The Vancouver Canucks owned the first and last minutes of Tuesday night’s game at the Xcel Energy Center. For the other 58, it was all Wild.
Despite an illness bug that was squirming its way through the locker room that required an emergency call-up of Colton Gillies from Houston, every Wild regular was in the lineup; and most of them registered points as twelve Wild skaters got their names on the sheet in a 6-2 win over the presumptive Northwest division favorite.
The game had all the earmarks of recent Wild-Canucks contests, right down to the rough stuff. That took center stage in the second period. With the Wild leading 5-1, Vancouver’s Rick Rypien and Brad Staubitz came together in front of the Wild bench. The linesmen stepped in quickly, but Rypien landed a punch while the players were being held back. He was assessed a double-minor for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct penalty. On his way down the tunnel he shoved a fan who was taunting him. Rypien was not tossed from the game, though he did not play at all in the third period. He will likely face a fine and suspension.
The play overshadowed the stellar offensive show put on by the Wild. They were once again stellar on special teams, scoring on all three power plays and killing five of six penalties as well. Only Daniel Sedin’s power play tally with 1:29 remaining in the third period was a blemish on the Wild’s special teams record.
The goal was Sedin’s second of the game, with the first coming just 58 seconds after the opening faceoff. He took a nifty blind feed from brother Henrik, giving Vancouver an early lead.
The Wild took just over five minutes to strike back, as Marek Zidlicky blasted a slap shot over the shoulder of Roberto Luongo on the power play for his first goal of the season. Guillaume Latendresse and Cal Clutterbuck added goals to give the Wild a 3-1 lead at the first intermission.
The Wild spend most of the second period in their own end, but capitalized on their chances to score three more. John Madden, who had thundered a shot off the crossbar on a shorthanded chance in the first period, scored his first goal as a member of the Wild at the 7:54 mark. Andrew Brunette made it 5-1 4 ½ minutes later and Matt Cullen took advantage of Rypien’s penalty with a one-timer from the face-off dot to finish the scoring for the Wild.
Zidlicky finished with a goal and two assists while Cullen, Latendresse, Antti Miettinen and Martin Havlat all finished with two points apiece. Justin Falk picked up the primary assist on Latendresse’s goal for his first career NHL point.
Luongo’s horrible streak at the X continued, as he stopped just 12 of 18 shots before being lifted in the third period in favor of backup Cory Schneider. Luongo is now 3-9-2 all-time in St. Paul and the third straight start in Minnesota in which he was pulled. Niklas Backstrom recorded 25 saves for the Wild.
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