Tuesday, 06.19.2012 / 12:45 AM
Coming into tonight’s game, Wild RW Owen “Cowboy” Nolan had 410 goals in his NHL career, so we won’t pretend that the two he scored on Friday night were the biggest of his career. But his second, which came with just over a minute to play and put the Wild over the New York Islanders, 3-2, was definitely the biggest of the Wild season so far.
Judging by the reaction on Nolan’s face after he gloved down a long shot from Eric Belanger and pumped it past Martin Biron, it was pretty big.
Nolan’s two goals, along with one from Mikko Koivu
, helped the Wild rally from a 2-1 third period deficit to a rousing 3-2 triumph over the Isles.
Nolan’s goal came in unpredictable fashion. After getting dumped in front of the Islander net, Nolan was behind the play as the Islanders attempted to break out of the zone. Thanks to Belanger holding the zone, Nolan was all alone in front and he calmly caught the puck and settled it before picking his spot.
“I had an idea that (Belanger) knew I was in front and I was just waiting for it,” said Nolan.
“He showed great composure on the game-winning goal,” said Head Coach, Todd Richards. “A lot of guys get in that situation and rush it a little bit. Great composure.”
The win was not only big, but also surprising. Minnesota had six players out of the lineup, including Brent Burns
, who was out with an illness. Burns joined Martin Havlat
(hamstring), Petr Sykora (concussion), Benoit Pouliot (upper body), Chuck Kobasew
(lower body) and Pierre-Marc Bouchard
(concussion) on the injury list.
That is a lot of firepower, but it is not an excuse for the Richards, or the Wild.
“You have to find ways to win games,” said Richards.
“It gives young guys great opportunities to step in and show what they got,” said Nolan. “They’ve got to bring the energy and I thought they did that.”
The Wild did, but it wasn’t easy. Nolan started the scoring midway through the first by bouncing one off Biron from behind the net. It was a fluky goal that seemed to wake up the Isles keeper because he woke up after that. He repeatedly made huge saves on Koivu and Antti Miettinen
in between consecutive second period goals by Jon Sim and Josh Bailey.
Finally, Koivu broke through from in front, finishing a tic-tac-toe passing display on the power play at the 6:58 mark of the third.
“Everyone touched the puck in about four seconds,” said Richards of the play.
That set up Nolan’s heroics and erased the memory of a disappointing loss to Phoenix on Wednesday.
RW Owen Nolan scored two goals, giving him six on the season to rank second on the Wild roster. It marked Nolan’s 75th career multi-goal game.
C Mikko Koivu
scored a power play-goal, giving him a three-game point streak (1-3=4).
LW Andrew Brunette
posted an assist and has a three-game point streak (1-3=4). Brunette has six points (2-4=6) in his last six games overall.
C Eric Belanger tallied two assists marking his first points in eight games since Oct. 31.
D Marek Zidlicky
recorded an assist and leads Wild defensemen with 12 points (2-10=12). He ranks second on the team overall in assists.
G Niklas Backstrom
made 27 saves and improved to 17-3-3 against the Eastern Conference since the beginning of the 2007-08 season.
The Wild won its fifth straight over the Islanders, who haven’t defeated Minnesota since March 19, 2004. Minnesota has won the last three home meetings and hasn’t lost to New York at Xcel Energy Center since Dec. 19, 2002.
Eight of Minnesota’s nine home games have been decided by one goal (6-2-0).
The Wild was a perfect 6-for-6 on the penalty kill, ending a four-game streak of allowing at least one PPG. Opponents were 6-for-15 (40.0%) in that span.
The Wild’s third period power-play goal snapped an 0-for-21 streak with the man advantage at home dating back to Oct. 28.
The Wild won for the third time (3-9-1) when trailing after two periods.
D Shane Hnidy played in his 498th career NHL game.