Powerless: Wild falls 5-1 in Vancouver
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
If anyone was looking for a textbook definition of the difference between playing at home and on the road, consider the past week for the Minnesota Wild. Just three days after spanking the Vancouver Canucks in St. Paul, the Wild was thoroughly spanked on Friday night, losing 5-1 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver.
Most significant in the loss was the total failure of the Wild power play. What had been the best man-advantage unit in the NHL was held without a sniff this time, as the Canucks snuffed all four of the Wild power plays. It was a stark contrast from Tuesday's meeting in St. Paul, when the Wild were dominant for much of the game in a 6-2 win.
"We wanted to make sure that was a one-time thing," Canucks forward Jannik Hansen told the Canucks Radio Network afterward. Hansen and Manny Malhotra assisted on the Canucks first period goal, and sadly for the Wild, Malhotra was just getting warmed up. He scored his first two goals as a Canuck in the second and third periods as Vancouver built a 4-0 lead.
Even the Wild's one silver lining came quickly followed by a dark cloud. Antti Miettinen ruined Vancouver goalie Cory Schneider's bid for a shutout late in the third, snapping a shot off the goaltender's blocker and in after a feed from Guillaume Latendresse. There was very little time or reason to celebrate Miettinen's second goal of the year, as Vancouver's Jeff Tambellini scored on a breakaway just 15 seconds later to re-establish a four-goal lead for the Canucks.
The goaltending match-up was significant, in the contrast between what fans of the Wild and Canucks have gotten used to, with battles between Niklas Backstrom and Roberto Luongo. Both men were on their respective benches Friday night, as Schneider got the win with 23 saves for Vancouver, while Jose Theodore made his first start for the Wild, stopping 30 shots in the loss. It was the first regular season loss for Theodore since last Jan. 12, when he was with the Capitals.
"It was good to be back in the net after not having a training camp or some games," Theodore told the Star Tribune. "It's a tough loss. They came hard. I thought they played a solid game for 60 minutes. Most of the game I felt pretty good, though."
On the injury front there was good and bad news for the Wild on Friday. The Associated Press reported that defenseman Cam Barker missed the game with a groin injury, and was replaced by Clayton Stoner in the lineup. On the flip side of that bad news, it would seem that the full-on return of Pierre-Marc Bouchard to the Wild lineup is getting closer to reality. Bouchard, who missed all but one game last season with lingering concussion problems, participated in the team's morning practice and told AP that he hopes to resume contact next week.
On Friday it was clear from the start that the Canucks were bent on revenge, not only for the Tuesday loss, but from the loss of forward Rick Rypien, suspended for six games by the NHL this week for an altercation with a Wild fan during the game in St. Paul. So after home wins by each team, if there is lingering bad blood in what is becoming the Wild's most intense Northwest Division rivalry, perhaps it will be settled next time. The teams won't face off again until Jan. 16, in St. Paul.