By Michael Russo
I had a major scare tonight. I carried my laptop downstairs to the press room after the game. When I got back after working the locker room, my computer went all blue screen on me with those terrifying words, “Beginning physical memory dump.”
The last time that happened to me? In this exact room in 2002 the moment I found out Scotty Bowman just let slip after winning the Stanley Cup that he was retiring as Detroit’s coach.
Amazingly, I hit the on-off switch and my computer booted up. In 2002, it never turned back on. Anyway, I wrote the two quickest stories of my life this afternoon just to get it into the paper in case it happened again, which it didn’t thank goodness.
The Wild’s season went blue screen tonight, and unlike my laptop, they won’t recover.
Season ended tonight, folks, the moment Marian Hossa — the man who snubbed the Wild’s long-term deal last summer — scored with 54.3 ticks left.
You would need a math genius from M.I.T. now to figure out a way the Wild can make the playoffs. The Wild’s three points from eighth with three games left, but when you really look at the tiebreakers, they’re really four points out because you’d have to overtake St. Louis/Nashville even if you caught ‘em.
And think both those teams won’t win again? Heck, think the Wild has the ability to win three in a row anyway?
In the past 10 games, the Wild’s executed perfectly a win-one, lose-one pattern. As I promised you three weeks ago, if the Wild didn’t put together a winning streak, it could not one-point its way into the playoffs and it could not win-one/lose-one its way into the playoffs. The Wild hasn’t won two in a row since February, hasn’t won three in a row since November.
Teams that can’t put together a single real winning streak in a season shouldn’t have been in this position anyway. But that’s an indictment of the system.
Tonight’s loss was deserved, but it was heartbreaking nonetheless. The Wild was outshot 44-23, 34-11 at one point. Only Niklas Backstrom, a shaky Chris Osgood, and a couple posts, too (first period must have been sponsored by the Minnesota & Michigan Iron Range’s cuz Koivu, Hossa and Hudler hit iron), allowed the Wild to even be a minute from overtime.
And then, in one flawed, fatal last-minute shift, three players — Cal Clutterbuck, Eric Belanger and Marek Zidlicky, according to coach Jacques Lemaire — made mistakes.
Belanger fell. Clutterbuck joined Marian Gaborik on a forecheck when he shouldn’t have. But as often is the case, it was Mr. Zidlicky who caused the 2-on-1 by again carelessly stepping up in the neutral zone like he’s done so many times this season (most recent on Zach Parise in New Jersey, resulting in Brian Gionta’s nail in the coffin).
Zidlicky got lured into stepping up on Pavel Datsyuk. One pass later, 2-on-1 between Tomas Holmstrom and Marian Hossa.
Game over. Season over.
Lemaire roasted the players, but I point you to the game story for those quotes. The locker room was pretty glum after the game, obviously, because this week vacation plans will begin and native country’s will begin to phone about world championship availability.
Nick Schultz sustained an eye injury around the 10-minute mark of the second period. I did not see it happen, and nobody seemed to know what happened. However, it started to bother him and he didn’t return. It’s not believed to be serious. He never had to leave for the hospital. He was able to return to the Twin Cities with the team and will be evaluated Monday by team doctors.
Schultz, one of three Wild players to play every game this season, has only missed two regular-season games in his entire career because of injury and an exploding appendix.
Kim Johnsson was outstanding getting all the extra ice time, but unfortunately his 30 minutes forced him to take one shift off in the final minute. Too bad for that.
Clutterbuck had a goal and an assist. The goal was his 10th, making him the third Wild rookie to ever score 10 (Marian Gaborik, 18, and Kurtis Foster 10). Gaborik also scored his seventh goal in eight games since his return, and 10th in 14 games this season.
Real quick tidbit from tonight, but referee Mike Hasenfratz, the same ref who called the phantom penalty on Mikko Koivu a few weeks back, assisted on Jiri Hudler’s first goal tonight. Schultz was trying to rim it around. It hit Hasenfratz’s leg, and it amounted into the perfect pass to Henrik Zetterberg.
Zetterberg was phenomenal today. Nine shots, one assist, 13 of 19 faceoff wins.
OK, I want to click publish before my computer rolls up and dies. Stensaas on the team Monday, although I may be the one writing. We’ll determine that tomorrow.