The Minnesota Wild sported brand new green sweaters on Wednesday night, and a brand new captain. The sweaters probably didn’t have much to do with the Wild’s 3-2 shootout win over the Colorado Avalanche, but the captain certainly did.
Mikko Koivu, who was named the Wild’s first full-time captain yesterday, stepped up as a leader should in a tight game. Having already assisted on his team’s first power play goal, Koivu made a perfect deflection of an Antti Miettinen pass to tie the contest and send the game to an eventual shootout. Oh, he was the only player to score there as well.
“That’s what you want from your leaders,” said Head Coach Todd Richards.
"Of course, it's a special day, kind of, for me," admitted Koivu. "But it's about the team. We did find a way tonight."
All the Wild wanted was a win. After a winless five-game road trip, the Wild returned home in a deep hole in the Western Conference. That bad news is that the two points aren’t enough to pull Minnesota out of the Western Conference cellar. The good news is Minnesota stayed unbeaten at home (2-0-0), and was once again able to overcome a bad stretch to give the home crowd a memorable victory.
"They have some really good shooters in that locker room, and we know they can score," said Backstrom. "We have to make the saves, make the stops."
His second period effort in particular kept his club from falling behind by more than a goal. Colorado outshot the Wild 18-4 in the second, much to the chagrin of Richards.
“The game got away from us (in the second),” said Richards. “But you have to give credit to them. I think we played a pretty good 40 minutes, but the second period just wasn’t very good.”
What was very good was the Wild’s special teams. The National Hockey League’s third ranked penalty kill unit was 2-for-2, while the power play connected for both goals, and consumed a lot of clock time. Colorado was whistled for eight penalties, giving the Wild seven power plays.
“You can tire out teams if you have the power play and play a lot in their zone,” explained Richards, who didn’t appear overly enthused despite the much-needed victory. The rookie Head Coach wants wins, but he also wants solid efforts that are free from mental lapses and slumps.
“We don’t want to keep putting ourselves in that position where you have to battle back,” he said. “Hopefully this does give guys some confidence in finding ways to win games. We’re 2-6. It’s not where we want to be and we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.”
His newly annointed captain agreed: "There's a lot of things we're doing good, but there are still things that we can do better."
Wild Post-Game Notes
The Wild and Avalanche played a one-goal game for the 13th time in the last 15 meetings at Xcel Energy Center, counting the playoffs. Each of the last eight meetings, including the postseason, has been decided by one goal.
C Mikko Koivu scored a power-play goal – his second goal in as many games. Koivu’s three goals are second-best on the Wild roster. Koivu added his eighth career shootout game-winner. He is 16-for-35 all-time in shootouts.
G Niklas Backstrom made 33 saves and hasn’t lost at home in regulation in 14 decisions (10-0-4) dating back to Feb. 6. That ties his own 14-game home unbeaten in regulation streak (11-0-3), set March 9-Nov. 15, 2008. Backstrom is now 24-4-8 all-time in his career at home versus the Northwest Division, including a 7-1-1 mark against Colorado. He has allowed two goals or less 29 times in 36 home outings versus the Northwest.
Minnesota improved to 9-1-2 in its last 12 games versus Colorado overall, and 10-1-2 in its last 13 home games against the Avs.
D Brent Burns scored a power-play goal in the first period, his first goal in 17 games dating back to Feb. 12 in Detroit. The Wild is now 21-6-4 since the beginning of the 2006-07 season when Burns scores a goal.
Minnesota has killed off 18 consecutive short-handed chances dating back to San Jose’s Dany Heatley’s second period goal Oct. 10. Colorado went 0-for-2 on the power play tonight.
D Marek Zidlicky picked up two assists, giving him five on the season. Zidlicky leads all Wild defensemen in assists and points.
The Wild has played back-to-back overtime games to open its home slate for the first time in team history.