Heck of a finish here at the X tonight when the oldest player on the Wild, a guy that was drafted No. 1 in the NHL the same year the No. 1 pick on the opposing team was born, continued his fine place recently with a huge performance.
Owen Nolan, 37, one-upped the Islanders' top pick John Tavares, 19, with two goals, including the winner with 67 ticks left. Maybe more impressive was the fearless blocked shot Nolan pulled off with 3 minutes and change left. He dove in front of a Trent Hunter blast much to the delight of the appreciative fans.
Big win because the Wild was minus five forwards, including Martin Havlat, and one defenseman, Brent Burns, who was sick. Kim Johnsson played 31 minutes, 48 seconds, a little more than a minute under his career-high (regular season). With Burns gone, suddenly guys like Greg Zanon, a stay-at-home defenseman really, was thrust into power-play time. He's never scored a power-play goal.
I know from the jeers, the @russostrib twitter replies and emails tonight, many fans are getting fed up with the power play. Hey, I understand, but you've got to be a little understanding, too. Look at the guys out of the lineup right now. Power-play guys injured or sick right now are Sykora, Havlat, Burns, Pouliot, and of course, Bouchard. When you've got inexperienced power-play fill-ins, this is what you get sometimes.
Things were looking hairy after the Wild stood still and got few golden chances during a 1:36 5-on-3 in the second. The Wild began coughing up the puck and gave up two goals because of it.
But with the power play in an 0 for 21 skid at home and 3 for 36 stretch in 10 games, Mikko Koivu scored the game-tying goal on the man advantage 6:58 into the third.
Then, Nolan gloved down Eric Belanger's intentionally-high shot and scored the big goal, his 412th of his 18-year career and 51st game-winner. It was also his 75th multi-goal game.
Robbie Earl was very good again, providing speed, energy and great defense. Nathan Smith fought Nate Thompson, the guy that concussed Pierre-Marc Bouchard last year. I'll write about Bouchard for Sunday's paper, incidentally, for all of you who have been yearning for a Bouchard update.
James Sheppard moved up to the second line, moved over to wing and perhaps the Wild hit on something. He played one of his best games of the year, had an assist, was a threat. He was noticeable, bluntly.
Some final tidbits:
-- Koivu's got 18 points in the last 17 games.
--Andrew Brunette's got six points in his last six games.
--Eric Belanger assisted on two goals for his first points in eight games since Oct. 31 (that last-second first-period goal in Pittsburgh).
--Marek Zidlicky was very good and leads all Wild dman with 12 points.
--Nik Backstrom made 27 saves, was great in the first (eight of Islanders' 12 shots on three power plays in the period) and he's 17-3-3 against the East since the beginning of '07-08.
--The Wild's won five in a row over my Isle.
--Eight of the Wild's nine home games have been decided by a single goal (6-2)
--The Wild went 6 for 6 on the PK, ending a four-game streak of allowing at least one PPG.
OK, that's it. Talk to you after Saturday's practice. Wild earned Sunday off, however