Good win for the Wild tonight against a Philadelphia team that was trying to get above .500 after a 1-7 start and had been 8-2-1 in its past 11.
The Wild snapped an 0-3-1 skid with a 2-0 victory thanks to Josh Harding’s 21 saves and goals 57 seconds apart early in the third period by Jason Pominville and New Englander ChAHlie Coyle.
This morning, coach Mike Yeo went on and on after how it’s been too many games that the Wild had allowed the game’s first goal (seven in a row) and that sometimes the Wild’s trying so hard to score that it does stuff that’s creating messes defensively.
So you just knew the Wild was going to go back to its winning blueprint and defend tonight. In the first period, just like the third in Colorado, the Wild almost always had the puck (well, except when it kept losing faceoffs) and that kept much of the activity in Philly’s end.
The crowd appreciated the effort, giving the Wild numerous ovations for rare sustained pressure on home ice of late. Problem is, as we all know, the Wild doesn’t score as easily as it would like and most the Grade A chances it sent slugger Ray Emery’s way was fired right into the Flyers logo on his chest.
The second was a snoozzzzzzzzefest and a half, but maybe the tight-checking Flyers, who have scored two or fewer goals in 21 of 27 games, was lulled into a catnap. That’s because the Wild stormed out to open the period with two goals by the 4:49 mark to force coach Craig Berube to use his timeout and kick his Flyers back into attention.
For Pominville, it was his team-leading 14th. For Coyle, it was his first in nine games and third in 17 games this season. Kind of ironic, too, because I was starting to wonder if Yeo should toss Coyle back on the top line and Pominville back onto the second, maybe with Erik Haula as center.
Even Pominville after the game said it’s weird how the Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Pominville line “do a lot of good things” and create chances, yet even since his trade last season, the line has trouble finishing. But this is two games in a row the Koivu line came up huge. In Colorado, it was Pominville and Parise assisting on Koivu’s goal.
Koivu tonight made just an awesome pass to set up Pominville. Koivu has made three or four, as Parise calls them, “world-class passes” this year.
Lot of unsung heroes tonight:
--I didn’t like Jared Spurgeon’s game in Denver. Tonight he assisted on Coyle’s goal, drew a penalty and blocked four shots. Also, the play Marco Scandella made down low to protect the puck and allow an entire line change, then get puck to Spurgeon while falling before Coyle's goal is a play to be re-watched over and over. Click this link and then play on Coyle goal to watch.
--The Matt Cooke-Kyle Brodziak-Torrey Mitchell line has been so good the past two games. Yes, everybody would like them to score on some of these bona fide scoring chances, but the key is every shift is spent in the offensive zone creating momentum. The three were all huge on the penalty kill in the third and Yeo credited them for getting momentum back after two momentum-killing, no-shot power plays tonight.
--Zenon Konopka, after an eye injury, going out there tonight, winning draws and getting offensive-zone time.
--Coyle, on the penalty kill in the third, going up against three Flyers and eating clock in the Flyers zone.
--And Mike Rupp, in his 600th game and third this year, standing up for his teammates and throwing down with Jay Rosehill after the player was running around creating havoc. Rupp has played a lot of games being in Philly’s division with New Jersey, Philadelphia and the Rangers. This was his 12th fight against the Flyers and his teams are 10-1-1 in those games.
-- And of course Harding making big saves in the third. He wasn’t tested often in the first two periods because the Wild was good defensively, allowing only 10 shots through 40 minutes, but in the third he made 11 saves, including a robbery on Jakub Voracek with Philly on the power play. Harding now has a career-high 14 wins and three shutouts. He is 11-1 at home with a 1.12 goals-against average and .949 save percentage. Yeo said it’s a long season and the Wild needs him to continue, especially with Niklas Backstrom’s game injury-riddled and the fact that Harding has sustained a couple leg tweaks this season.
The Wild is 9-3-2 against the East this season and 11-3-2 at home.
That’s it for me. Yeo went on and on in the postgame about how much-needed the next two days of practice would be, in large part to get some of the less than confident shooters some confidence by scoring goals and feeling the puck. But Tuesday's practice has since been scrapped with two days off before Thursday’s huge test against Chicago, which has won six in a row heading into Tuesday’s game against Dallas.
So I'll come to you next Wednesday.