It's hard to say the Wild got the shaft after referees Dennis LaRue and Brad Meier awarded them eight power plays, of which the Wild only scored on the final one, BUT, the Wild got the shaft.
After the Wild shockingly forced overtime on goals by Cody Almond and Antti Miettinen 23 seconds apart in the final 42 seconds of the third period, Alex Burrows, the king embellisher in the NHL, drew a bogus penalty in overtime when he lifted Greg Zanon's stick into his own face and then shot his head back like he was nailed by a Matt Cooke elbow.
Zanon was called for high-sticking even though Burrows essentially high-sticked himself. It's clear as day on video.
The refs bit, the Canucks got a 4-on-3 power play and the Canucks won it on Sami Salo's blast through traffic. So, basically, Burrows -- as is his reputation -- once again made a pair of refs look bad.
Now, this was not an easy call. In real time, the refs see Zanon's stick in Burrows' face, so it's hard to blame LaRue and Meier. So here's the solution: Burrows is a known diver, an embellisher and really I'm amazed refs ever give him the benefit of the doubt. So if I was reffing, I'd just err on the side of -- Alex Burrows is embellishing yet again, so sorry pal. Tough luck. You're now the boy that cried wolf. Stephane Auger tried to tell him that earlier this season (Auger felt Burrows made him look bad on a dive in Nashville), which was Auger's mistake.
He should never have said anything (Burrows claimed Auger told him in pregame warmups that he was going to get him back. Auger should have just done what I'm suggesting.
But whatever, Burrows has developed into a great player and did play a great game -- he beautifully set up Ryan Kesler's shorthanded goal, was terrific on the penalty kill and won the game and the division for the Canucks with a dishonorable drawn penalty.
The Wild played a shameful first two periods, not showing up at all for goaltender Niklas Backstrom, who battled and battled while the Wild wasn't 1) very good in front of him and 2) didn't stick up for him when the Canucks twice ran him.
The Wild took three shots in the first period, which is getting to be the norm. It had seven through 36 minutes until a 5-on-3 in the waning minutes of the second. Roberto Luongo made four saves on the 5-on-3 and five on the two power plays.
Even though the Wild didn't score, coach Todd Richards credited the flurry with building momentum that filtered into a well-played third period for the Wild. Andrew Brunette cut it to 2-1 with his 100th goal with the Wild, and the game looked over when Alex Edler scored a 150-foot empty netter with 54.3 left.
Richards put Backstrom back into the cage and threw rookies Almond, Casey Wellman and James Sheppard, who played a mostly strong game, on the ice. Wellman pounced on a loose puck in the neutral zone, sped wide impressively around Andrew Alberts and centered a perfect feed for Almond for his first NHL goal.
I had a long interview Sunday morning with Almond that I was (am) holding for Monday for Tuesday's paper because I won't make it to Edmonton in time for the Wild's optional skate. I now wish I just ran that in Monday's paper and I could have just tinkered the lead on deadline.
But this is a homecoming trip for the 20-year-old rook. He's from Calgary, where he plays Thursday, but he played junior hockey in Kelowna, which is three hours from Vancouver. His parents, Brad and Esther, live in Kelowna and he's got a lot of other family here. They were all at tonight's game, so it was a thrill to score.
So, that goal came with 41.8 seconds left. Twenty-three seconds later, with the net empty and 18.8 seconds left, Antti Miettinen scored his 20th goal on a Brunette setup after Marty Havlat saved a Canucks clear at the point.
It was an amazing comeback to what was a brutal game at times from the Wild. Some showed little effort the first two periods, with in Richards' estimation five or six guys who didn't show up.
On the shorthanded goal, the league-high 12th against the Wild and ninth for Vancouver, Havlat got beaten easily wide and then Marek Zidlicky, who struggled dramatically, left Kesler alone to inexplicably go after Burrows.
I thought Cam Barker struggled, as did Miettinen until the third period.
I thought the Owen Nolan-Sheppard-Cal Clutterbuck line worked its butt off. At one point late in the second, Clutterbuck had three of Minnesota's six shots. But he also gave the puck away at least twice on a very tough shift by Nolan, Clutterbuck, Wellman, Barker and Shane Hnidy during a fire drill of a shift late in the second.
Brent Burns was tremendous on the penalty kill. He was active in the offensive zone, but he missed the net six times and had another two blocked. Still, he was a presence.
The third basically made up for the first two. Havlat made amends for the shorties in the third by saving a Christian Ehrhoff goal and playing a part in Miettinen's. He was very good, maybe because he was fresh, ha. In the second, he basically didn't play like Gui Latendresse because the Wild had to kill eight PIM and Havlat wasn't on the 5-on-3.
Speaking of Latendresse, he was robbed of a sure goal by Henrik Sedin.
Backstrom was awesome. I'm always the first on goalie interference penalties to say don't negate them by jumping the aggressor, but the season's over and Backstrom got hammered twice tonight by Michael Grabner and Mikael Samuelsson and nobody jumped to his defense.
The first time, Backstrom got hammered and Sheppard just stood over Grabner. Didn't even try to get him off. And I am not kidding, Backstrom was run over by a train.
Again, I don't want to get on Sheppard too much though because I thought he was one of the Wild's best players tonight. And the hooking minor Sheppard took to put Vancouver up two men in the second period, bad call.
The second one, Samuelsson just lay on Backstrom and nobody even attempted to pull him off. Finally Clutterbuck skated over. Again, the refs got both penalties, so the theory is don't nullify a power play by doing something stupid or retaliatory. But I don't know. The season's over. I just don't think you can let your goalie get run like that and not make a statement.
I've got to think now Wade Dubielewicz gets the nod in Edmonton now. Speaking of that, I've got to get out of here. Good night.