Ryan Stanzel's Five Takeaways at Phoenix
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 4-1 win against the Phoenix Coyotes:
It was a historic night for Justin Fontaine, who became the first Wild rookie ever to post a hat trick. It also marked his first career multiple-goal game. Fontaine is second on the Wild’s active roster (not counting Parise) with 11 goals. He got things started tonight with 1:19 left in the first, with the Wild trying to find its game a bit. Huge goal, as it gave Minnesota its first lead after one period on the road since Oct. 26 (17 games).
Fontaine’s first goal started out as what looked like a harmless turnover by the Coyotes at the Wild blueline. Phoenix still had two defensemen back, but with Matt Cooke charging at them like a freight train. Keith Yandle tried to clear the puck and Cooke just tipped it, which bounced to Fontaine at the blueline. Fontaine bided his time, skated into the right circle and flipped the puck over Mike Smith for his ninth goal of the season.
Fontaine’s second tally was a credit to his nose for the net mentality. Jason Pominville dumped the puck in off the end boards near the right corner. The puck caromed wickedly towards the net. With Smith flying back to try to whack the puck out of harm’s way, Fontaine, while being hooked, flipped the puck into the net. Fontaine actually drew a penalty on the play and the Wild went on a power play after the tally.
Fontaine rounded out the night, as Kyle Brodziak flipped the puck off the boards to him and who found the empty net with 72 seconds left in regulation. The goal actually drew many hats on the ice from the very pro-Wild crowd in Glendale tonight.
A game after Kuemper’s 39-save performance in Los Angeles, Backstrom returned to the net with his own 39-stop outing, including 27 saves in the first two periods. The Twittersphere was abuzz, who would start…who should start. Mike Yeo reminded us that Backstrom had won two straight starts last week. He was brilliant in a third consecutive win tonight. He kept the Wild in the game with a 15-save first period, was solid again in the second with 12 saves, while his offense then got to work in the third.
The Wild has now won four in a row, on the heels of a six-game losing streak, to pull back in the top eight of the Western Conference. Only St. Louis (seven) and Anaheim (five) have longer active winning streaks in the Western Conference. Minnesota has 53 points - two ahead of Phoenix, which has three games in hand, for the final spot in the West. But the Wild also drew within two points of Vancouver, which has just one game in hand. Also five back of Colorado, with a huge tilt at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday. There’s plenty of time left, but this is a great time for a winning streak.
Dave Tippett’s teams don’t give up much - especially in tie games in the third period. So the Wild’s three-goal third period was especially remarkable. The first was Kyle Brodziak’s tally with 3:21 gone in the third period. Matt Cooke stole the puck and fed Brodziak streaking up the middle. Brodziak broke in 2-on-1 with Cooke, kept the puck and rifled a shot near side that deflected off Smith’s arm and into the back of the net. Brodziak, who took some ribbing for being awarded a goal, after he was hauled down on an empty net, to snap a 30-game drought Jan. 2, has two tallies in his last four contests.
The Wild blueline had a different look tonight, as Jonathon Blum drew into the lineup for the first time this season. Blum, recalled by the Wild for the second time this season earlier in the week, skated 12:56. He attempted five shots - which is what the coaches want out of him. Blum was drafted in the first round by Nashville in 2007, and skated parts of three seasons (2010-13) with the Preds, totaling 22 points (7-15=22) in 91 games. Blum made his first NHL appearance since April 27, 2013, with Nashville.