By Michael Russo
(updated with Blues result, and schedules)
Unfortunately for the Wild, and its passionate fans, the luster off this 3-1 win came off in just minutes when the St. Louis Blues began their rally from 1-0 down in Phoenix.
The Wild pulled within one point of eighth-place Nashville, but the Coyotes didn’t cooperate. The Blues won 5-1, meaning the Blues jumped into eighth and put the Wild three back again with only two games remaining. That means, any Wild loss, or one point from both Anaheim and St. Louis (actually Wild’d be OK with Blues if 0-1-1 and Wild went 2-0) and the Wild is eliminated from playoff contention. Nashville’s still kicking, too.
Why’s the Wild in this position? Not even a two-game winning streak since Feb. 21-22. And in the past 10 games, the Wild has won one, then lost one, and so on and so on.
Anaheim’s got Dallas and Phoenix left; St. Louis has got Columbus and Colorado; Nashville’s got Detroit and Minnesota; Minnesota’s got Nashville and Columbus.
By the way, St. Louis plays Colorado on Sunday at 5. So, conceivably, if the Wild goes 2-0 and St. Louis loses in regulation or overtime vs. Columbus on Friday, the Wild would have to wait till Sunday’s result of St. Louis to find out if it makes the playoffs. Drama, baby. That’s assuming the Wild wins its next two games for its first three-game winning streak since November.
The Wild is one point from ninth-place Nashville, which lost tonight to Chicago. The Wild hosts the Predators on Friday night in the final home game of the regular season.
Marian Gaborik, in his 500th game, scored a goal and two assists, although coach Jacques Lemaire called him, “opportunistic.” I thought he was fairly good the way he drove the net, scoring the first goal and creating the second and third with drives up the gut, then shots for rebounds. Those last two plays came on the power play.
Hmmm. Somebody fairly knowledgable contended to me the other day that Gaborik’s a bad power-play player after I questioned Gaborik’s absense on the 4-on-3 in overtime in a must-win again Vancouver. Hmmm.
I’d use him anyway.
Wild had a poor first period, taking no shots in the first 10 minutes but surviving thanks as usual to Nik Backstrom.
“We weren’t pushing,” screamed Lemaire. “We weren’t working hard enough. That’s what we didn’t do. Come on. I’m the first one that will try to protect the players, but on the other hand, they’ve got to play. Come on. Wake me up.”
Eric Belanger scored the winner for his first goal since March 7. Owen Nolan scored his 25th goal, becoming the fourth Wild player to score 25 in a season.
Wild’s 5-0-4 in its past nine home games. That’s since that infamous 3-0 meltdown vs. Ottawa on Feb. 14. Boy, imagine if the Wild owned that victory. Or got at least a point in Detroit. Or didn’t lose four games to L.A. Or scored on one of those 10 power plays against Montreal. Or didn’t blow that game in the end to Buffallo.
Unfortunately, the Wild’s got no breathing room anymore, meaning it could very well have to look back at some games that got away.
OK, I’ll be writing the next couple days, but Stensaas will be updating the blog as I suddenly have a lot of articles lining up.
Just also an fyi, I talked with Nick Schultz briefly after the game. He looked a little out of it. He said he has no idea how he got hurt, just that things started getting blurry against Detroit. I’ve been told however by the front office that right now he’s got a head injury and he has not been diagnosed with a concussion specifically yet.
Regardless, he’s hurt.
Funny moment pregame, but Adrian Peterson, like a deer in headlights, completely messed up the Let’s Play Hockey. It was the biggest Lets Play Hockey foul-up since, dare I say, Gov. Pawlenty substituted an ‘F,” for the ‘P,’ in “puck,” at my first-ever Wild game in 2005.
Marty Turco is out for the Stars. In goal will be 26-year-old Matt Climie, who used to play at Bemidji State. He spent all season with the ECHL Idaho Steelheads. He’s 1-0 this season with a 4.00 goals against average and .846 save percentage, beating the St. Louis Blues.
Mark Parrish, scratched in 12 of the previous 15, will get a game in his hometown and against his former team.
Adrian Peterson is behind me practicing the “Let’s Play Hockey” over and over. He’s doing a good job.
A real celeb doing Let’s Play Hockey for a change