By Michael Russo
Mathieu Garon was justifiably the star of this game as he surrendered just one goal on a season-high 21 Wild shots in the second period.
At the same time, Niklas Backstrom — with the Wild outshooting Edmonton 15-0 in the period at the time — gave up a long goal to Jarret Stoll on the very first shot he saw of the middle frame.
That irked Jacques Lemaire, and despite the Wild dramatically outplaying the Oilers at the time, Lemaire yanked Backstrom to start the third. The Wild was down 2-1 and outshooting Edmonton 31-11.
An ice-cold Josh Harding came in and that was all she wrote. Fourth-liner Kyle Brodziak scored twice 2:21 apart in the first 4:30 in the period, and the Wild’s goose was cooked.
Sometimes goalie changes spark dead teams. This team was alive and kicking — it just couldn’t score — and the goalie change had the opposite effect.
Maybe proof that Lemaire knew this? He pulled Harding with 2:30 to go in a 4-2 game. Now, for most coaches this would be the norm. But if you’re a diehard Wild fan, you know Lemaire almost never pulls the goalie with a two-goal deficit, sometimes won’t even with a one-goal deficit.
Harding’s got bad luck. In November, Backstrom was yanked with a 3-2 lead after two here in Edmonton. Because Harding didn’t give up a goal, Backstrom got the ‘W.’ Tonight, because Brian Rolston scored the second goal late in the third, Harding technically gave up the winner and got the ‘L.’
I’m going to throw a couple notes on here. One of these notes ran in first edition. The second note ran in the late editions, which likely meant the first note was chopped. Confused? Basically, some people are going to get one note, some will get the other and now all of you will get both. Understand? I have a headache now.
BIG SCARE FOR MOREAU
In an incident eerily similar to Zednik being kicked by Jokinen, Marian Gaborik’s skate came up as he tried to check Edmonton’s Ethan Moreau Tuesday and caught the Oilers’ checker just above the right eye.
Moreau, luckily, only had a gash around the eye after the game.
“I stepped up to try to hit him,” Gaborik said. “I was falling down and he was off-balance too. I didn’t I hit him with my skate. It was an accident.”
Said Moreau, “A freak thing. His skate just flipped up. He came over to me later and said, ‘sorry.’ I’ve had lots of close calls like this. I have no problem with Gaborik. I always enjoy playing against him. He never talks during the game, but he plays hard. He’s a helluva player.”
SHEPPARD SEES TOP-LINE DUTY
When he shortens his bench, Wild coach Jacques Lemaire plans to use more of rookie James Sheppard between Pavol Demitra and Marian Gaborik late in tight games.
That is, “when [Sheppard’s] on his game,” Lemaire said. “Sometimes I feel that when [33-year-old Demitra] plays a lot, he could be a little tired. Moving him to the wing, Pav doesn’t have as much skating, as much work to do.”
Said Sheppard, 19, “Playing with those guys is an experience in itself. They’re a possession type line. For me to come in the NHL right now, I don’t think I’m quite ready for possession type. But they can use me in different ways. I can be physical on that line and create room for those guys to do their thing.”