Friday, December 4, 2009

'Cardiac Wild' hunt down Ducks, win 5-4 in shootout

By Wild Road Tripper

Many of the fans who left the Xcel Energy Center during the third period of Friday night's Minnesota Wild game should be kicking themselves Saturday morning, as they missed a date with Destiny.

Destiny, meet Head Coach Randy Carlyle and the Anaheim Ducks.

The Ducks saw two two-goal leads evaporate, the second one in the final two minutes of regulation, as the Wild, led by Mikko Koivu and his two goals, one assist night, came back from the dead more times than Freddy Kruger to defeat the Ducks 5-4 in the shootout Friday night. Those of the 18,265 who stayed until the last act of this melodrama saw a shootout save by Niklas Backstrom against Mikko's older brother, Anaheim center Saku Koivu, who was wooed by Minnesota in free agency this past summer before signing with the Ducks.

The Wild victory ran their record to .500 (12-12-3), good for 13th place in the Western Conference, just behind the idle St. Louis Blues, who have a game in hand on the Wild. The OT loss by the Ducks means they stay in the cellar in the West, one point behind idle Edmonton.

But senior Ducks officials were along on this road trip and saw the whole debacle from the Al Shaver Press Box. And, after having seen three games in a row where the Ducks have blown leads in the third period to send games into OT (or longer), they aren't pleased.

The Wild comebacks ruined one for Anaheim as well, as the Ducks welcomed sniper Joffrey Lupul, who the Wild could not figure out all evening, back into their lineup. Lupul scored two goals for Anaheim, and added the only Ducks goal in the shootout. Lupul had been out for nearly two weeks prior to his insertion in the lineup, an event made more necessary due to Teemu Selanne's broken bone in his hand, suffered last night in Dallas in the second period against the Stars. Lupul was all over the place tonight, and he clearly stood out as the best Anaheim player out there.

Nine of the 11 points in the game (4 goals, 5 assists) came from the Wild's current No. 1 line -- Koivu, Andrew Brunette (3 assists) and Antti Miettinen (2 goals, 1 assist) -- as the new system employed by the Wild seems to have developed very much to their liking. Koivu was devastating tonight, always around the puck, and never out of position. Not once. Brunette was his workmanlike self, digging like a nickel miner (hey, he's from Sudbury. Work with me here!) and his passes were spot on most of the evening. The oft-maligned Miettinen, however, is the biggest surprise, as it looks like he has finally figured out how to put the biscuit IN the basket, rather than OVER it.

Miettinen and Guillaume Latendresse scored for the Wild in the four-round shootout, as the Wild take their 2009-10 shootout record to 3-3, and their home record in total to 9-3-1. Home won't be a thing the Wild see much of for a while, however, as they have a rematch with the Nashville Predators coming up tomorrow night at the Sommet Center, to begin a five-game, 8-day road trip. (The Preds won in Chicago on Friday night, beating the Blackhawks 4-1.)

Next Game: at Nashville, Saturday Dec. 5, 7:00 PM, Sommet Center. Wild TV: FSNorth (in HD). No Preds TV: XM Radio: Ch. 239)

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