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Wild's powerless power play ruins comeback; Sources: Jake Gardiner signs with Maple Leafs

  • Blog Post by: Michael Russo
  • March 15, 2011 - 6:15 AM

From a vacant Rogers Arena, the Wild's playoff hopes took another blow tonight with a 4-2 loss at Vancouver.

The Wild, despite actually generating a good amount of chances in the first period, coughed up a 3-goal deficit, then tried to rally against the best team in hockey.

Not a good recipe to victory, but the Wild would have pulled it off if it's power play wasn't so feeble with the game on the line.

The Canucks, who do have the 2nd-best penalty kill in the NHL, killed off six minors, including an 89-second 5-on-3 in the second period and two power plays in the final 5:33. Finally Ryan Kesler, who had another good game against Minnesota, came out of the box to score with an empty net.

On the other hand, the Wild's PK gave up two goals to the Canucks in the first after two Clayton Stoner minors.

Mikko Koivu, back after missing 11 games, sparked the rally with a goal and an assist. After Brent Burns' big rush through the gut, here's Koivu's goal after going to the bench to get new lumber (or, uh, graphite).

But that would be all she wrote.

The Wild outshot Vancouver 35-22 and "did a lot of good things," but a lot of good things can be stomached in October and November. But when you're four points out of a playoff spot with 12 games left, it's no longer tolerable.

Wins only matter, and the Wild didn't win and the math is a killer now.

Third straight loss. The Wild can max get 101 points. It needs 95 or 96 most likely to make the playoffs.

Once Koivu's big contract begins next year, you can debate if he's worth all the pennies. But after seeing the Wild play these past 11 games without Koivu and seeing what he meant to the lineup Monday, there's is no debating his worth to the Wild.

When a player like Koivu gets hurt initially, players can elevate their play. But the longer he's gone, the more likely players come back to Earth and the bubble bursts. That's what happened to the Wild lately.

Unfortunately, if the Wild misses the playoffs, we'll never know if the Wild would have made it if Koivu doesn't break his finger. I think they do. The Wild was playing great hockey for 2 1/2 months, then lost seven of 11 (including OT/shootout losses) without Koivu. 

Most entertaining part of the game for the fans was Cal Clutterbuck going headfirst into the Canucks' bench after missing on a check of Alex Burrows.

Most entertaining part of the game for me was watching Prime Minister Stephen Harper sitting nine rows up in the lower bowl with Trevor Linden. There was like no security. Linden talked the PM's ear off, they shared popcorn, girls leaned over the Prime Minister to get Linden's autograph.

I was just waiting for a fan to ask PM Harper to hold the camera and snap a picture of the fan with Linden.

Just a different country up here. Imagine President Obama sitting in the stands at a sporting event?

Reminded me of when I was at the Marriott Chateau Champlain in Montreal years ago. The elevator opened and I stepped one foot in, looked up and it was a security guy and Prime Minister Jean Chretien. I thought I was going to be shot dead. But the Prime Minister just said, "Bonjour."

Bonjour to you too, I guess.

Lastly, according to multiple NHL sources, the Toronto Maple Leafs signed University of Wisconsin junior defenseman Jake Gardiner to an entry-level contract tonight. The former Minnetonka Skipper star had a fabulous final season with the Badgers with 10 goals and 41 points and was a mainstay on Wisconsin's second-ranked WCHA defense.

Gardiner can skate like the wind and will get a heck of a chance in Toronto. Brian Burke, who traded for him in the Francois Beauchemin deal, drafted Gardiner in Anaheim.

Here's a column from Feb. 13 where I write a little bit about Gardiner.

That's it from me. On to San Jose. The Wild is off tomorrow, so I'll write a follow with a bunch of leftovers from tonight.

Marco Scandella was reassigned. Gui Latendresse had an MRI today. No update yet.

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