Consider it retribution for all the times Jerome Iginla would ruin the night for Wild fans over all those years the Wild and the Flames met in the old Northwest Division. The Minnesota Wild struck first and last in a tough, gritty battle to spoil Iggy's night as his number was lifted to the rafters of Scotiabank Saddledome with a 4-2 win.
The Calgary Flames might be the top team in the Western Conference, but their only rising to the top as most-hated Wild opponent after the latest bout of Bush league play from an otherwise really skilled and talented team. Minnesota scored first, just around five minutes in. Jordan Greenway and Jason Zucker battled behind the Flames net occupied longtime goaltender Mike Smith. Zucker shed a Flames defender, picked his head up, and sent a backhand feed to Eric Staal who was left alone in the slot.
No idea why the Flames deemed it acceptable to leave a savvy veteran still capable of producing big goals at age 34 alone in the slot against their back-up goalie, but the Wild took advantage of their mix up.
The Flames then controlled play in the Wild zone for much of the rest of the period. It looked like Sam Bennett scored the tying goal when he crashed the net and pushed the loose puck over the goal line. Devan Dubnyk made the initial save, but contact in the crease turned him sideways and made it so he couldn't play his position. The referees felt the same way and on a challenge by Bruce Boudreau, they took the goal off the board.
The teams hit the first intermission with the Wild up by a goal. Minnesota got the early lead, but were far too sloppy in their own end. You could say the Wild were playing with fire with the amount of turnovers in their end and the Flames' ability to capitalize on those mistakes.
That play filtered into the second period. Though the physicality jumped up a bit. After the Wild killed a penalty to start the period Luke Kunin finished was finishing a strong shift when he stepped up to make a hit on Calgary's Garnet Hathaway.
That's when Hathaway stopped short to avoid the on-coming Kunin, the wrapped his arm around Kunin's head and forced it into the dasher by the Wild bench. A vicious play, and one that could cause serious harm. Whether it was intended or not, Hathaway received a match penalty and was ejected from the game. The officials absolutely got the call right on the ice, and we shall see if the league hands down any more supplemental discipline.
If Hathaway is suspended for any amount of time, it'll be the third time this season a Flames player will have been suspended for their antics on the ice. The first was when Mark Giordano stuck out his knee to trip up Mikko Koivu. Then in that same game after Matt Dumba payed a clean, hard open ice hit on Mikael Backlund, Ryan Lomberg left the bench on a legal line change to enact revenge on Dumba.
We all know the story. Dumba was injured in a fight 9 days later when the two teams met in St. Paul because the Flames took exception to the legal, unpenalized hit.
The Wild didn't do much on the major power play, and Kevin Fiala negated almost all of the final 2:23 seconds of it with a holding penalty. In the abbreviated power play, Sean Monahan tied the game at a goal apiece. Actually, the goal came immediately after the power play expired, but Fiala wasn't anywhere close to being back into the play.
Things got physical for the rest of the period as the Wild held on for dear life.
As much as the Flames took it to the Wild in the first 40 minutes, the Wild came out for the third period with a much better plan to keep the pressure on the Flames. Finally, a gift in the form of goals was provided by Mike Smith. Normally a pretty solid puck playing goaltender, Smith was pressured behind the net by Joel Eriksson Ek. Eriksson Ek stayed with the play and poked the puck loose to former Bemidji State Beaver Matt Read who then banked the puck off a Flames skate and into the gaping net. It was Read's first goal with the Wild and first goal since March 20th of last year.
With the Flames looking to pressure, Greenway got loose on a 2-on-1 with Pontus Aberg. Aberg drive the net and Greenway dropped the puck to Ryan Suter who was the late trailer. Suter went low to the glove side to make it a 3-1 game.
The next time Smith either made a save or made a play out of his crease, the "'C' of Red" gave him a Bronx cheer.
It was Greenway's second assist of the night. Aberg won't be on the score sheet, but by driving to the net, it helped open up the ice for Suter to come in late with plenty of room to work.
Travis Hamonic ripped a slapped over the blocker of Dubnyk to get the score to within one goal with just over five minutes remaining. Matt Tkachuk took some grief from the Wild after the goal when he drifted into Dubnyk's crease well after the puck was in the net and wanted to give a nudge here and there. Tkachuk is a pest. A player you'd live to have on your team, but just about any other team hates him. He almost needs to be punked down a bit, but this may just be who Tkachuk is and he only thrives off that kind of attention.
By the way, Luke Kunin did come back to the bench, and appeared unscathed. After the game he wouldn't comment about the hit. He avoided having his face and teeth turned into mush.
With the Flames looking for the tying goal, Mike Smith provided another gift. Ryan Donato who's been on a points tear since joining the Wild five games ago, crossed the blue line on a standard 2-on-2 rush. Instead of safely dumping the puck to the corner, Donato wound up for a slap shot in the slot and beat Smith through the five hole. It was a hard shot along the ice that just beat Smith to the ice. It was Donato's 7th point in 5 games. If he somehow finds away to get on the score sheet in the next game, he will tie the late Pavol Demitra for most games in a point streak to start their career with the Wild.
Minnesota held on to the final buzzer, putting away the Flames with an incredibly tough, gritty win. The Vets helped in crunch time, while the young kids have ready stepped up to get the win.
Next, Mikael Granlund and the Nashville Predators come to St. Paul. The Preds have been in St. Paul waiting for the Wild to return. With the game ending at midnight local central time, the Wild will have to face the Predators in the second game of a back-to-back less than 19 hours after the win in Calgary. As for who's in net, Boudreau wasn't sure because, "not too many goalies play in double-headers in the NHL these days."