Miettinen scores twice in 5-2 home victory over arch-rival Vancouver
Let the hatred runneth over is what this fan says as he ponders the matchup that pits the Minnesota Wild against the Vancouver Canucks. If you had to poll Wild fans, the rivalry that has been created with Vancouver easily trumps all else, and since Minnesota’s playoff comeback in 2002-03 each game has meant bragging rights over the other. Early in Minnesota’s history, even when the Canucks were in the Western Conference’s elite teams the Wild seemed to have Vancouver’s number by winning the season series between the two clubs. The last few years have seen the Canucks reel that Wild lead back, but it has done nothing to make the hatred burn less bright of Vancouver back in the State of Hockey. You see, its Canucks fans that have been a major source of this hatred over the years as they’ve done their best to swamp Wild-related message boards with juvenile comments. In fact its these fans that have caused more annoyance than any weak cheap shot former Canucks agitator Matt Cooke ever supplied. Besides, he’d just turtle when challenged anyways. Canucks fans don’t necessarily turtle but when banned they elude moderators with simple tricks and continue to clog up meaningful hockey threads with their witless banter.
But I digress…
Speaking of Canucks fans they’ve been making their splash on the National Hockey League level as one pathetic Vancouver fan decided to attempt to sway the outcome of a recent game between his blue and green clad lumberjacks and division rival Calgary Flames. The fan in question used a green laser light (most likely a laser pen) and was trying to shine the light into the eyes of Calgary’s Miikka Kiprusoff. The footage of the light shining on the mask, and clearly directed at the eyes which could injure the Flames goaltender was shown on Hockey Night in Canada. In perhaps the biggest travesty of them all, despite being notified about it the security at Vancouver’s GM Place did virtually nothing to stop it. They claimed an inability to identify the exact location of the laser user, so they opted to do nothing instead. ‘Laserboy’ as this fan became known, was lambasted for their poor sportsmanship in the Vancouver press. Nashville’s Head Coach Barry Trotz, learning of ‘laserboy’s’ antics told the media he would take his team off the ice when the two teams clashed Monday night if this activity continued. It is highly unlikely that ‘laserboy’ will make an appearance at St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center but the Wild must be ready to play against a surging Vancouver Canucks team it has struggled mightily against this season. Will the Wild give Vancouver fans another reason to hate the Wild or will the Canucks dominate as they have in the previous two meetings?
Both teams seemed focused and energized for tonight’s game at the drop of the puck as the players exchanged some words with one another as well as some bench discussion. Minnesota The Wild again got outstanding pressure out if its 2nd line as Guillaume Latendresse would take a nice little pass from the blueline and win the race for the puck before sliding a cross-ice feed to a crashing Kyle Brodziak who tapped a puck by Roberto Luongo before the net was knocked off its moorings. The goal would be reviewed and the replay showed the puck glance off the skate of Brodziak and then deflect off the shaft of the stick of the Wild forward and into the goal. The goal stood and Minnesota had an early 1-0 lead. Just moments after the next faceoff, Roberto Luongo would retreat behind his net to play a dump in and he fell flat on his back but unfortunately the Wild were unable to take advantage of the brief opportunity. The Canucks attempted to answer back with its top line of Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin and Alexandre Burrows but the strong play of Greg Zanon to knock Daniel Sedin off the puck allowed Minnesota to alleviate pressure before they were able to get their cycling game going and the Wild went on the rush. With a Canucks’ defenseman caught pinching this gave the Wild a 2-on-1 for Mikko Koivu and Andrew Brunette, and Koivu would move in with Brunette forcing Sami Salo to commit as the Minnesota captain rifled a shot by Luongo to put the State of Hockey up 2-0. The Wild continued to stay on the attack and it was Martin Havlat pulling the trigger on a long range shot that was steered aside by Luongo. Minnesota kept applying pressure and Derek Boogaard nearly found the back of the net off a screen and the rebound created was just out of the reach of Andrew Ebbett but the clearing attempt was stolen by Shane Hnidy who wound up and blasted a slapper as the whistle blew because Luongo had lost his mask but luckily for him it didn’t catch him in the head or face. The replay showed that Luongo lost his mask on the net as he fell backwards off of Boogaard’s initial deflection. A few minutes later the Wild would go on the power play as Tanner Glass was guilty of high sticking. Off the initial faceoff the Wild had a great scoring chance on a rocket from the point by Marek Zidlicky that didn’t miss by much. Minnesota would gather up the loose puck and another point shot was nearly deflected by Luongo who just got a piece of it to knock it into the air out of harm’s way. The Wild continued to pressure as Owen Nolan found himself set up just beneath the right faceoff circle for a quick shot that was stonewalled by Luongo and as Minnesota scrambled for the rebound Mikko Koivu was also robbed by the Canucks goaltender who would get some relief from Christian Ehrhoff incidentally knocking the net off its moorings. Minnesota had to feel good with the pressure they created on the man advantage. The Canucks tried to answer back with its energy line of Rick Rypien, Mason Raymond and Darcy Hordichuk and they would bottle the Wild up in its zone but Minnesota kept Vancouver to the perimeter before they settled for a long-range shot by Raymond that was gloved by Niklas Backstrom. Minnesota was still moving up the ice with good speed and taking their opportunities to fire shots on goal as Antti Miettinen set up fellow Finn, Koivu for a quick shot that was held onto by Luongo. The Canucks were trying to build some momentum late in the period as they took a page out of the Wild’s notebook, in just taking any opportunity to shoot the puck on goal. Minnesota would get another great scoring chance off a nice play by Derek Boogaard to get the puck out of the Wild zone that created some space for Robbie Earl who skated the puck deep into the Vancouer zone before threading a centering pass to Boogaard who tapped it on goal but it was directed to the corner by the leg pad of Luongo. Moments later, Eric Belanger would turn on the jets and fly by the rest of his linemates for a quick shot off the rush that missed wide and Vancouver went on a rush of its own and it was Ryan Kesler who skated in and fired a shot short side that was shut down by Backstrom and just as Kesler was skating behind the net he’d take a vicious hit from behind by Owen Nolan that left him worse for the wear. Nolan would end up in the penalty box with a minor for boarding. Minnesota’s penalty killers did a great job of keeping Vancouver to the perimeter and forcing them to settle for shots from the point and winning the races to the loose puck and clearing the offensive zone. Yet late in the Canucks’ power play, it was Ryan Kesler earning his small measure of revenge when he chopped away at a point shot that apparently had been stopped by Niklas Backstrom and his relentless work would be repaid when the puck somehow got loose and he shoveled it to the back of the Wild net cutting the Minnesota lead to 2-1 going into the 2nd.
The Canucks would apply some early offensive pressure as Mason Raymond fired a shot with the benefit of a screen that was knocked down by Backstrom and the puck laid on the ice a few seconds before it was swept out harm’s way by a sprawling Antti Miettinen. Minnesota almost had a breakaway as Owen Nolan made a nice pass that hit Marek Zidlicky in stride but the Wild defenseman would foil his own opportunity as he attempted to drag the puck and he’d lose it and the Canucks were able to recover. Moments later the Wild would again go on the man-advantage on a hooking penalty on Mikael Samuelsson. Minnesota found far less time and space on the power play and the puck pressure would draw a penalty as Kim Johnsson was called for elbowing Alexandre Burrows as he sort of interfered him after a long-range shot was blocked by a Vancouver penalty killer. With the ice more open 4-on-4 the Canucks would go on the attack and due to some half-hearted play in the Wild zone the Sedin’s would start to cycle the puck and fling long range shots that never really threatened Niklas Backstrom but the home crowd was becoming anxious with the effort. The Vancouver pressure was finally relieved on a blast of a slap shot from the point taken by Alexander Edler which cleared caromed off the boards and out of the Wild zone. Minnesota would kill off a short power play and some nice hustle by Greg Zanon to be strong to take away the cycling game and Kyle Brodziak who bounced a shot that was gloved by Luongo. Moments later, it was Brodziak showing more hustle as he lifted the stick of Edler as he retreated for the biscuit behind the goal line and from there he’d make a quick pass out to the high slot where a waiting Martin Havlat would rifle a shot off the crossbar. Minnesota would go with its 4th line who was going against the Canucks 4th line but it was Boogaard who would eventually get a penalty for interference. On the power play the Canucks would attempt to get their cycle going, but Minnesota’s penalty killers were playing physical at the right times and keeping Vancouver to the perimeter. Kyle Brodziak who already was having a fine game made another nice play to deflect a pass away from Sami Salo and he’d carry it up the ice and think about taking a shot before dumping it deep. Vancouver’s best chance on the power play would come on a weak power play shot by Ehrhoff that was blocked by a diving Mikko Koivu but Ehrhoff would pick up his rebound and fling a wrister on goal that was knocked down by Backstrom and the Canucks would crash the crease by the Minnesota goaltender was able to earn a whistle. The Wild would kill off the remainder of the power play with smart plays and timely shot blocking by veteran Owen Nolan who was reading the play well. Now it was Minnesota’s turn to go on the attack as the 2nd line would create some pressure in the Vancouver zone as Havlat would carry the puck down beneath the goal line where he’d operate from behind the Canucks’ goal as he set up Brodziak for a quick shot that he fanned wide. The puck would be gathered up by Havlat again who tried to feed a pass out to Brodziak who just missed it but the puck slid right out to the point where Kim Johnsson wasted little time before hammering a slapper that was stopped by Luongo. A long shot by Alexandre Bolduc was held onto by Backstrom who ended up getting ran into by the Canucks’ forward which set off a small frakas as Darcy Hordichuk tried to start something before being tossed to the ice by Derek Boogaard. Boogaard and Hordichuk would sit in the box. After a small Canucks’ possession where a shot by Daniel Sedin would strike and wound his brother Henrik Sedin to the back. The Wild were about to go on the attack but Henrik Sedin would roll on the ice reeling in pain, the officials blew the whistle which seemed strange. The NHL’s leading scorer was apparently in the back and rib area but after trainers reached him he’d pop right up to his skates and leave for his bench and sit down, he’d barely miss a shift. After the whistle stole a Wild possession the Canucks would win the draw at center ice and move into the Minnesota zone where they fed a pass back to the point to Sami Salo who fired a shot that beat Backstrom cleanly, tying the game at 2-2. The rest of 4-on-4 play would expire, but the Wild would end up taking another penalty as Marek Zidlicky was busted for high sticking. Minnesota’s penalty killers did a fine job to deny the cross-ice passes that Henrik Sedin (magically healed) was attempting and the Wild would earn a big kill as Vancouver seemed to be building momentum. Moments later, the Wild would earn a power play of its own as Mikko Koivu was tripped up by Rick Rypien with just 21 seconds left in the period. Minnesota would work the puck down low and Andrew Brunette would show great strength as he attempted to skate it out front before dishing a pass out to the point where Kim Johnsson fanned on a shot that was taken by Antti Miettinen who fed it back out to Nick Schultz who unloaded a slapper that was redirected by Brunette but was stopped by the outstretched leg pad of Luongo and both teams would skate into the 3rd tied at two.
Minnesota would start the period with a power play and Marek Zidlicky would again find himself set up for a big slap shot from the point that missed just wide and the puck would be chipped out of the zone towards Martin Havlat he appeared to trip up Ryan Kesler giving him a tripping minor and putting to an end a Wild man advantage. With the game back at 4-on-4 it would quickly become a Wild power play again as Daniel Sedin would trip up Antti Miettinen giving Minnesota a 4-on-3 power play. Sensing an opportunity, Head Coach Todd Richards would take a timeout to discuss the matter with his team and it would turn out to be a terrific decision. Shortly after Mikko Koivu won the faceoff, the puck would be drawn back towards Marek Zidlicky who passed it over to Koivu who set up Miettinen for a one-timer from the slot that found the back of the net behind Roberto Luongo giving Minnesota a 3-2 lead. Both teams would trade some great chances as the top line of Koivu, Brunette would be set up for some outstanding chances as Koivu gave a great pass to Brunette who dished it to Belanger who lifted a shot off the crossbar. Minnesota continued to move its feet and generate scoring chances. The Canucks tried to counter with some offense of its own as Rick Rypien would miss a shot just wide of the mark but the Wild’s defense was physical and they were able to keep the puck out of the dangerous areas of the ice. The sellout crowd had another reason to cheer as Derek Boogaard steamrolled former Wild defenseman Willie Mitchell on a big clean hit. The game would slow down a bit as both teams decided to sit back and wait for a mistake and Minnesota started to be guilty of attempting the long pass when it had plenty of time and space to simply skate it out of their own zone. A few minutes later the Wild would get a little lucky when a nice steal by Owen Nolan who knocked down his pass and it would be sort of tapped back to him by Belanger and the cagey Nolan would pull the trigger on a fluttering shot that would somehow sneak through Luongo and just roll over the goal line to put the Wild up 4-2. The Wild followed up Nolan’s goal with an excellent shift from its 2nd line who showed great strength down low beneath the goal line as Kyle Brodziak who dished a puck out front that would sneak near the crease towards a waiting Havlat but the puck would be frozen by Luongo. Minnesota would not relent and the top line would again find the back of the net when Antti Miettinen stole a Canucks clearing attempt and wound up and pulled the trigger on a slap shot that beat Luongo giving the Wild a 5-2 lead. Canucks’ Head Coach Alain Vigneault had seen enough and he pulled Luongo in favor of Andrew Raycroft. Darcy Hordichuk to rally back his team, as he went after Boogaard and the Boogeyman would initially fall but he would get back on his skates and immediately pull Hordichuk’s jersey over his head who immediately went to his knees knowing he was just seconds away from becoming a human punching bag and the fight was basically over. Hordichuk would earn an instigator and a game misconduct for initiating the fight. Boogaard would give a little smirk as Hordichuk skated off to his lockeroom but the respite was short-lived. On the next faceoff, Alexandre Bolduc would challenge big John Scott. Both fighters would turn towards one another, and dropping their helmets before they started throwing punches. It was not much of a contest as Scott immediately gained control and was just throwing a withering volley of right hands as Bolduc did his best to try to duck out of the way as the fists landed over and over again as he alternated between haymakers and uppercuts right in front of a stunned Canucks’ bench as a watching Shane O’Brien tried to encourage his team’s latest recipient of another embarrassing fight. Both fighters would go to the box with fighting majors and Minnesota would attempt to go the attack as they found themselves in a rare 3-on-1, as Kyle Brodziak skated up the ice with the puck along with Martin Havlat and it was Brodziak dropping it back to a trailing Guillaume Latendresse who fired a shot that missed high of the mark. Tanner Glass would drop the gloves against Shane Hnidy. In what looked like more of a clutching and grabbing affair it was Hnidy throwing a few quick right hands and both fighters exhausted themselves before the Wild defenseman went tumbling to the ice. Minnesota would find itself on the power play again as Alexandre Burrows earned a minor for high sticking. The Wild were looking a bit lazy at the start but that would diminish quickly as Andrew Ebbett set up Owen Nolan for a great chance that was stopped by a sprawling Andrew Raycroft and Ebbett nearly was able to pick up the loose puck and stuff it in near the left post before that too was stopped by the Canucks backup goaltender. The Wild would come up short on their bid to add another goal and sellout crowd would give their team a standing ovation through the closing seconds as Minnesota feels the glow of a 5-2 victory.
Niklas Backstrom was excellent, making 29 saves in the victory and it is his 114th win making him the all time wins leader in franchise history passing Manny Fernandez. Backstrom again was sharp, reducing his rebounds and coming up with some timely saves as the Canucks were charging the crease and with plenty of traffic nearby. Defensively the Wild were physical when it needed to be to prevent the Canucks from getting their vaunted cycling game going. On the penalty kill, the Wild did give up a goal but for the most part they were solid and worked well to keep Vancouver to the perimeter. The Sedin twins managed just 2 shots all game, and it has been a long time since they were made to be as much of a non-factor as they were this evening. That is a credit to the strong play of Greg Zanon, Nick Schultz, and Kim Johnsson.
Offensively the Wild got off to a great start by jumping to a quick 2-0 lead just 3:32 into the game. As the Canucks clawed their way back into this game Minnesota’s offense would again show an opportunistic side as the turning point of the game came when they took advantage of a 4-on-3 power play (after a nice decision to have a timeout by Todd Richards) setting up Miettinen for what would be the game winner. The Wild were able to create good offensive pressure from its 1st and 2nd lines as well as having a goal from the 3rd line. Even though the Wild were outshot 31 to 22 they had at least as many quality scoring chances as they did. Minnesota would get a bit lucky on Nolan’s goal, but confident teams get lucky bounces like that.
The Wild also showed good toughness and they outhit and outhustled the Canucks for most of the game and the way they stood up for themselves in the fights in the 3rd period sent a great message that may resonate for the rest of the series. It was an outstanding homestand for the Wild as they earned four hard-fought victories both literally and figuratively against 4 quality teams. The Wild travel to St. Louis later tonight for a Thursday evening tilt against the Blues who have been a desperate team ever since the firing of their coach Andy Murray. They better be ready for another tough battle.
~ Wild roster tonight is as follows: Mikko Koivu, Martin Havlat, Andrew Brunette, Antti Miettinen, Eric Belanger, Kyle Brodziak, Robbie Earl, Andrew Ebbett, Derek Boogaard, Owen Nolan, Cal Clutterbuck, Guillaume Latendresse, John Scott, Nick Schultz, Shane Hnidy, Kim Johnsson, Greg Zanon and Marek Zidlicky. Josh Harding backed up Niklas Backstrom. James Sheppard and Petr Sykora were the healthy scratches. Clayton Stoner is out of the lineup with an injury as is Chuck Kobasew who is still on Injured reserve with a knee injury. Meanwhile Brent Burns and Pierre-Marc Bouchard are still battling concussion-symptoms.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game as selected by Let’s Play Hockey were: 1st Star Antti Miettinen, 2nd Star Niklas Backstrom, 3rd Star Mikko Koivu
~ The State of Hockey News would like to applaud Barry Trotz for making a reasonable and decisive threat to arenas which allow fans to use laser lights as a tool to harm or distract players.
~ Fox Sports Net is looking for an old rivalry game to ‘replay’ today, if they want a great one they should try to get a ‘redo’ of the Apple Valley Eagles versus Duluth East which would be a replay of the 1996 Minnesota State Boys Hockey Class 2A Semi-Final that went to five overtimes before the Eagles finally won the game.
Wild Prospect Report:
LW – Colton Gillies ~ Houston Aeros (AHL)
2009-10 Stats: 36GP 2G 10A = 12pts 30 PIM’s +10
The swift skating forward is really learning the professional games in this re-assignment to the Houston Aeros. Colton Gillies was initially very disappointed at the news of being sent down, but as it was explained to him it was so he would benefit from greater ice time and the opportunity of being placed on both the power play and penalty kill to round out his still very raw game. Progress has been slow and steady as he plays more of a supporting role on a veteran dominated Houston Aeros squad. Aeros Head Coach Kevin Constantine has used the athletic White Rock, British Columbia-native in more of an ‘energy’ line type role where is learning how to be more consistent in his use of his 6’4″, 195lbs frame. It was hoped by some this increased ice time would perhaps give Gillies a chance to develop some of his offensive skills but so far his contributions to the scoresheet have been intermittent at best and still seems to be learning a balance of how to chip in offensively while still providing the grit and energy that are his best strengths.
Forward – Jere Sallinen ~ Espoo Blues (Finnish Sm-Liiga)
2009-10 Stats: 21GP 3G 4A = 7pts 14 PIM’s
The feisty Finnish forward is off to a good start in his 2nd season in the Sm-Liiga for the Espoo Blues. While his stats are not going to make many Wild fans giddy with excitement they might if they saw his gritty style of play that is somewhat similar to Wild fan favorite Cal Clutterbuck. Sallinen is not quite as punishing a hitter, but he is your classic energy forward who just drives teams crazy as he flies around the ice taking away time and space from the opposition. The 6’0″, 193lbs Espoo-native did represent his homeland at the U-20 World Junior Championships but on a team that lacked offensive punch and relied on playing a conservative game. Sallinen does also give an element of versatility as he is able to play all 3 forward positions equally well.