Saturday, February 6, 2010

Khudobin goes Wild, downs Flyers 2-1

Rookie in second NHL game saves day with 38-save stellar performance

By Wild Road Tripper

Some old-time Minnesota Wild hockey came out of the dressing room at Xcel Energy Center Saturday night. Rookie Anton Khudobin, making his second NHL appearance and first start at hockey's top level, is sure appreciative that it did.

The Wild ran its home winning streak to four straight, and eight of its' last nine, as they rode Khudobin's 38-save performance to a 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers, the Flyers' second straight loss on their Western road swing.

Khudobin's game was the difference, according to Wild Head Coach Todd Richards in the post-game press conference. From my own point of view, as well as the team's, he really DID hold the Wild in the game, especially in the first period, as lacklustre a stanza as the Wild have produced since the disasterous first week of November, where they lost two games in three nights, at home, to Vancouver and Dallas. The Wild came out tentative and the Flyers were just willing to let the Wild do that, although Cal Clutterbuck's surprise goal 15:37 in opened the scoring, it didn't take the Flyers long, as Daniel Carcillo, a All-Star 'Blackheart' if there ever was, cashed in a rebound as Marek Zidlicky failed (once again) to take out his man in front of Khudobin, to tie it up with just over 4 minutes remaining.

The second period was much better for the Wild as the tempo -- and the hitting -- started getting fierce, punctuated with Derek Boogaard's de-helmeting of ex-Canuck Lukas Krajicek near the mid-way point. Shortly afterwards, Owen Nolan's rebound goal made it 2-1 Minnesota, and that's where it stayed.

The third period was a throwback to the Jacques Lemaire era: get the puck, play the puck, dump the puck, repeat. Again, and again, and again, and again. The Flyers were becoming more frustrated with every shift. But, there was nothing they could really muster. Even in the waning seconds, after goalie Michael Leighton was pulled for the extra attacker, did the Wild stray from what they were formerly famous for -- defense. And, this time, they were successful.

As the crowd of 18,640 (minus a few Flyers' fans, mostly decked out in their blaze orange) cheered their approval, the traditional 'goalie huddle' after a victory probably never was so well-earned. The boys actually did it; they beat the Flyers, for the first time in five meetings since 2003, and they have their rookie call-up to thank for it.

Next Game: vs. Phoenix, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 7:00 PM Central (6:00 PM Mountain) Time, Xcel Energy Center. (Wild TV: FSNorth in HD; No Coyotes' TV; XM Radio, Ch. 209)

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