One goal, 3 assist night makes Wild fans forget about Pouliot
By Wild Road Tripper
There was no bigger stage in hockey Monday night. A national cable/satellite audience (except for DirecTV subscribers) in both the USA and Canada, exclusive time slot, big game at home, and the opponent: the defending Stanley Cup Champions, led by the twin stars of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. And, with all that, who knew it would be Guillaume Latendresse stealing the show?
The Minnesota Wild won their third straight game as they defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 in front of 19,044 at Xcel Energy Center, with Latendresse leading the charge, with the game winning goal with 13:47 remaining, and assists on the other 3 Minnesota goals in the back-and-forth, intense game. Eric Belanger also got a goal and an assist, as the Wild defeated the Pens for the second time this season. Martin Havlat extended his point streak to eight games with his 8th goal of the season, and Cal Clutterbuck tallied his ninth on a second period tip-in. The Wild now have a 7-3-3 record against the Eastern Conference this season. The Wild have not lost to Pittsburgh since the first month of the 2007-08 season.
The Wild, playing in front of a lot of Pittsburgh fans (or more accurately, a lot of fans of, 'Sid the Kid') stayed with the Pens throughout the game, as the up-and-down pace meant long stretches between whistles, meaning players were being used up quickly. And, it showed as the game went along, as the pace, although fairly brisk, slowed considerably in the third period, as the Wild waited for opportunities to develop where the offense could take advantage of a somewhat shaky Marc-Andre Fleury in the Pens' goal. Sid did get two goals and an assist in the game, and ex-Wild winger Pascal Dupuis chipped in a goal and assisted on both of Crosby's tallies, to get back at the team that gave him a paycheck for six seasons. Martin Skoula, former Wild defenseman and legend of Xcel's press box popcorn machine, was also reunited with his old mate; he was a healthy scratch for Pittsburgh in this game.
Niklas Backstrom, who was pulled after two periods prior to the unbelieveable comeback on Saturday night against Chicago, made 35 saves, several of the spectacular variety, to win his 20th game of the current season, and his 113th NHL win overall, all with the Wild, which ties Backstrom with Manny Fernandez for most wins by a Wild goaltender in a career. Belanger and Nick Schultz both achieved the 100th point as Wild players with their contributions, as well.
The Wild draw even in points with 10th-place Dallas in the NHL Western Conference, but the Wild have played one more game than the Stars; both teams are four points behind eighth-place Los Angeles, who lost to the Sharks last night. The Pens gain no ground on Atlantic Division leader New Jersey, six points ahead of the Pens. The big question for Wild fans going into the next game will be: can the Wild keep it up?
That NEXT GAME: vs. Vancouver, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 6:00 PM Central (4:00 PM Pacific), Xcel Energy Center. (Wild TV: FSNorth (in HD); Canucks TV: Rogers SportsNet Pacific; also available in HD on NHL Network-USA only; XM NHL Home Ice, Ch. 204)