Furious Wild Rally Falls Short

Marc Elliott

BIG SANDY…  A most indifferent type of season for the Minnesota Wild has come to an end. In spite of a mucho Grande’ rally in the 3rd period, the boys came up short and as the clock ticked down, many Wild hearts across the State of Hockey and at the Xcel Energy Center sank and that very empty feeling that often accompanies that had set in. The Wild were down 4-0 after two periods and ended up losing the game 5-4 and the series 4 games to 2. Did the club deserve to go farther in the Stanley Cup tourney or was this a fitting end to a mess of a season? It’s hard to say. Part of me is saying yes, the team should have won this game and headed back to Dallas for a game “seven heaven”, another part is feeling like the existence of a “Hockey God” has been reaffirmed.

You can believe that the Wild had momentum on their side after taking an OT tilt in Dallas on Friday eve, with the Captain Mikko Koivu getting the tying goal late in the 3rd period and then getting the game winner on a deflection of a Ryan Suter shot from inside of the point. This made the series 3 games to 2 with the Northstars still in the series lead. After games one thru four, you would have not thought this to be possible. The team was non-existent in G1, losing 4-0 in a game where the effort seemed so lackadaisical that post game fan angst was running very high. G2 brought a closer contest but still a 2-1 loss heading home to the ‘X’. This was the game that featured the fluky tally by the epi-pest Antoine Roussel. As much as I didn’t like the goal, I could not find reason for the officials, game or replay, to call it a non-score. Hockey God moment one.

But then in the 3rd the Wild let Jamie Benn get lose, bring it all the way in on Devan Dubynyk and tuck it in for a 2-0 lead.  The Wild made it 2-1 on a Marco Scandella PP goal later in the frame but that was it. The Hockey God’s had ruled for the Northstars. After spotting the Northstars a 2-0 lead in G3 on two Patrick Sharp scores, the Wild fought back earning a 4-2 lead and eventually winning 5-3. Dallas came back in G4 with a 3-2 win in a game that saw the Wild lead twice at 1-0 and 2-1 with all scoring coming in the 2nd period. Dallas was headed home with a 3-1 series lead and no reason to think that G5 wasn’t going to be the end of the series.

To the Wild’s credit they showed up and played a hard playoff road game and came away with the OT win to get the series to 3-2 and were also headed home to a favorable environment. This was a game though where you could argue the Wild had no business winning. They were out-shot 41-24, lost the faceoff battle 44-33 and were out-hit 35-21. When those factors aren’t in your favor you usually lose. Unless this particular stat is in your favor; the Wild blocked shots 34-14. The bottom line is that Dubnyk put up a huge game to keep the series alive. Hockey God moment number 2.

Game 6, a Sunday afternoon National TV game being played in a city still reeling from the sudden passing of a musical genius son. I got a text one hour and twenty minutes before game time from my 12 year old great nephew Mohawk Marschel “I am going to the game”! Awesome! Bring them some good luck! With the arena bathed in Purple and after a moment of silence for our own musical icon, the world renowned Prince, the puck was dropped. For the short of the long, the Northstars had a 4-0 lead after 2 frames. There was nothing remarkable about the stats, they wouldn’t have led you to think it was a lopsided tilt. But it was.

Then the 3rd period happened. Jared Spurgeon scored a PP goal at the 3:48 mark. The Wild’s Jonas Brodin tallied 16 seconds later. (2 fastest playoff goals in club history) The collective blood pressure and energy in the building had just risen 1 billion times. Then the Wild tallied again at 8:39 and all bets were off. 4-3 with lots of time on the clock. After one of the most furious rallies I have seen in all my years of watching this grand sport, Hockey God moment 3 with Jason Zucker not scoring on a wide open net, then the potential dagger on Hockey God moment 4, an Alex Goligoski goal less then 2 minutes later, put into the net by Dubnyk himself, to go back up 2 goals. Then the enigmatic Jason Pominville scored his 4th of the series and with 4:47 left on the clock it was a one goal game once again. At this point, between the fans and the team you probably could have filled a swimming pool with perspiration. It was that intense.

The Wild turned up the O-zone pressure considerably and with less then 34 seconds left it appeared as if Nino Niederreitter had tied the game. The play went to Toronto for review and with the puck actually on edge, was ruled to not have fully crossed the line, no goal. Hockey God moment 5. The clock ticked down, the game was over, hands were shook and that was that. The Wild’s rollercoaster of a season had just had the plug yanked from the wall socket.

Do you believe in karma? Is there really a Hockey God? Yes and yes. I have a strong inner feeling regarding both of these things. And no matter the quality of a roster or lack thereof, I feel that those things have to be on your side more often then not to enable you to go as far as you can. They sure can’t hurt. And after a coach firing, players locked in a power struggle with that coach and each other, was the solar system aligned for the Wild to have some playoff success? We got our answer yesterday, and yes, there is a Hockey God. Mohawks post game text? Loud, very loud….. PEACE