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Yah hey der State of Hockey legion! Please excuse the Chicago accent that I developed over the last two days here in the town I like to call "the Windy City." Catchy, isn't it? Welcome to a special edition of live in-game commentary coming to you from the press box inside United Center in Chicago, Illinois. As you may or may not know, Chicagoans consider themselves a pretty tough race of people. They like to talk about their big buildings, their cold weather and their 2010 Stanley Cup. But we're catching the city of Chicago in a vulnerable state. Just mention the name "Jay Cutler" and Chicagoans immediately collapse to the ground and curl up in the fetal position. I don't know why.
You almost have to feel for the folks in this town, but not bad enough that you're about to let them feel better about themselves after tonight's contest between their Hawks and our Minnesota Wild. Their misery is going to last at least another day and the big guys at Ditka's restaurant are just going to have to spend another night gorging on eye-talian sausages and suds to drown their sorrows. No disrespect, Chicago. It just has to be done.
It, of course, refers to the performance that Niklas Backstrom
is about to put on in front of this United Center crowd. Backy's goaltending display in Saturday night's loss to San Jose was "otherworldly." I can only assume after watching him warmups tonight that this upcoming performance will be "freaky-deeky."
The Wild is going with the same lineup it has used this entire road trip with Cody Almond
being the only healthy scratch. Guillaume Latendresse
(abdominal), Marek Zidlicky (shoulder) and Marco Scandella
(concussion) are all back home and following their teammates on live in-game commentary. What up, y'all?
To set the fashion stage, I can tell you the Wild will be sporting the road whites for the fourth straight game, which means they have reached all-out stanky level. Luckily, they've got a washing machine and a few gallons of Tide
waiting for them back in St. Paul tomorrow. The Hawks will wear their supremely cool black third jerseys trimmed in red and white with the old school Blackhawk logo on the chest. Both teams are looking fly.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to get mentally prepared for Jim Cornelison's rendition of The Star Spangled Banner, which is without a doubt the best version you will ever hear. To make it even more special, Cornelison will be joined on the ice by his 88-year-old mother, who served in the U.S. Army and has never seen this guy sing. She has been missing out, because he is unbelievable...
! If you ever come to a game here, you better get here before the anthem starts. The entire crowd cheers throughout. It is like no other. Super Bowl organizers, it's not too late to replace whatever American Idol contestant you've booked for the anthem with Mr. Cornelison.
But now, the sideshows are over. Let's do this thing.Period 1
18:13 - MIN 1 - CHI 0 - Ladies and gentlemen, you're newest Wild All-Star, Marty Havlat. He shows All-Star skills on this one after Kyle Brodziak makes a steal at the Chicago blueline and sends a rink wide pass over to Havlat. Marty calmly enters the right faceoff circle and fires a missile of a wrist shot over the glove of Corey Crawford and just underneath the cross bar. Havlat has had a good day.
16:11 - MIN 1 - CHI 1 - Chicago has a few All-Stars of their own that you may have heard of. Three of them hook up on the power play to get this thing squared up again. Patrick Kane gets the puck fron former North Dakota Fighting Sioux Jonathan Toews in the right circle. He has some space to work with and he uses it to send a pass that gets deflected by Brent Burns, right to the stick of former Vermont Catamount, Patrick Sharp. Sharp has an open net, and he doesn't miss those very often. He buries it from a shallow angle.
13:28 - Oh...my...word. I thought I'd seen the best of what Backstrom had to offer in the way of remarkable saves. This one might take the prize. After stopping a shot from in tight on Toews and deflecting it behind the net, Backstrom is run into by Andrew Brunette and he goes down behind the net. Meanwhile, Toews regains possession and throws the puck into the crease where Troy Brouwer gets it all alone. Backstrom is practically out of his crease but dives headfirst and makes an unreal stop.10:36 - MIN 1 - CHI 2 - It appears the Hawks mean business tonight. Once again, Toews gets the puck behind the net and throws another pass to the front. This one hits a stick and bounces high in the air to the other side, and again lands on the stick of Brouwer. This time, he doesn't miss, punching it in from in close. Since the Wild goal, the Hawks have been dominant.
9:07 - Nick Boynton runs hard into Backstrom, knocking the Wild keeper on his rear and dislodging the net. Brad Staubitz visits Boynton in the crease and gives him a jolt, but that's it. He's not about to even things with Boynton going to the box for goaltender interference.
5:52 - The Wild misses a chance here as Dave Bolland comes out of the penalty box, erasing a Wild power play that included 47 seconds of five-on-three power play time. That brings this already raucous crowd to life.
0:00 - The Wild settled things down in the second half of that period, but there's some work to do in the next couple stanzas.Period 2
18:34 - The Wild didn't score on that five-on-three in the first, but the boys did seem to generate some momentum since then. Havlat's line is buzzing around and he and Brodziak nearly connect with a tip that misses wide. 17:29 - MIN 2 - CHI 2 - Congratulations Jared Spurgeon! Fresh off his rookie dinner on Sunday night, he gets his first NHL goal, and it's a biggie. Holding the zone on the left side, he makes a heady play to fire a wrist shot toward the goal. Chuck Kobasew is camped out in front and he sets the perfect screen as Spurgeon's shot squeezes through the pads of Crawford. Grab that puck. It's going into Spurgeon's trophy case, right next to his blue ribbons.
13:44 - Another Hawks All-Star, former Michigan State Spartan Duncan Keith rips a shot through traffic, but somehow Backstrom has a beat on it and snares it with the lobster mitt.
10:09 - This game is going in ebbs and flows through the first 30 minutes. It was all Hawks, then all Wild and now the guys in black are starting to put the pressure on again. Kane gets the puck behind the net and tries to stuff one in on the wraparound, but Backy is quick to get over for the stop and the freeze of the puck.
9:04 - Another Hawks chance as former Wisconsin Badger Jack Skille his left all by his lonesome behind the net while there are all kinds of bodies in the crease. He throws the puck on goal and it bounces all around. Backstrom is out of the crease while about four players are piled up inside it. The refs blow the whistle, and I'm actually looking for a penalty shot to be awarded, but there is no signal.
5:54 - Backstrom is in the zone these days. After Kane makes a sick move in the slot and drops a pass back to Keith, Backy comes way out of his net to cut down the angle and make a huge save on the Norris trophy winner. He also does a stellar job of hanging onto the rebound.
5:54 - I wish I could tell you what just happened on the Kiss Cam that made this crowd roar, but I'd like to keep my job. 3:47 - MIN 3 - CHI 2 - Take that! Just when it looked like the Hawks had taken over, the Wild race down the other way and put on a passing display to retake the lead. Mikko Koivu leads the rush and hands off to Brunette at the blue line. Bruno takes the puck up the right side and sends a perfect feed to the crease where Antti Miettinen snaps out of his slump by punching it in. We all know that when Mittens gets one, more are sure to follow. Look for a big scoring streak from the Finn when we come back from the All-Star break.
0:00 - Two periods in the books, and that was maybe the best second period of the season for the good guys. Get mentally prepared for a ginormous third period on the docket. Period 3
20:00 - They have officially changed the scoring of the Wild's second goal to give credit to Kobasew, who tipped Spurgeon's wrister. Spurgeon still gets his first NHL point with an assist.
15:23 - Brouwer should probably be celebrating a hat trick right now, but again he comes up empty all alone in front. At first he whiffs on the centering pass, but when he's able to kick the puck up to his backhand, Backstrom recovers in time to get the paddle down and then cover up.
13:34 - Backstrom was none too pleased about being run into on an earlier play, so he takes the time to draw an outline of the crease with the blade of his stick in case the zebras forgot where it was.
11:03 - Hot diggity this is getting intense. Cal Clutterbuck
goes down to block a shot and gets in the way of a rocket by Keith. He is visibly shaken on the ice, but while he's down, the puck makes its way to Tomas Kopecky down low and he clanks one off the inside of the far post.9:37 - MIN 4 - CHi 2 - Butchie! I just broke the "no cheering in the press box" rule for the first time in a long time, but this is a huge goal. . But this is an absolutely huge goal. Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Kobasew race ahead on a two-on-one. Bouchard sends a pass over to Chuck, but he misses with a shot just wide. Never fear. The puck bounces around and eventually, Butch picks it up, maneuvers around the front of the net and roofs a backhand over Crawford on the ice.
8:55 - Another great moment here during a break as Cornelison's mom is honored on the Jumbotron and she gets a standing ovation from the fans and both benches. She is covering her open mouth with her hands in awe of the moment. That is an image I'll remember for awhile.
4:33 - No goal! No goal! Whistle blew, folks. Please calm down Chicago. Take your seats. A Kane pass to Toews is knocked between the legs of Backstrom and in, but the refs blow the whistle and immediately wave it off. The entire arena is fuming, as is Kane, who deomonstratively punches the air. The whistle did blow, but definitely should not have. The Wild catches a monstrous break.
4:33 - After a TV timeout, boos continue to rain down along with a chorus of expletives. That's just uncalled for.
1:55 - A little nastiness in the Wild corner. Marty gives Toews a facewash with the glove, and then Toews mixes it up with Clutterbuck. Brodziak and Seabrook nearly come to blows, but the linesman steps between them. Both will get two for roughing.
0:00 - What a win for the good guys! The Wild heads into the break with a monster victory over the Cup champs. Knock knock top eight. We commaaaaaannnnn!