Game 76: THE PAIN…THE PAIN

by desertdawg
The Minnesota Wild have caused me more personal pain than just about anyone else. Okay the Oilers of the eighties caused me more grief – may have actually stunted my growth…both physically and mentally during my formative years. If your thirties can be considered formative. Fortunately, the Oilers didn’t bother me too much after 1992.
But the Wild this past decade have taken up the slack. I’ve mentioned before that they actually stole something from us a few years back. We were up three games to one in the second round. Bertuzzi mocked the Minney fans. We blew the next two games and somehow it all came down to game seven. But fortunately we built the quick two nothing lead and what with the West Coast Express at their peak, we were bound to challenge for the Cup.
And then we didn’t.
It wasn’t just Dan Cloutier getting a bad case of the yips. Minney scored a couple of quick ones and we went into full panic mode. The WCE…hell, the entire Canuck team, was never the same. One of the most exciting teams of the era just imploded. I won’t re-hash all the ugly incidents that were part of that implosion…it’s still a pain to think of the guff this team caused. But I say again it was Minney that stole that special something from us. That confidence…that swagger…it just plain disappeared.
And now we have a chance for payback. We wouldn’t actually eliminate the Wild from the playoffs tonight, but we’d hurt them. Badly. And at this point, I’ll take that.
Sure we could take back the division lead (yeah we actually did lead the division this season) and if we hold it we guarantee home ice advantage for at least one round. And after that…well, there’s always upsets and I say again, if our guys get on a playoff roll we will be very hard to beat. But tonight, for me, it’s about revenge.
Great night for the return of the Ripper. Be nice to see Rick adjust the fine tuning knob on guys like Clutterbuck or Koivu. Koivu…the elite point producer. Yep, the head hunter is one of the dirtier players in the league and Wild fans can boo Matty Ohlund all they want tonight. It was Koivu’s cheap head shot that started that whole business. Matty just finished it, that’s all.
And I am blessed with the Minnesota feed on Center Ice tonight. So, every call against the Wild will be a bad one. Every Minney play a great one. Every Canuck play a lucky one.
We are in full road mode tonight as the first ten minutes sees the Wild testing us, but the shots are all coming from the periphery with no second shots. Lou is playing large so far and his glove is looking quick, especially on a wrist shot wired in by that reptile Koivu (apparently the Wild announcers aren’t the only homers tonight). And our boys are hitting back hard as evidenced by Juice smacking Sheppard hard into the side boards. Good to see Kevin hasn’t suffered any after effects from the last game against the Hawks.
The Sundin line is playing with more jump tonight as Kesler keeps pounding his body into the corners, winning puck battles and harassing the Wild defenders. We slowly seem to be getting our edge as all four lines cause some havoc in front of the Wild net. Rypien looks like he hasn’t missed a shift let alone 70 plus games. I’m not the only one who’d like to see this kid get past the trias of Job that he has undergone these last three years.
As the period winds down, Kesler gives Gabby a little shove and he goes down quicker than Maid Marion on Robin Hood. Even the Wild announcer question the call. The Minney PP never threatens but the announcers cough up a lung at both Sedins in the last seconds for perceived infractions. Tied up after one.
We easily kill the opening fifteen seconds and follow up by double pile driving Clutterbuck into the Canuck corner. But a sure Matty Ohlund goal is called off by an obvious Alex Burrows interference play. The Wild announcers are saying that Lou is fighting the puck. Maybe. But he’s also forcing the Wild players to shoot consistently wide while they search for a corner. We limit the Wild to one shot as our PK steps up again.
We aren’t trapping, just playing a very cautious, patient game. Back and forth with both teams getting chances, but not great chances. Clutterbuck continues to run around and it’s actually quite comical to see his reaction to a sly Sedin jab after Clutterbuck’s tried to run guys through the boards all night. Is that allowed, he seems to be thinking?
But every time we hit the Wild they sell it. Bieksa pushes Belanger and it’s like he’s shot out of a cannon at the Ringling Bros. Circus. But Burrows and Kesler combine on a shorty chance and finally the Wild are called for something. Their three PPs have been completely ineffective. We’ll get a minute fifty to display ours.
Some pressure by the Sedins does not translate into an actual shot on goal. But we are forcing the Wild into mistakes. Time for the second unit. Great puck movement leads to Demitra banking one in (off Kesler?) off Johnson. That’s what happens in close, playoff style hockey. We are up by one in a big period.
We get an early flurry from the Sedins but can’t close the deal. Mats Sundin, skating well tonight, draws an interference penalty, but it’s a brief one as Daniel gets his stick up on the next face off. Four on four sees the return to a cautious game, with lots of sticks and bodies in both the passing and the shooting lanes. These teams are masters of the genre.
Shortly after they announce the goal is credited to Demitra, Kesler makes a miscue and Gaborik is left alone in front of Luongo. No miracle save this time as Gabby makes a sweet shot and the game is tied. A rare minus for Big Willie. And this one might energize the boys in Xmas colours. And indeed, the Wild press. But we don’t seem to be in panic mode.
But we don’t get any shots either as we close in on the final seconds of the period. And then on a shift that you think will either end with a goal or a penalty, Sami shoots one over the glass in a bad clearing attempt. The Miney PP has been held at bay tonight and we easily kill off the final 30 seconds. But the penalty extends into OT. The four on three kill is the most difficult in all of hockey.
And it is a shooting gallery with both Big Willie and Big Lou keeping the puck out. Willie is so hobbled that it’s actually a four on two PP. But our PK is stellar tonight.
And big Willie is such a monster that he comes out and foils the Wild on their next scoring chance. But it is a crazy OT as Gaborik is checked off a scoring chance by Henrik and then Daniel bursts back up the ice. And because you can only see what the camera shows you, Daniel dishes a behind the back-between the legs pass to apparently…no one?
But wait, there’s Henrik coming in late and it’s the classic Henrik Sedin slap shot. Okay, I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen Henrik unload the big one. And I don’t think Backstrom has either. Because he still hasn’t moved. Full value for third in the Conference. And…ta-dah…
First in the Division.

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