First, let’s get it out of the way right off the hop.
There is no excuse — none — that Jacques Lemaire didn’t use Marian Gaborik on the 1:32 4-on-3 to open overtime. I know this is Monday morning quarterbacking. If the Wild scores, it’s a forgotten element.
But this was a must-win. Marian Gaborik is the $7.5 million star of this team, the guy who can win a game with one flick of his lethal wrists. And, tied with injured Brent Burns, Gaborik’s got the most overtime winners in franchise history (four).
Gaborik should have been on the ice. Lemaire said he went with the same crew he’s gone with all year — Koivu, Brunette, Zidlicky and Bergeron, and that 4-on-3 is about puck movement and knowing what to do.
Sorry, don’t buy it. In must-wins, you should use your best weapons during the best opportunities. Here, Sami Salo hands the Wild a gift by errantly sending the puck into the scorer’s table. And Gaborik’s on the bench. There isn’t a team in this league whose best scorer would have been on the bench in this situation.
Enough said on that.
This was a heartbreaking loss for the Wild, which held the Canucks, now first in the Northwest, without a single shot in the third period. The only other time that’s happened in Wild history was Oct. 29, 2000 (a 3-2 loss to Chicago). In fact, if you consider the Wild didn’t give up a shot from Pavol Demitra’s fluky 300th goal with 1:02 left in the second until overtime, the Canucks scored on two of their final three shots over a roughly 25-minute span.
The Wild’s up against it now. It’s still three points out of a playoff spot, and it has three fewer wins than seventh-place Anaheim, two fewer than eighth-place Nashville and one fewer win than ninth-place St. Louis. The Blues have two more points and a game in hand. Wins are the first tiebreaker if needed to make the playoffs.
The Wild is in a whole lot of hurt right now in the wins category.
The power play’s won a heckuva lot of games for the Wild this season, but it’s also killed them numerous times. 0 for 10 against Montreal comes to mind. So does 0 for 8 in Philly.
Tonight, the Wild was 0 for 5, including that long 4-on-3, and scoreless on three consecutive in the first and second periods. All of them were momentum killers.
On the one after Eric Belanger was mauled by Kevin Bieksa, the Wild didn’t pressure at all. Finally, Ryan Kesler took advantage of Belanger as the power-play point. He’s only there because of injuries to Burns and Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Kesler skated by him and Antti Miettinen was forced to take a hook.
Demitra’s pass for Kesler hit Kim Johnsson’s stick, then skate, then went by Niklas Backstrom.
In overtime, Johnsson and Marek Zidlicky, who I thought played solid games for the first part and topped 30 minutes, backed up and backed up, basically surrendering the blue line to the Sedin Twins. Daniel made a phenomenal pass through his legs to brother Henrik, and his blast from between the circles nipped Johnsson’s stick and went by Backstrom.
Just a heartbreaker. The fans, knowing how critical it was that the Wild wins only, stood through the nail-biting overtime.
Sedin’s winner was his first goal in 27 games vs. the Wild. Demitra’s goal was his 300th of his career and third of the season vs. the Wild. Gaborik’s goal was his eighth in 12 games, and fifth in five games since coming back from surgery.
Nik Backstrom wasn’t tested much and only had to make 17 saves. He’s 22-4-8 all-time vs. the Northwest at home.
Andrew Brunette now has a four-game point strea.. Martin Skoula has a point in three of the last four and played well.
Minnesota’s been to overtime five times in the past seven home games and is 3-0-4 in its past four at home. Again though, that’s what will kill them in the end. They need wins. The Wild finished the year by going 1-4-1 against the Canucks.
That’s it for moi. Stensaas on Wednesday, I’m on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.