DOWN TWO GAMES TO ONE, the Wild look to even their series with the Blackhawks and head back to Chicago tied at two games apiece.
SUNDAY WAS ONE OF THE most memorable nights in Xcel Energy Center history, with more than 19,000 fans on hand to see the Wild recover from an early 1-0 deficit and get their first win of the series when Jason Zucker scored in overtime for a 3-2 Wild victory. Zucker became one of just a handful of players who scored their first-ever post-season goal in overtime. Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Zach Parise scored in regulation for the Wild, both of them putting backhand shots over the left shoulder of Chicago goalie Corey Crawford.
SOME CREDIT FOR THE WILD’S energetic, physical play on Sunday goes to Stephane Veilleux, who did not play a single regular-season game for the Wild this year, but who was inserted into the lineup for Game 3 and responded with three hits in just under eight minutes of ice time. Also contributing to the physical play was Cal Clutterbuck with a game-high eight hits, and Devin Setoguchi with seven. Picking up his first-ever post-season point was Wild center Kyle Brodziak, who assisted on the Bouchard goal.
INJURY REPORT: Still questionable are Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom and forward Jason Pominville. Both are skating, but it’s unclear if they are ready to play. Mike Rupp, Zenon Konpoka and Clayton Stoner are all nursing injuries as well and their availability is uncertain. To provide depth, the Wild have brought up a number of players from Houston, including Jake Dowell, Matt Dumba, Carson McMillan and Justin Fontaine. At today’s morning skate, Dowell was centering Torey Mitchell and Veilleux on the fourth line.
TRIVIA QUESTION: When he scored the winner on Sunday, Jason Zucker became the fifth player in Wild history to score an overtime goal in the playoffs. Who were the first four? (Answer below.)
AT THIS MORNING’S PRE-GAME skate, Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith, who scored the tying goal late in Sunday’s game, was not on the ice. He flew back to Chicago to be with his wife, who gave birth to a baby boy, and Keith is expected back for tonight’s game. Both forward Dave Bolland and goalie Ray Emery remain out for Chicago, although the team said they might be available for Game 5 on Thursday.
IT’S NOMINATION TIME FOR the NHL’s post-season awards, and finalists for the various awards are being named over the next few days. Today Wild defenseman Ryan Suter was named one of the three finalists for the Norris Trophy, awarded every year to the NHL’s best defenseman. Suter led the NHL in ice time this season, averaging 27:16 per game, a franchise record. He was second among NHL defensemen in assists with 28, and third in points with 32. P.K Subban of Montreal and Kris Letang of Pittsburgh are the other two finalists. The winners are named during the Stanley Cup finals.
SNUBBED IN THE NOMINATIONS was Suter’s defensive partner, Jonas Brodin, who many observers expected to be a finalist for the Calder Trophy, awarded each year to the NHL’s best rookie. Brodin led all NHL rookies in ice time, and was a plus-3 on the season with two goals and 11 points. On Tuesday, nominees for the Masterton Trophy will be named. The Masterton is awarded for “Perseverance and Dedication to Hockey.” The Wild’s Josh Harding is Minnesota’s nominee for the award and seems likely to be named a finalist.
TRIVIA ANSWER: Previous Wild players to score playoff overtime goals were Richard Park (2003 vs. Colorado), Andrew Brunette (2003 vs. Colorado), Keith Carney (2008 vs. Colorado) and Pierre-Marc Bouchard (2008 vs. Colorado). For Carney, it was the last goal in a 16-year career that spanned 1,018 games.
IN OTHER WESTERN CONFERENCE series, the L.A. Kings won at home last night to tie their series with the St. Louis Blues at two games each. Also tied at 2-2 are Anaheim and Detroit, following the Red Wings’ overtime win last night. San Jose leads Vancouver 3-0 and looks to close out that series tonight in San Jose. All four of the Eastern Conference series are at 2-1, with Pittsburgh, Boston, Ottawa and Washington holding the lead.
UP NEXT: Game 5 of the series is set for Thursday night in Chicago, with another 8:30 Central Time start. Game 6 will be Saturday here in St. Paul.