Mikko Koivu’s winning goal with 2:57 left tonight lifted the Wild to a 4-3 win over Ottawa and as importantly helped the Wild forget a 6-2 pounding the night before in relatively nearby Montreal. Remember, Koivu won the Winnipeg game with a goal with 3:12 left.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Koivu and St. Louis' Alex Steen are the only two NHLers to score two go-ahead goals in the final five minutes of regulation this year.
Losses like Tuesday can be lasting if you don’t quickly brush it aside. The Wild, which has lost two in a row in regulation just once this season and that was more than a month ago, avoided that night tonight and improved to 11-2-2 in its past 15.
In the crazy West, the Wild hopped from eighth in the West to third with (32 points) and is one point behind Anaheim for the most points in the NHL (33). Of course, eighth in the West is now Colorado with 30 points, so it's not like there's a cushion (ninth is Vancouver with 26 points). The leader in the East wouldn't be inside the top-8 in the West (Boston with 29 points). As somebody joked with me on Twitter a few weeks ago, the East should just take a knee at this point.
The Wild's place in the standings is a little deceiving because the fourth through eighth teams in the West has played between one, two or three fewer games than Minnesota.
The Wild gave up a season-high 37 shots and lacked legs in the first period and had some sloppy moments, but the Wild certainly motored through it and pulled out a big W.
Jason Pominville (there was a scramble pregame amongst the media because the off-ice officials listed Pominville as a scratch even though he was in warmups; turns out the officials mis-read the lineup sheet submitted by the coaches, whether it be Pominville vs. Prosser or No. 29 vs. No. 39) scored a first-period power-play goal, Jonas Brodin scored a goal and assist for his first career multi-point game, Dany Heatley scored a goal and assist in the building that loves to boooooooooo him, Zach Parise had two assists, Justin Fontaine had his first career assist and Josh Harding made 34 saves one night after being pulled for the first time this season. Harding tied his career-high with 13 wins accomplished in 19 games (the other 13-win season in 2011-12 came in 34 games). He is also tied for the league lead with 13 wins.
Oh, and Koivu had three points – the 22nd 3-point game of his career – to continue a string of clutch performances by the Kaptain and his Linemates. Last four wins, that line has scored some huge goals, as I documented in the gamer on www.startribune.com/wild.
I’ll write a lot about Koivu in Friday’s paper. The much-maligned captain by many has been huge lately in leading this team. You know when it started? After Yeo split him and Parise and Koivu said he needed to contribute more. Coincidence or not, that seems to be the turning point.
Heatley, one of the two Ottawa villains on the Wild roster (Matt Cooke is the other), played his fourth game against the Sens – third in Ottawa – since asking to be traded in 2009. He has a goal and five assists now.
He was appreciative of coach Mike Yeo having his back before the game. The Ottawa press corps peppered Yeo with questions about the former 50-goal scorer playing on the fourth line. Yeo deflected a bunch of questions, stuck up for Heatley, talked about how professional he has been about the whole thing.
He then followed it up with a goal and assist.
On Yeo sticking up for him, Heatley said, “I’ve known that from the time I got here. He’s a good man. I don’t really read what they’re writing. I haven’t been their favorite guy for a lot of years, so I don’t really care what they’re writing. But it is nice to know your coach has your back.”
He also let me know in joking fashion that this goal -- a whiff of puck, then a jam inside the post from behind the goal line -- was more of a "garbage goal" than his one in Montreal, a reference to the way I described his goal with 1.3 seconds left down 6-1 in Montreal. By garbage, I meant meaningless. It was a funny moment and proof positive again that every player is secretly on Twitter.
Yeo went on and on about the Wild’s leadership tonight. He talked about how the vets went out and helped lead the Wild to the W in response to last night.
“Internally, everyone knows it was pretty ugly last night, so it’s on us veteran guys and the captains to lead on the ice and not necessarily vocally, but play the right way and get back to what we were doing well,” Parise said.
Jason Zucker was called up to add speed and energy to a team that lacked it in Montreal. He skated with Mikael Granlund and Pominville, and although he had a couple near costly turnovers like many of his teammates, he had a decent game.
Yeo talked about the one turnover where Zucker didn’t shoot between the circles and tried to force a pass (almost identical spot as the Koivu goal, interestingly), but Yeo said Zucker’s speed was a factor and if he continues to play like this, he’ll make an impact.
Not much of a blog, but it’s after midnight, I’ve got a long drive back to downtown, I think I have a flat tire and an early flight.
Wild is off Thursday, so no blog unless there’s news. Rachel Blount is covering practice Friday in Winnipeg and the game Saturday in Winnipeg. I’ll be on Fox Sports North in studio Saturday before, during and after that game.
On here, you may next hear from me Sunday in St. Louis after practice.