Fewer boos: Wild delights fans, rallying to beat San Jose 5-3
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ST. PAUL, Minn. - Yes, there were still a few boos ringing inside Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday. With the Minnesota Wild trailing in the third period, and failing to score on a four-minute power play, a few fans got restless, and voiced their displeasure with the home team for the second consecutive game.
And then, just like that, the boo birds were gone. All it took was a trio of third period goals, as the Wild rallied to beat the San Jose Sharks 5-3. Kyle Brodziak had a pair of goals and Brent Burns scored his team-leading 11th of the season as the Wild overcame recent sluggish play at home to move above .500 in their own barn.
It was a sharp contrast to their last St. Paul appearance, when boos rained down on the Wild in a lifeless 4-1 loss to the Red Wings. The cheers were abundant as the Wild stayed close to the powerful Sharks throughout, and took control of the game in the final 15 minutes.
"It's not fun getting booed in your home rink. It's embarrassing, and guys have a lot of pride. When you hear those sorts of things, we definitely deserved it," said Brodziak, who turned in his third two-goal game of the season and has four goals in the past four games. "So tonight was a big step forward for us. We started getting some of the cheers back. When we're going the fans start going and we start feeding off it. So hopefully we'll keep rolling and keep giving them something to cheer about."
It was the first time this season that the Wild has won when trailing after 40 minutes and the second time this season that the Wild has beaten the Sharks. But the rally came at an unexpected juncture. Leading 1-0 via Broziak's first goal early, the Wild surrendered the advantage when San Jose's offense cashed in on a pair of power plays, and a puck that appeared to deflect off a Shark helmet and past Niklas Backstrom. Them Sharks led 3-2 at the end of the second period, and defenseman Marek Zidlicky was out with a shoulder injury after a blindside hit by Sharks winger Jamie McGinn.
When San Jose killed off the double minor penalty assessed to Niclas Wallin for high sticking, it appeared the window of opportunity for a rare comeback had closed tightly for the night. The Wild players, still stinging emotionally from the rain of boos they'd heard recently, had other plans.
"The important thing tonight was we're down by one against a good team going into the third and we really responded," Brodziak said, after he, Burns and Chuck Kobasew scored in the final period. "Guys laid it on the line tonight, and that's what it takes. That's what makes it so much fun."
For the coach, who let his players know at a recent practice that he was tired of their efforts (or lack thereof) leading to derision from the home fans, the key to the win was defense.
"We played a great third period and scored some big goals, but I thought we also defended very well and frustrated them in the neutral zone," Todd Richards said. "(The Sharks) weren't able to get a lot off the rush. They're still going to get their chances because they're a very good team, but I really liked the way our team responded tonight."
They had to like the way the fans - an overflow sellout crowd - responded as well, offering wave up on wave of applause by the time the final horn sounded amid a flurry of late saves by Backstrom. The earlier boos had hurt, but for some, they were a necessary wakeup call to remind the Wild that Minnesotans know hockey, know the difference between a good effort and a mess, and aren't going to be afraid to let the team know what they know.
"They have every right to boo. That just shows that they know the game," said Wild captain Mikko Koivu, who had a goal on Wednesday. "We have the identity of how we should play at home. They know it and we know it and when we're not doing the things we're supposed to, they have every right to show their emotion. I like that. It shows it's the State of Hockey."
The Wild has another chance to produce cheers (or boos) coming on New Year's Eve, when Nashville visits the X.