Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Night Chicago Died

Wild come back to score 4 goals in 3rd,
then 'Cowboy' up in Shootout to beat Blackhawks

Game Deemed 'Greatest Comeback in Franchise History'

By Wild Road Tripper

Guaranteeing itself a place as an NHL 'Instant Classic' game, the Minnesota Wild completed the single greatest comeback in franchise history, as they came all the way back from trailing 5-1 after two periods, to defeat the Chicago Blackhawks 6-5 in the shootout Saturday night at a very, very loud Xcel Energy Center, in front of 19,310, the Wild's largest crowd since October 5, 2005, the first game after the NHL lockout/strike ended.

The first 40 minutes was virtually a clinic by the best team in the NHL, as the young and very speedy Hawks took advantage of what few mistakes were made by the Wild, and were depositing them in the Minnesota net like so much trash after a summer picnic. For 40 minutes all was right in the Blackhawk universe, as the hometown sextet was showered with a loud chorus of boos (and the Hawks were cheered loudly by a good number of the estimated 800-1,000 Chicago fans in attendance.)

And then, the Wild went to the locker room. And the veterans stepped in and said that they wanted to win for the other guys in the room. Then they went out and actually did it, to the delirium and delight of the Wild faithful, and the dismay (and anger) of the Hawks fans, many of whom spent considerable effort and cash to get themselves into this game. The first NHL team to come back from four goals down since December 11, 2008, when Philadelphia did it against Carolina. The first team to end two five-game winning streaks in a row (remember, the Wild beat Calgary on Wednesday night) since 2006 (Buffalo).

There are so many heroes on a night like this, such as Guillaume Latendresse and his two goals, the first one early on in the game, and the second, a 'Mighty Mouse' goal ("Here I come, to save the Day!!") to tie the game with 1:33 remaining in regulation; Latendresse now has 9 goals since being traded by Montreal Nov. 23. (Anyone really miss Benoit Pouliot now?)

Then, what would be an eight-round shootout ensued, with Koivu and '20-Cent' Patrick Kane both scoring, and then the real fun began as players from both teams missed or were stopped by the goalies...until Owen Nolan, 'Cowboy' to his teammates, snapped a shot past Huet's glove, then, after John Madden missed, the on-ice bedlam ensued, to the delight of the many, many faithful who had stayed around to the end of one thrilling hockey game.

Also in the 'Hero' department is Kim Johnsson, whose goal started the third period charge for the Wild; Mikko Koivu and Marek Zidlicky, whose goals were part of a three-goal, 2:05 barrage against the NHL's best defense, a team which was 21-1-0 when leading after two periods prior to tonight. And, an unexpected hero was Josh Harding, who, playing goal starting the third period in relief of starting goalie Niklas Backstrom, earned his first win at home in two years.

Cristobal Huet started and finished for the Hawks, whose goals against average will go up after his performance on the night, especially in the third period, where he duly earned every derisive 'Sieve' chant the Wild fans gave him during both the latter third period and the overtime session.

The Wild would love a few days to enjoy the vibe after such a game as this, but the life of a modern NHL'er dictates that you play when you're scheduled, and when the Wild are scheduled for the Next Game: vs. Pittsburgh, Monday, Jan. 11, 7:00 PM Central (8:00 PM Eastern) time, Xcel Energy Center. (TV: Versus, TSN2, both feeds in HD; XM NHL Home Ice, Ch. 204)

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