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What is up State of Hockey legion? Welcome to yet another edition of live in-game commentary presented by the aviation experts at Sun Country Airlines. I am coming to you live from a frigid cold press box inside Pepsi (the lesser cola) Center. It's alwasy nice to come to Denver, or at least it was in the past. But nowadays, people don't shake hands when they greet you here. They get down on one knee and put a fist to their forehead. In a sense, I like it because I'm avoiding germs at the height of flu season. But I've scraped my left knee raw and I've got a big hole in my suit pants.
Nevertheless, I press on. And really, pressing on is the only option because tonight's game between your Minnesota Wild and the Colorado Dweebs (also known as the Avalanche) is too important to let anything bother me. It's go time tonight. The Wild are going to take back the eighth spot in the Western Conference and then enjoy some "me" time over the next six days. And of course, Nick Johnson
is headed to Ottawa for All-Star Weekend, because when you're invited to participate and you're not injured, it's usually a good idea to attend All-Star Weekend.
One guy who's been there, done that at the All-Star Game is Niklas Backstrom
. The unflappable Finn is about to put on an All-World caliber performance tonight against a team he's beaten 18 times in his career. Tonight, he posts lucky number 19, and you can take that prediction to the bank.
Other than Backstrom taking over the crease, the Wild lineup is going to remain the same as it was on Saturday for that beatdown against the Stars. Mikko Koivu
(upper body), Guillaume Latendresse
(concussion), Pierre-Marc Bouchard
(concussion) and Jarod Palmer
(concussion) are out with injuries. Mike Lundin
, Brad Staubitz and Marek Zidlicky are going to be the healthy scratches.
As is customary in other states and provinces, the Wild will wear their white sweaters for tonight's contest. The Avs will wear the home burgundies trimmed in blue, black and white with the snowy "A" on the chest.
The anthem is over, and now it's time to buckle down. Let's to this, y'all.Period 1
18:13 - Whoa. Ol' Chuck Kobasew gains the zone and fires off a hard wrister from the high slot. Backstrom lets it go past and the puck clips the cross bar.
16:37 - Backstrom comes up with a huge save from his rump to take one away from former Denver University Pioneer Paul Stastny. It looks like Stastny has a whole mess of net to shoot at but Backstorm denies him, and Stastny puts the rebound off the side of the net. 15:23 - MIN 0 - COL 1 - That's about as good a backhand as you're going to see, but the problem is it comes off the stick of former Dartmouth Big Green TJ Galiardi. He gets some good speed going into the Wild zone and from the lower right faceoff circle, he roofs a backhand on the short side that eludes Backstrom's glove and sneaks under the cross bar.
13:41 - Believe it or not, that isn't Cody McLeod driving Dany Heatley
face first into the boards from behind. It's actually prized rookie Gabriel Landeskog, who is then confronted by Johnson. Landeskog is going to the box, but it's only for two minutes.
13:22 - We're quickly at four-on-four as Devin Setoguchi
is called for interference. He is not pleased about the call and he slams the penalty box door shut in frustration.
11:47 - Cal Clutterbuck
leads a two-on-one with Kyle Brodziak
on his right. Clutterbuck has his shot blocked while Brodziak crashes the net. Justin Falk
is the first to get the puck and he throws a shot on net, but Giguere is able to get his arm on it despite having been knocked to the ground.9:20 - MIN 1 - COL 1 - Falker! Yes, the Minnesota Wild has a power play goal, and it's off the stick of one Justin Falk. The big defenseman pinches in and just picks his spot with a wrist shot, just like goal scorers tend to do. That is the first career NHL goal for the man they call "Juicer" and it marks the second consecutive game that a Wild player scores his first NHL goal.
7:06 - Clutterbuck, the usual hitter, becomes the hitee when former Minnesota Gopher Erik Johnson stands him up along the left boards and plants him to the ice with a big check. 3:45 - MIN 2 - COL 1 - Dany Heatley folks! And let's not forget about Brodziak either. It's Brodzy that has a partial break up the right side and has is shot from in tight stopped by Jean-Sebastien Giguere. But the grinder keeps going and is the first to get to it before flipping a pass to the front where Heatley is following up the play. The Heater roofs one over Giguere's blocker and just like that, the Wild has the lead.
1:24 - Right before the puck is dropped for a faceoff in the Wild zone, Heatley lines up next to Landeskog and delivers a slash across the rookie's stick. Nothing vicious, but definitely a message sent that he did not like the hit from earlier in the game.
0:00 - That's a solid start to this one, folks. When you want to snap an 11-game road skid, putting up a 2-1 lead is a good way to accomplish that. There's more where that came from after a brief intermission.Period 215:14 - MIN 2 - COL 2 - Ol' Chuck Kobasew is haunting his old team. But it comes after a shallow angle wrist shot by former New Hampshire Wildcat Daniel Winnik somehow squeaks through the padding of Backstrom and lays inches from the goal line. All the former Boston College Eagle has to do is tap it in and we've got a tie game.
13:02 - Falk drives Winnik into the boards from behind, and that's not going to sit well with the Avs. Cody McLeod, who is only okay with hits from behind if it's him doing the hitting, jumps in to fight Falk. Falk is ready to go and he unloads a flurry of punches on McLeod. The surprising thing here is that Falk is only getting five for fighting, and the Wild will actually get a power play out of this. Even I don't agree with this one.
9:41 - The bad blood is starting to boil. After a whistle, Ryan Wilson delivers a shot to Nate Prosser
, who doesn't like it, and he doesn't stand down.
7:04 - Heatley makes a nifty pass from behind his own net to put one on Jed Ortmeyer
's tape. Ortmeyer connects, but Giguere comes up with a big pad stop.
5:40 - The Avs turn the puck over in their own zone and the puck pops right to Carson McMillan
who has a clear shot from about 10 feet away. He rifles a snap shot but Giguere swallows it up in his enormous chest protector.
3:12 - While racing for the puck in the Colorado corner, Ortmeyer and Kyle Quincey line each other up and the result is a violent collision with both going hard into the boards.
2:10 - Setoguchi fires a wrister that Giguere stabs out of the air with his lobster mitt. Clutterbuck is driving to the net but he does a good job of leaping out of the way so as not to hit the Avs keeper. There are some players who would keep driving into the goalie, but yet Clutterbuck still has the reputation of being "dirty" by some around the League.
0:00 - We're down to 20 minutes left in this one. The Wild has had the better of the play, but they'll need to carry that over into the decisive third period.Period 3
18:49 - Brodziak puts a heavy shot up high on Giguere from the slot. The puck hits him in the shoulder and then drops down to his side unbeknownst to him. Johnson and Clutterbuck both dive in there to try and jam it in, but the puck trickles just wide of the cage.
14:10 - Avs power play and Landeskog makes a pretty spin move behind the net to get a pass to the front for Stastny, but Backstrom comes up huge by sticking the right leg pillow out and deflecting it away.12:16 - MIN 3 - COL 2 - How 'bout that Wild fans? Right out of the penalty box, Carson McMillan strips the puck off Shane O'Brien's stick in the neutral zone. That starts a two-on-oh the other way, but McMillan is doing this one himself. He makes one little juke and then calmly slides the backhand between Giguere's legs for a mammoth goal. A good night for a couple guys to score their first goals of the season.
6:00 - Backstrom seems to have shaken off the second period goal. He's coming up with some big saves here in the third, including a nice snare of a Kobasew shot off the draw. I'm talking about Kobasew tonight more than I did when he was a Wild player.
4:08 - A mad scramble at the side of Backstrom's net goes on and on and on like Taio Cruz. Bodies are down all over the place while former Boston University Terrier David Van der Gulik tries to jam away, but he's not able to get it past the multitude of limbs blocking the entrance to the goal.
1:11 - Giguere is trying to get off for the extra attacker but the Wild won't let him.
0:55.4 - There goes Giguere.
0:07.8 - After Backstrom turns away several shots, the Wild sends the puck all the way down for an icing.
0:00 - The Wild will head into the All-Star break in eighth place folks. A big win in Denver snaps the road losing streak.