Wild hope to build on win over Canucks
By Jamie MacDonald
January 16, 2011
In sorting through the sports cliche rolodex for Sunday's game, one could probably start with "That's why they play the games."
Vancouver entered Xcel Energy Center with the league's best record and eight wins in 10 previous games. Minnesota entered with losses in three straight, including two at home.
Still, in the most recent setback, the Wild were far more disappointed in their result than their game, which by all accounts was strong and likely enough to earn two points. In short, it was the kind of game that can be used to pull out of a dive. On Sunday, the Wild did just that, and in fine fashion, with a 4-0 win over the visiting Canucks.
"Well, it was an important game," Todd Richards said afterward. "I think the guys came out and played like it was an important game. Our power play was good. We created some chances five-on-five. [We had] some big saves in the other end."
There may not have been a singular turning point Sunday -- Richards referred later to "lots of sparks" throughout the game -- and while the first and third goals were the game's most important, it's hard not to look back at the first period as an important piece in the win.
Minnesota was held scoreless in the frame, but it ran out to a 9-0 advantage in shots. And while the Wild left at least a goal on the table (Cory Schneider robbed Marty Havlat with a glove save at 2:13 and Antti Miettinen shot over a fairly open net on a power play at 6:24), the Canucks were kept from playing their most dangerous game.
In all, it was a very quick period, and the Wild were better over the full 20 minutes, even if the most dangerous chance was Vancouver's. A Canucks shot at 16:03 had bounced up and over a sprawling Anton Khudobin, who likely couldn't see the puck rolling and hopping its way toward the back of the net. Brent Burns, however, did. Burns dove into the crease to pull the puck out of harm's way as Khudobin readied himself for the next save. Khudobin made that save, one of 32 on the night, en route to a joy ride of a shutout.
The Wild headed to the first intermission with an 11-7 lead in shots, and would continue the good-start theme by opening the scoring early in the second period.
HARD HAT AREA
Minnesota's first goal came when Andrew Brunette crashed a power play crease gathering -- "like he was spear fishing," said John Madden -- at 3:31 of the second. Prior to Brunette's diving shove of the puck, Miettinen and Pierre-Marc Bouchard had already set up shop near the crease and taken swipes at the puck.
Martin Havlat's goal, an unassisted breakaway strike at 11:09 of the second, was preceded by Christian Ehrhoff flubbing a puck near the red line and Havlat jumping on the opportunity to win the loose puck. From there, he jetted in alone and beat Schneider five-hole.
At 3:37 of the third, with Vancouver having made a push and on the power play, Matt Cullen scored his ninth of the season when he beat Ehrhoff to a puck that Kyle Brodziak had chipped out of the zone. Cullen raced out to another breakaway and scored on Schneider's blocker side.
The final goal of the game, at 9:17 of the third, came as a direct result of Cullen's effort below the goal line, which led to Madden's sixth of the season.
"We'll take 'em any way we can get 'em," Madden said. "Every team in the NHL, even teams with a lot of firepower, still score ugly goals."
KHUDOBIN TAKES STAR TURN
In his second start of the season, Khudobin was often his athletic and post-to-post itinerant self. His game can be an adventure, but, as was the case Sunday, he showed he can certainly move.