For the second straight game, just when you thought the Wild couldn’t go any lower, the third period rolls around, and with it comes a chance for total redemption.
Admit it, like the little old lady on the motorized cart, you didn’t see this one coming. Jake Muzzin and Jaret Stoll were running Wild players off the ice, one by one, Minnesota wasn’t generating any offense, and when they did, they still had to deal with Jonathan Quick. Worse yet, Drew Doughty stole their beer and paddle-ball thingy, while that sweetest of little old ladies Marian Gaborik stole their copy of Rhode Island Slut (which I read, but strictly for the articles).
So it looked pretty bleak, again, for the Wild. They were down, short on the bench, their backup goalie was a 42-year old sporting goods store owner and Dallas was starting to get closer in the rear-view mirror. Looking ahead at the remaining schedule, and seeing Chicago, Boston, Pittsburgh and St. Louis all looming, you could see the playoff horizon getting further away in the distance. And then the third period started and, well, you take it, Harry:
First of all, this was not supposed to happen. The Kings had won six games in a row, and despite the excellence of the third period on Saturday night in Phoenix, the Wild were still a scuffling team that was still playing with line combinations with 7 games left in the season (I believe the Bruins have been using the same lines since 2008). In addition to that, the Kings simply do not let third period leads slip away. To wit, they had done it once in five years.
I don’t know what has happened before the third period of the last two games. What has turned the passive, non-violent, lets pass the puck in our own zone Minnesota Wild into a hard charging, physical, gritty forechecking team capable of pinning a nasty, veteran group like the Kings in their own end of the ice, and on their own rink, no less? Is it just the desperation of possibly missing the postseason? Was it scratching Dany Heatley? Did Mike Yeo finally lose his top, spouting the riot act in the dressing room while Darryl Sydor stands behind him, staring menacingly into the middle distance while he slowly punches his fist into his open palm? Did they finally realize they were wearing two sets of gloves, due to the fact that they were in the Rockies?* Did they, oh man, look at the fun bags on that hosehound…
Sorry, I got distracted.
In any case, despite losing Nieddereiter and Granlund to the (ahem) “upper-body” injury room, the complexion of the final six games completely changes. If they had lost last night, they would have been just four points ahead of Dallas (the stars also have two games in hand) and facing some must-win scenarios against perhaps the four best teams in the NHL, mentioned above. The end of the season would have probably featured a lot of this:
Instead, they are six point ahead of the Stars, but crucially three ahead in the win column, and while the will need to win probably two of the gauntlet games, the true must win games now come from Minnesota’s other two contests, against Winnipeg and Nashville. A much lighter proposition. Also, the Wild have been presented with a golden opportunity in Chicago on Thursday night. The Blackhawks were already playing without Patrick Kane, and now may have lost Jonathan Toews as well after his collision with Brooks Orpik on Sunday night. I can’t see Toews playing Thursday, especially with Chicago having already wrapped up a playoff spot.
So, all you can say about the two wins in Phoenix and Los Angeles?
And no, I’m not actually excited for the sequel.
*I am fully aware that Los Angeles is nowhere near the Rockies. I simply believe in the accuracy of references.