On Sunday, the Minnesota Wild played one of those games that had people talking well after it ended. The word “crazy” was most often used after someone asked, “Did you see that Wild game last night?” It was a crazy game, and it could also be a huge springboard for the second half of the season. When the Wild closes out a three-game road trip out East that starts tonight in New Jersey, it will have played 41 games. Will Sunday’s game be the start of ascension up the standings, or just a memorable overtime victory?
The Wild pumped six goals past Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Jason LaBarbera and needed every one of them in the 6-5 OT win. Despite the game being the first of 2011, the game seemed like a flashback to 2004 as long-time Wild members Andrew Brunette, Nick Schultz, Brent Burns and Pierre-Marc Bouchard scored goals in regulation, with Brunette scoring twice. It was Bouchard’s slap shot goal in the final minute that forced overtime and set the stage for Cam Barker to squeeze a heavy slapper through the legs of LaBarbera and set off pandemonium inside Xcel Energy Center. Jose Theodore gave up five goals but still made 38 saves to earn his 250th career victory.
The struggling Devils didn’t get to hold on to that feeling of victory after snapping a six-game losing streak on New Year’s Eve. The next day, New Jersey was thumped by Carolina by a 6-3 score. The Devils were already down 4-0 in the first period before Rod Pelley got Jacques Lemaire’s club on the board. Travis Zajac and Patrik Elias added goals later. After giving up three early goals, Martin Brodeur was pulled in favor of Johan Hedberg, who will get the start tonight against the Wild.
Wild vs. Coyotes will be broadcast nationally in high definition on VERSUS at 6:00 PM. The game can be heard on BOB 106.1 FM and KBGY 107.5 FM, or online at Wild.com.
Click here to receive Minnesota Wild broadcast alerts/game day previews each Wild Game day.
It’s been a rough year for the New Jersey faithful, who aren’t used to seeing their team in the basement of the NHL. So, tonight they’ll be rewarded for their loyalty with a ski hat giveaway, which can always be used to pull down over the eyes when needed.
Hockey analysts have had a field day on national hockey shows when talking about the “most disappointing team” in the League. They point to the debacle that was the offseason signing of Ilya Kovalchuk and the aging of long-time catalysts like Jason Arnott, Brodeur, Elias and Jamie Langenbrunner. They go on and on about bad contracts and departures of key players.
Zach Parise, who has never missed more than one game in his NHL career, has been sidelined indefinitely with a knee injury. Brian Rolston, one of the most dangerous shooters in the League as a member of the Wild, was actually demoted to the American Hockey League and was just recently recalled. And of course, newly named Head Coach John MacLean was relieved of his duties to make room for the return of Lemaire, who can’t stay away from hockey no matter how hard he might try.
Mikko Koivu has posted six points over his last four games, and that includes his dynamic four-assist game on Sunday, which tied a club record. Perhaps more impressive than the four assists was the +4 rating he posted by not being on the ice for a single Phoenix goal.
Lemaire had his Wild reunion a year ago when the Devils came to St. Paul in his first game against the team he guided since inception. Tonight, he could care less about the team he’s facing as he just tries to get his team playing the way it should. The Wild is in the same boat. Tonight, the players could care less about who’s behind the Jersey bench or even that a former teammate (Rolston) is on it. These two points are big, and the Wild won’t be fooled by the Devils’ record.
It’s fitting that tonight’s game is on national television because Brent Burns should be getting some national spotlight. With yet another goal on Sunday for his team-leading 12th, Burns is showing that he’s one of the best offensive defensemen in the game. Some of the risks he takes might make his former head coach’s comb-over stand straight up, but Burns has shown an even better ability of getting shots off quickly and putting them on net.
Antti Miettinen did not skate with the team this morning and is not expected to play after suffering a lower-body contusion on Sunday:
""I didn't watch the third period. I didn't want to put myself through that again."
-- Todd Richards whether or not he watched tape of the Wild's win over Phoenix
Injured LW Parise is a Bloomington native and a product of Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Faribault. RW Langenbrunner is a native of Cloquet and a former Lumberjack. LW Rolston was a three-time 30-goal scorer for the Wild. Lemaire was the Wild’s head coach from 2000 through 2009 and guided the team to three playoff berths.
The Wild is now 6-0-1 with six straight victories in games that Brunette scores a goal.