Evening or about to be early morning from the press box.
Exciting finish to a somewhat bland game, with Marco Scandella jumping on a loose puck that hit a referee's skate in the Wild end, flying all the way down the right-wing boards, into the Ducks' zone and extending past Paul Mara so he could backhand a shot on net because he was aware "guys were driving the net."
Antti Miettinen was one of those guys, and like he did all night, Curtis McElhinney kicked out a golden rebound for Miettinen to pounce. The goalie made that save, too, but McElhinney again put out another rebound and that one deflected into the net off for Miettinen's shoulder for the Finnish winger's first career overtime winner with 1:24 left off Scandella's first career assist and point.
Big OT win considering Niklas Backstrom's lost nine of his last 10 shootouts.
Read the gamer and the new notebook lead on Scandella for all the particulars.
As coach Todd Richards said after the game, he had an extreme of emotions tonight. Wild came out of the gate flying, outshooting Anaheim 8-2 within 10 minutes and 11-4 through 20.
The Wild also hit a bunch of posts in the first two periods -- Cal Clutterbuck, Mikko Koivu and Cam Barker. But Anaheim took a 1-0 lead on a second-period power play moments after Mikko Koivu couldn't score on John Madden's hopping 2-on-1 shorthanded feed.
But 1:38 later, Marty Havlat, who played another terrific game, responded by beating Ryan Getzlaf to a puck, turning toward the corner and sending a blind, spinning feed into the crease that squeezed home. Havlat was engaged, had five shots and Richards said it's because he's going the hard work route, and then the skill's following.
Havlat's got a goal and four assists the 3 games he's played with Madden and Eric Nystrom and has eight points in the last seven games.
But the final 10 minutes of the second, the Ducks clogged up the neutral zone and the Wild couldn't get through. Eventually, the Ducks' top two lines took over and the Wild relied on Backstrom again to provide the cushion. He held a 1-1 game in the third while the Wild was outshot 16-2.
Richards didn't paint a rosy picture on it, saying the Wild's got to get rid of these nightly lapses. He's probably well aware that if the Wild plays like it did in the third in Detroit Friday, the Red Wings will wipe the Wild off the planet. Red Wings are 8-1 at home, I believe.
Luckily for the Wild, Backstrom's been remarkable. He's given up two or fewer goals in nine of his past 10 starts. At home, he's 6-2-1 with a 1.53 goals against average and .950 save percentage. In his last five home games, he's 4-1 with a 0.99 GAA and .967 SP, giving up one goal or less in four of those games.
The Wild, as I wrote in the notebook, suddenly has a decision. Brent Burns will return in Detroit. Scandella was awesome the last two games, not just because of setting up Miettinen's winner. He's poised, he goes into corners and comes out with the puck, he closes off guys, he can skate, he boxes out well.
Can the Wild just send him back, at least right this moment? What kind of message is that to the kid? And if they don't, do they throw Clayton Stoner on waivers to send him to Houston, where he'd have to be paid his full NHL salary?
Richards made clear after the game that the plan is not to keep eight defensemen, but that could be long-term. Technically, there's no pressing rush. The Wild doesn't have to necessarily make a decision Thursday. But if they stay injury-free, no chance they stick with eight D for awhile.
I guess, the big picture here long-term is Scandella is only 20 and only has 17 pro games under his belt between the AHL and NHL. He'd probably be better served going back to Houston and continuing his development eventually. But he certainly looks close to NHL-ready. Of course, this is only two games, too.
My guess is the Wild take eight D to Detroit because, like I said, the Wild doesn't have to make a decision ASAP.
Tommy Thompson was in the press box scouting tonight for the Rangers, and one would think he felt a little satisfaction watching Scandella. The 2008 second-rounder looks like he'll be a good one.
I didn't get into it in the gamer because I didn't have space, but the Wild got some great shifts tonight out of the fourth line of Robbie Earl, Kyle Brodziak and Brad Staubitz. Staubitz fought George Parros and was physical, Brodziak was better in the corners, Earl was fast and battled. They spent most their shifts in the Ducks' end.
The Wild has won five of seven and is 5-1-1 in its past seven at home. Anyway, that's it. I had a lot more on my mind, but I'm on fumes.
I'll toss up a quick blog after practice and prior to my flight to Detroit.