ANAHEIM, CALIF. - Derek Boogaard eventually fought Anaheim's George Parros -- early in the second period -- during the Wild's 2-0 victory Sunday night, but when Parros challenged the Wild's enforcer in the first period, the Boogey Man avoided the fight.
He had a different target in sight.
During the ensuing TV timeout, Boogaard switched to right wing to line up across from Brad May. Boogaard bent down next to May's ear, and May knew what he had to do.
"I just said, 'We're going to fight. I owe you one,'" said May, 35, who after 16 years knows that the code says he had to fight the Wild's toughest combatant.
In April, it was May who suckered non-pugilist Kim Johnsson at the end of Game 4 of the Western Conference quarterfinals.
"Brad, he answered the bell," Wild forward Brian Rolston said. "He did something he knew wasn't probably right. It was a cheap shot. Tonight, when Boogey lined up with him, he fought him and the drama with that ended quick."
Immediately after the puck dropped, Boogaard and May dropped their gloves. May landed one shot to bloody Boogaard's nose and did a good job tying him up so he could only land kidney shots.
Finally Boogaard, while swinging May around, landed an over-the-top right to cut May for essentially a draw.
A gift from Gretzky
Imagine this: You opened the Arizona Republic's sports section Saturday morning, and Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky revealed that Alex Auld would start in goal later that night.
It was right there, in black and white, for the entire world -- and the Wild -- to read.
In a league where many coaches are as secretive about their starting goaltending plans as they are about publicizing their ATM PINs -- Wild coach Jacques Lemaire laughs off such questions, while Ducks coach Randy Carlyle snaps when reporters make such an outrageous query -- Gretzky's policy is to announce his starting goalie.
"I don't think it's something you worry about as a player," said Gretzky, who once played the game quite well (a mere 894 goals and 2,857 points).
"I would come in for the morning skate, listen to the system the coaches wanted to play and, whoever the other team had in the net, so be it.
"I kind of take that approach as a coach, too. Really, at this level, goalies are good. The biggest difference is probably that some goalies handle the puck more than other guys. But at this level, they're all pretty good."
Gretzky added, laughing, "Really, I try to cooperate with the media guys the day before. I try to make their jobs easier. I'm sure [Niklas] Backstrom's going to get about 65 games, so you don't have to worry about this other than about 20 games max."
Hats off to Harding