Ryan Stanzel's Five Takeaways at Carolina
Following Wild games, occasionally Manager of Digital Media Ryan Stanzel will give the Five Takeaways that he'll remember from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 3-2 shootout victory against the Carolina Hurricanes
There was no better time for a first shootout win. After killing a penalty for the final 67 seconds of overtime to give the Wild some of the much talked about confidence, the Wild—0-3 in shootouts this season without scoring a goal—went one goal, two goals, three goals in a row for the win. Zach Parise set the tone by deking open goalie Justin Peters, then sliding the puck into an open net. Mikko scored with his patented backhand, and then Pominville scored, sending the Wild bench into a celebration.
On a night the Wild was without two of its top six defenseman (Keith Ballard and Clayton Stoner out with injury), you knew it would take a total team effort. It was a bit helter skelter at times, the forwards had to help out, but they did. Plus it was a night for Marco Scandella to shine; the young defenseman had one of his best games of the season. But the story of the game was, as it usually is, Harding. There was a lot of talk maybe Niklas Backstrom would get the start tonight. Mike Yeo again gave the keys to Harding, and he was brilliant. The first goal was a fluke—a harmless shot from point and it deflected off Nate Prosser’s stick and into the net. The second was a puck that rolled off a Wild player’s skate to Jiri Tlusty in front of the net. The shots he saw, he stopped. Harding even went high in the air to avoid his own defensemen (Scandella and Josh Spurgeon) midway through the third period. We think Harding’s vertical jump would have some members of the NC State Wolfpack jealous.
Much of the focus coming into the game was on a UMD Bulldogs product—Carolina’s Justin Faulk. But it was his former teammate, and summer roommate, Justin Fontaine, who continued his strong play including his sixth goal of the season. After the Wild fell down 2-1 midway through the second, Minnesota failed to score on a possible momentum-changing power play. But with the Wild still pressing seconds later, Fontaine beautifully redirected a Scandella shot up and over Peters to tie things up heading into the third period.
The referee’s arm went up with 1:50 left in overtime, and by the time the Wild finally touched the puck there was 1:07 remaining. The Wild was in no hurry to get to the puck, since most power play coaches would rather have a 4-on-3 than a 5-on-4 because there’s more room to maneuver in open ice. In retrospect, Carolina probably wishes it had just got the puck on net and had nearly the full two minutes of a 4-on-3. On the power play itself, the Wild was dynamite, clearing the zone several times. Only four Wild skaters saw the ice—and of course, just one defenseman—Ryan Suter, who cleared the puck out just seconds after taking a stick in the mouth. Suter by the way, played 35:28, which would have been just four seconds off the Wild franchise record had he not obliterated it two nights ago (36:51).
PNC Arena (nee RBC Center) had been the one building in which the Wild had never secured a win. Had being the key word. The Wild was 0-3-1 in Raleigh—and lost in a shootout in a “road” game in Helsinki as well. Tonight, that run ended as Minnesota earned its first victory ever in the state of North Carolina.