It was a strange night Monday night in the National Hockey League. Ten of the 11 road teams won (only the Phoenix Coyotes, who might as well be a road team most nights at Jobing.com Arena, won as a home team last night.) I wonder how many of those teams got beat with players who grew up in the city where they won last night?
Count the Colorado Avalanche in that somewhat exclusive category, as ex-Blaine, Minnesota Bengal Matt Hendricks, coming back home and playing in front of family and friends, scored what would be the most important goal of the evening at Xcel Energy Center, as the Avs beat the Minnesota Wild 4-3 in front of an announced 18,244 pre-holiday patrons.
Hendricks' improbable goal -- caused by a massive team 'brain cramp' on the part of the Wild, who were too busy changing shifts to worry about the puck in their own zone, which allowed Hendricks and Cody McLeod to go in alone on a two-man breakaway, after Niklas Backstrom let the puck rebound off the boards behind the goal too far in front of him -- sealed the victory for the Avs, who retain third place in the NHL's Western Conference, and sole possession of the Northwest Division lead, now ten full points ahead of the forgetful Wild, who now have lost two in a row, and are still four points out of a playoff spot.
The Wild were without Robbie Earl (returned to Houston Monday, beating the NHL Holiday roster freeze by a few hours), John Scott (healthy scratch), and Guillaume Latendresse (sick); in fact, Latendresse tried to go, but was unable to make it to pre-game warm-ups. The Wild also took a number of stupid penalties; the Wild didn't press the issue against the Avs until about the last 8 minutes of the third period, thinking 'we can come back from this. We have before.' Well, guess what? Didn't happen this time, folks. Can they do it again? Can they come back? Will they need to? Let's find out Wednesday night, shall we, against another team which got their lunch handed to them on Monday, in what we should call a 'last-minute shoppers special'.
Note well the special starting time for the Next Game: vs. Edmonton, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 6:00 PM Central (5:00 PM Mountain) Time, Xcel Energy Center. (Wild TV: FSNorth; Oilers' TV: Rogers SportsNet West, both feeds in HD; XM Radio, Ch. 237).