Entertaining game on the ice, but maybe the most entertaining thing that happened in the X tonight came out of view of the 17,352 in the joint.
Ryan Stanzel, the Wild's beloved PR guy and the daily butt of Cal Clutterbuck jokes, did a header over a chair in the third period that was so violently loud, the television broadcasters, wearing headsets, even heard the accident and looked down from their booths. Then, the NHL off-ice officials who keep stats gave Stanzel a standing ovation.
I might have had something to do with the mishap. Every five minutes of a game, I've got a habit of counting the bench to make sure no players are missing. I was busy writing in the third, realized I hadn't done a head count in awhile, looked up, did a quick count with the corner of my eye, counted 12 and yelled, "Stanzel, know who's missing from the Wild bench?
He jumped up to get some binoculars and ... thump. He's OK, so now we can laugh. Hysterically.
It's always funny -- until it happens to you, right?
Big team effort tonight by the Wild, which took advantage of a Capitals team that looked like they hadn't left the Eastern time zone since the '98 Finals. Come to think of it, they didn't leave the Eastern time zone in the '98 Finals, either.
Washington was out of sync early. That was obvious when they were whistled for offsides about 122 times in the first period. But the Wild smothered them, playing what Brent Burns called a smart, cautious game -- one necessary when you're matching up against the Ovechkins, Semins, Backstroms, Greens of the world.
Coach Todd Richards was downright giddy after the game, and this by far was his best postgame news conference in a year and change in Minnesota. Funny, profound, great quotes on a variety of subjects. Also helped that deadline allowed us to spend a few minutes with the bench boss, which is often not the case.
The Wild held the offensive juggernaut to four shots through one, 11 through two and 22 in the game. Sadly, Niklas Backstrom, who deserved the goose egg, had his shutout big spoiled with 1:36 left by Ovi! As Bruce Boudreau said this morning, Ovechkin can "do nothing for 40 minutes, and then, 'Boom.'"
Backstrom was in a groove, robbing Backstrom twice, Mike Knuble and Green.
Ovechkin wasn't much of a threat and he still made it a game late. He was so frustrated at one point, he slammed his stick across the boards in the second period, admitting afterward, "You just try to do something on the bench by yourself, just to wake up."
Brent Burns was in his kitchen for much of the night. As Wes Walz (walz3737) predicted on Twitter earlier in the day, Ovechkin, because he plays the off wing (left side), would see a lot of Burns, and the Wild's No. 8 was more up to task than the Capitals' No. 8. Burns admitted he was pumped up to play Ovechkin. There was a lot going on with Burns after the game, but I've promised to digress.
Richards moved Chuck Kobasew, who's been playing with a nagging groin injury and had noticeable zeroes across the stats column with an ugly minus-7 attached, to the first line to replace an ill Antti Miettinen. Kobasew was spotted there last year for a few games when Miettinen had swine flu, and Kobasew got a hat trick against Colorado.
Tonight, he scored the game's first goal on a great setup by Clayton Stoner and Andrew Brunette. Richards was asked if he would have moved Martin Havlat there if his agent, Allan Walsh, didn't squawk, and Richards said, "No," and this didn't take much "special thought."
He said Kobasew drives the net and has a history of finishing.
Later, Mikko Koivu scored the winning on a late second-period power-play goal, coming minutes after he missed the net on a breakaway after a perfect Clutterbuck home-run pass as he came out of the box. Koivu said he had to make up for the fanned shot. Clutterbuck, who wanted the apple for the breakaway pass, said Koivu thought there was a defender behind him, which humorously boggled his mind, because again, he wanted that assist.
Richards, referring to the Wild getting flak from moi that it's slow, noted how the team didn't look slow tonight. As Matt Cullen said to me the other day in an article, you can overcome speed issues if you work as a team and are all on the same page, using speed to go to the puck together and supporting each other. Richards said that's exactly what the Wild did tonight. He said it's about trust, and he showed clips of the LA game where players clearly didn't trust each other. Of course, Casey Wellman for Guillaume Latendresse changes things, too, from a speed component.
Richards said it was easy to coach this group tonight because everybody was going, but now he wants to see the same effort and precision Saturday against the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks. By the way, the way rookie defensemen Stoner and Justin Falk are playing, you've got to wonder if Cam Barker (close to being ready from a groin injury) plays vs. his old team.
Also, check out the notebook in the paper for the Havlat stuff and a comment from Richards when asked why he opened the third period with the No. 2 power play unit. Also, interesting note on coach's challenge debate and the linesmen musical chairs tonight.
Lastly, I ran into goalie Josh Harding after the game. He'll undergo reconstructive surgery on his right ACL Tuesday at TRIA. He said his MCL also tore off the bone, so orthopedic surgeon Joel Boyd may need to repair that, but Doc Boyd won't know until he's inside.
--800th game for John Madden
-- Nik Backstrom is 4-2-2 this year with a 2.09 goals against average and .929 save percentage. He's 12-3-5 all-time vs. the Southeast.
-- Koivu has a point in five straight games.
-- Matt Cullen has 299 assists now in his career and now has nine power-play points out of his 10.
-- Stoner has assists in consecutive games for the second time in his 13-game NHL career.
-- The Wild has outscored its opponents 8-3 in the first period at the X this season.
-- The Wild is 6-0 at home vs. Washington.