Big two points for the Wild on Monday night as it took a 4-3 victory from inside the Saddledome here in Calgary.
Jason Pominville scored twice and Mikko Koivu and Pierre-Marc Bouchard once.
Quick update: as expected today, the Wild sent Josh Harding down to Houston on a conditioning assignment. He's been on IR since Feb. 12 because of symptoms related to multiple sclerosis.
Back to Monday night's game ... things certainly got tense in the end after Ben Hanowski, the former St. Cloud State forward, scored in his NHL debut and Sven Baertschi scored with 39 seconds left. But the Wild held on and moved into 6th in the West.
They got some big help from Chicago and San Jose, which beat Dallas and Phoenix. Colorado choked a late 3-2 lead away to Columbus to lose 4-3 in overtime, so the Wild went from being potentially up by four points on ninth to still two.
The Wild plays in Edmonton on Tuesday night in another big game. The Oilers should be motivated after their GM was fired Monday. There may not be a morning skate, so we may not know the Wild’s starting goaltender until late.
Things got hairy late tonight, in large part because the Wild, with a 4-2 lead, looked like it felt it was safe giving banged-up Ryan Suter a precious breather in the final 2 minutes. The Wild gave up that third goal and Suter had to emerge in the final 40 seconds to help mop up the win.
Suter assisted on one goal tonight and was plus-3. His 27 assists are ranked first among NHL defensemen. It’s clear he’s hurting and playing through it, but he said, “Everyone’s hurt this time of year. It’s just part of it.” He then pointed out that he’s just one of many playing through things and didn’t want it made a big deal of.
Speaking of playing hurt, Matt Cullen returned from a six-game injury and it’s probably not a coincidence that the Wild, which scored eight goals in the past seven games, scored more than three for the first time since before he was injured (March 30).
Cullen assisted on Pominville’s eventual winner and guided Jason Zucker through a tough game. The rookie was turning pucks over left and right and took a bad penalty. But every time I looked down at the bench, Cullen was talking Zucker’s ear off.
Cullen was good on the subject after the game and I’ll likely write about that in Wednesday’s newspaper’s notebook.
After Jiri Hudler cut the deficit to 2-1 early in the third, coach Mike Yeo had an issue. Zucker was in the back having a skate repaired. Charlie Coyle, high-sticked late in the second, was in the back having his tongue stitched. I’m not kidding. One of his upper teeth is chipped, he now has a lisp and looks like he has a tongue ring.
So down to 10 forwards, Yeo sensed Bouchard had a hop in his step on a very effective line tonight with Pominville and Kyle Brodziak. Yeo reunited Bouchard with Cullen and Setoguchi and Setoguchi sent Bouchard in alone for a goal 10 seconds after Hudler scored.
Just 1:13 later, Pominville scored again.
Mikko Koivu also had a strong game, Yeo noted. Minus-2, yes, but went 9 of 11 in the third on faceoffs, won 18 of 25 in the game, had four shots and a goal 2:17 in. That goal came on a Zach Parise rebound but after Coyle dumped the puck, won a race and a battle.
Yeo raved after the load Koivu has had to shoulder and “he competes and battles so hard and just wants this so bad.”
What Coyle did before the Koivu goal is how Zucker needs to play. He kept giving the puck away tonight and Cullen tried to make Zucker realize that with his speed, he has to just get pucks deep and go use his speed to track them down again. This is the NHL. You can’t be beating and dangling through guys at the blue line and you definitely can’t be turning pucks over in the neutral zone and offensive blue line.
Zucker will learn, and like Coyle, has a very bright future.
Brodziak…Very good game tonight. Looked like the No. 21 of old. Strong on pucks, won battles all over the ice. Good response to a couple real tough games.
Koivu now has 118 goals – one off Andrew Brunette’s mark for second in team history. Koivu’s goal snapped a 9-game drought (first since March 27) and snapped a 7-game point drought.
Jonas Brodin had a solid, solid night alongside Suter.
Niklas Backstrom made some big saves early and got his 21st victory. Defenseman Brett Clark also saved a sure goal by blocking Lee Stempniak’s shot aimed at an open net in the first.
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