receiving end of Suter’s transition passes).
Tonight, he extended the game with 55 seconds left in the final frame with a well-placed wrist shot through traffic. He took a pass from Jared Spurgeon at the top of the left circle, took one step and flicked a quick wrist shot over the glove of Phoenix netminder Jason LaBarbera. The initial play to the point came from the Wild Captain…
After a well-placed dump by Suter into the left corner and a good forecheck from Zach Parise, Koivu swooped in and picked up the puck. The centerman circled behind the net and threw a behind-the-back spin pass right onto the tape of Spurgeon at the point, and, well, we know the rest.
Koivu then was the hero in the extra session, scoring his third-career overtime goal. First, he won the faceoff in the offensive zone back to the point clean. He then went to the net as the play developed. After taking a pass from Parise, he took the puck hard to the net and slid it through LaBarbera’s legs.
This was the type of game, when the team isn’t playing at its best, leaders and the best players need to step up. Well, they did that. Koivu and Parise both were beasts in the third period and overtime and Yeo rode them all the way to another victory.
Clayton Stoner will never be mistaken for Bobby Orr, but the blueliner has been contributing offensively in the last few weeks. Tonight he assisted on the game’s first goal for his sixth assist in nine games. That helper also was his eighth on the season, a career best.
Stoner took the puck in the neutral zone and made a great indirect pass off the wall to Mike Rupp in transition. In the second period, the Wild had an odd-man rush that started in its own defensive zone. Stoner jumped into the play and found a lane to receive a drop pass. Although he was unable to convert on the play, it’s great to see the big man contributing offensively and playing with the confidence to jump into the offense.
In a sport full of good guys, Matt Cullen is a great one. When the team was serving dinner and drinks at the Wild About Children event for charity a few months back, the veteran forward did something pretty cool. He bid on a spot as Flag Bearer during the Wild’s pre-game ceremony. As much as I’d have like to see the 36-year-old skate onto the ice before his teammates and plant the State of Hockey Flag at center ice, the prize wasn’t for him. No, Cullen bid on the honor for his son, Brooks.
Maybe the best thing, Cullen didn’t tell his son that he’d be tonight’s Flag Bearer and surprised him at the game. Brooks planted the flag and stood at center ice and received fist bumps from all the Wild players as they circled the ice before the playing of the National Anthem. Maybe the good karma paid off as he received a pizza from LaBarbera on his goal tonight.