Zidlicky in, Koivu out, as Wild stomps Ducks 5-1
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
ST. PAUL, Minn. - Some nights, things just click.
Some nights, all of the frustration and the losing streaks and the inability to get a goal no matter how hard one tries fades away. Some nights the red light is flashing behind the opposing goalie and the sellout crowd is screaming and points are acquired and teams climb a little bit closer to being a playoff entrant.
For the Minnesota Wild, Friday was one of those nights.
After two consecutive frustrating games, where it managed just two goals, the Wild emphatically ended that streak, pouncing on Anaheim Ducks backup goalie Curtis McElhinney in a 5-1 win.
Although even amid all of those silver linings, the Wild managed to find a dark cloud. After scoring his team's first goal on a gutty "dig the puck out of the corner, fight off a defender, cut to the net, shoot, get your own rebound and score" play, Wild captain Mikko Koivu blocked a shot by Ducks center Todd Marchant and was lost for the rest of the game with a hand injury.
"I saw right away when he blocked that shot that something happened, and you don't want to see that happen," Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom said. Backstrom had 29 saves in the win and has allowed just eight goals in his last six starts. "It's part of the game, injuries, and you have to try to live with it and survive. Everyone stepped up. It's not just one player that can fill his spot. Everyone on the ice has to be better."
The severity of the ailment, and when Koivu might return to the lineup, is unknown.
"To lose a guy like we did during the game, everyone's got to step up a little bit and we did," said Kyle Brodziak, who scored a goal and set up a Matt Cullen breakaway that turned out to be the game-winner. "He's a huge player on our team and it's a big void when he's not in there."
Filling that void, at least partially, with the feel-good story of the night, was winger Eric Nystrom, who finally score a goal with a goalie in the net for the Wild, and got his first career power play tally in the second period to give the Wild a 3-1 lead. For Nystrom, the frustration about his inability to score had been building, so to finally see the red light illuminated was a huge relief.
"I actually think it deflected up, so I actually got a bounce for once. That felt good," said Nystrom, sporting an ear-to-ear grin. "Maybe it's just me personally, but I felt a lot of guilt like I wasn't helping the team. That weighs on your shoulders. It's only two goals but to chip in and help tonight feels really good."
The Wild's coach was impressed not just by Nystrom's chipping in, but by the contributions from the other 19 guys once Koivu was forced to leave.
"It was a gutsy performance by the guys, short-handed and missing your captain for a majority of the game," said coach Todd Richards. "You're looking for guys to step up because Mikko plays in every situation, and we got that from guys."
On the positive side of the injury equation, defenseman Marek Zidlicky returned to the ice for the first time since suffering a shoulder injury on Dec. 29 versus the Sharks. He needed just 67 seconds to show up on the score sheet, when he was whistled for interference the first time he threw a check.
"It was great having Zid back on the point," Richards said. "He showed us some things he can do like making that good first pass. His first shift out he took a penalty, so he wasn't going to be shy about how he plays the game."
The Wild will hold its first-ever outdoor practice on Saturday morning in Roseville, then play again on Sunday morning, in a nationally-televised home game versus the Red Wings.