Update: About to board flight for Minnesota. Here's that Cody Almond notebook/Cal Clutterbuck injury notebook I mentioned below
Good evening from the building formerly known as Ice Palace, where Niklas Backstrom put forth another marvelous performance. He made a season-high 37 saves in a game the Wild was outshot 38-18. He's 7-4-2 and his 1.98 goals against average is fifth in the NHL (minimum seven games) and his .937 save percentage is third.
Backstrom wasn't pleased with his game in Atlanta, and said, "You want to respond."
The Wild made the most of its first-period shots, scoring on three of six in the period to take a 3-1 lead into the second on goals by Cal Clutterbuck, John Madden and Antti Miettinen. Eric Nystrom finally got the monkey off his back with an empty-netter after Martin Havlat muscled the puck out of his end to set up Nystrom.
But comically, Nystrom's deflected shot had to rattle off the post and in for his first Minnesota goal. It even had Nystrom laughing as he skated back to the bench. If he missed, he probably would have been crying, because earlier in the second, Nystrom had an open net for his first goal, but a Tampa defender deflected the shot wide. Nystrom just looked at the sky afterward.
Havlat was terrific, recording his sixth career three-assist game. His drop pass to set up Madden's winner was off the charts. Havlat's played the last two games on the third line with Madden and Nystrom, and this is coach Todd Richards' way of trying to find complements for Havlat and Matt Cullen. The line hasn't scored even-strength this year, so remember, Havlat succeeded in Chicago playing with workers Andrew Ladd and Dave Bolland.
I'll write a little about that in my follow for Tuesday's paper.
The shot disparity is a concern once again (15 of 16 games now the Wild's been outshot), but the Wild's defensemen were real good in its own end. This wasn't a train wreck like some other games (i.e. Atlanta). They boxed out, Backstrom could see shots and he swallowed them in his stomach.
The only bad news from the game could be potentially serious. Clutterbuck, who was cross-checked at the end of that game in Florida by defenseman Bryan Allen, was hindered all game. He missed the first five minutes of the second, tried to come back, and then had to leave for good with eight minutes left in the period.
He could barely move his back after the game. They're calling it an upper body injury and even Clutterbuck said he's not sure what it is. He'll be examined Monday, which by the way, may be a day off for the team, so update will likely come Tuesday. He leads the team with six goals now.
"I was fine skating, but I tried hitting a couple guys and took a hit, and it wasn’t strong enough to keep going," Clutterbuck said.
Defenseman Marek Zidlicky made his way down from Minnesota for the game, and he was just awesome. Worked his butt off. Rookie Marco Scandella was great, too. Played safe, smart and with grit.
That's it from here. No blog Monday unless they suddenly practice or there's news. Anaheim comes to town Wednesday.
Do check out the notebook in Monday's paper. Talked to Cody Almond today, and there's some fun stuff in there. Today in Peoria, he played his fourth game in four nights, sixth in seven and eighth in 10 -- four games with Wild, four with the Aeros.
Lastly, here's me playing paparazzi and taking a sneaky pic of Brent Burns and Pierre-Marc Bouchard on press row. I tried to get them to run quotes for me after the game. No go.