Home ice is (finally) nice: Wild beats Calgary 4-1
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ST. PAUL, Minn. - Most of the Minnesota sports-loving crowd had its eyes firmly focused on some folks playing outdoors on an icy sheet of field turf on Monday. But the one team that plays its games on an actual sheet of ice had a fun time in the great indoors.
For the second time in three nights, the Minnesota Wild beat the Calgary Flames, and in the process began to reclaim some of the home ice advantage that has been so lacking recently. The 4-1 win at Xcel Energy Center was just the second home victory for the Wild in the past seven games in St. Paul.
The most glaring example of the Wild's home woes had been the power play, which entered the night still ranked fifth in the NHL despite the fact that the team had not scored at home with a man-advantage since Nov. 2. All of that changed in the third period, when Martin Havlat and John Madden scored power play goals less than four minutes apart to break open a 1-1 game.
"Looking at the way we played the third, it was a game to go out and get, and we went out and got it," said Wild coach Todd Richards.
The final period outburst came after a second period in which the Wild looked frankly uninterested in playing much hockey. A 1-0 lead disappeared when the Wild was out-shot 13-3, and when Calgary's Jarome Iginla did what he does best - create offense against the Wild. Iginla set up Olli Jokinen's second period goal, which gives Iginla at least one point in 36 of the 60 games he's played against the Wild.
But the Wild survived the period with a tie, and won it late when the power play suddenly came to life late in the game.
"We out-shot them in the last 120 minutes. Not just tonight, but the night before too," said Jokinen, referencing the Wild's 3-1 win in Calgary on Saturday night. "They play good defensive hockey and they stayed pretty patient in these last two games."
That was especially true of Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom, who stopped all but one of the 35 shots he faced, improving to 7-1-1 in his last nine decisions versus the Flames.
After roughly three weeks of messy hockey, the Wild has now won four of six, is selling tickets (Monday's crowd was officially a sellout, although there were notable snow-related no-shows) and is making a little bit of noise in the division.