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Good evening State of Hockey legion! Welcome to a special Martin Luther King Day edition of live in-game commentary, right here on Wild.com. Tonight, I'm coming to you live from the Fishing Lodge deep within the bowels of the Xcel Energy Center. After two straight Wild losses while working from the Como Park Palace, I figured I'd better switch it up. Plus, this gives me a chance to be close to radio wizard and new daddy, Kevin Falness, who works the switchboard from the NHL Tonight Studios like nobody's business.
Tonight, Falness and I will be watching your Minnesota Wild pour a whole boatload of salt into the wounds of Dallas sports fans, by pounding the artists formerly knowns as the North Stars into submission. The Wild will be J-Woww and the Stars will be any other female that dares cross her path in a Jersey Shore nightclub that plays house music. I realize it's not really fair to the people in Texas, who are still sour about Brett Favre and the "classless" Vikings throwing a late TD pass to Visanthe Shiancoe with the game already decided, but that's just how it is.
In fact, to show you we're not sorry, Todd Richards is going to put Niklas Backstrom
in the Wild crease tonight. He is coming off a game in which he gave up six goals. That will not happen again. In fact, I'm betting that Richards regrets not yanking Backstrom with a few seconds left on Saturday, because the man doesn't lose after getting pulled. Nevertheless, Dallas skaters are in for a long night.
As for the lineup, Petr Sykora is back, and he's on the top line. He'll be skating with Mikko Koivu
and Andrew Brunette. Robbie Earl and James Sheppard are going to be scratched. Clayton Stoner
(groin), Pierre-Marc Bouchard
(concussion), Brent Burns (concussion) and Chuck Kobasew (knee) are all out of this one with injuries.
As for the unis, the Wild will be going with the snappy, but slightly pungent road whites for this one. The Stars will wear the home blacks trimmed in green, white and gold with "Dallas" written across the chest.
All right, tonight's commentary is for all my peeps in the DirecTV world, who aren't able to get tonight's VERSUS broadcast. As one of our former presidents used to say, "I feel your pain." But, I've got the antidote, a Wild win coming up. Let's do the dang thang.Period 1
18:35 - A much better start tonight than the last two games as Martin Havlat gets an early chance. He emerges from the corner with the puck and moves to the front before throwing a close-range backhand right on that Alex Auld stops.
17:02 - Off a turnover in the Wild zone, Fabian Brunnstrom has a lane to the net but Sherrif Shane Hnidy makes a great play to dive back and knock the puck off Brunnstrom's stick from behind.15:03 - MIN 0 - DAL 1 - Uh oh. Another early deficit has found the Wild as Tom Wandell carries the puck on the left side, and he fires a quick wrist shot high on the blocker side and catches the upper corner. Is it me, or has the Wild given up the first goal quite a bit this season?
13:01 - When did the Stars sign Aaron Voros? Oh...wait. Nevermind. That's Mike Modano. A common mistake.
10:23 - Backstrom has to come up big with a kick save on a shot from the left side by Brian Sutherby, and then he stuffs Jamie Benn's rebound from on the doorstep. Benn takes an extra whack at Backstrom, and that brings in some angry Flying W's, including Derek Boogaard. Boogey is going to get a reputation call on this one and go to the box.
4:32 - Havlat makes another great play in the Dallas zone by redirecting a pass right over to a wide open Kyle Brodziak
. Brodzy makes a nice move to try to get Auld to commit, but the Stars keeper plays it perfectly and puts up a wall along the goal line to keep the puck out.
0:00 - The Wild seemed to settle in after that first goal against, but they didn't get a lot going against Dallas' suffocating trap defense. They'll head to the locker room to figure out a way to chip and chase.Period 2
17:14 - Red hot Guillaume Latendresse
sends a long pass back to the point for a one-timer by Marek Zidlicky. He puts a hard low shot toward the goal that gets deflected, which fools Auld who barely gets a piece of it with the left side of his body. 14:58 - MIN 0 - DAL 2 - It's almost as if Modano has scored a few goals in his career. With the Stars getting their second power play opportunity, Brad Richards gets the puck at the point, fakes a slap shot and sends a perfect pass down to the other side for Modano. The highest-scoring American born player in NHL history wastes no time in roofing a wrister past a sprawling Backstrom.12:18 - MIN 0 - DAL 3 - What is going on? The Wild is looking like the early October version less than a week after looking like Cup contenders. Richards once again sets up a sniper by finding Loui Eriksson from behind the net. Eriksson has enough time to bake some brownies before moving to the backhand and tucking one behind Backstrom. Are there any plans to move the Stars out of the American Airlines Center? Maybe that second planet that the Cowboys built could use a winter tenant.
9:22 - The Wild needs a spark in the worst way and Andrew Ebbett tries to get something going. He gets knocked down behind the net, but he stays with the play and ducks past a Dallas defender to get a wraparound attempt on goal. Auld makes that stop, and Ebbett takes a rap at the rebound but the career backup goaltender is up to the task.6:23 - MIN 0 - DAL 4 - What do you expect from a former UMD Bulldog? Matt Niskanen puts the Stars on the verge of a blowout by getting a pass in the high slot and burying a long shot past Backstrom. Stars players are just finding themselves open too easily, and they are not missing on their chances. Backstrom is going to head to the bench in favor of Josh Harding, who has sparked this team to a four-goal rally before. Time for another one.
4:57 - MIN 1 - DAL 4 - It starts! The Wild finds paydirt on its first power play of the night. Havlat, who has been a playmaking machine as of late, gets the puck at the point and sends a low wrister toward the goal. Former Star Antti Miettinen is camped in front and he puts a perfect tip on this one and thats enough to get it past Auld. You never know.
3:05 - While chasing a puck with Brodziak, Stephane Robidas (who is wearing the full birdcage mask) throws his stick at the puck and sends it over the boards in his own zone. The Wild wants a delay of game call, and they deserve one. The replays show that Brodziak didn't touch the puck, but the referees blow it and keep things at even strength.
0:49.6 - To what to my wondering eyes should appear? It's Josh Harding
pounding his glove on Steve Ott's ear! After Harding robs Ott and then has the puck go off the post, Ott lands on top of Harding and decides to sit there for as long as is humanly possible. This infuriates Harding for good reason, so he starts landing bombs to Ott's head with the waffle glove. Ott starts responding until Nick Schultz comes in and puts the Stars agitator in a bear hug. That's the closest I think we've ever come to a Wild goalie fight. There still has yet to be one with two goalies going at it, although I think I recall Dan Cloutier trying to start one during the 2003 playoffs. Oh, Dan Cloutier. Where are you these days?Period 3
13:29 - An anemic Wild power play comes to an early close as Havlat is forced to trip Neal who is looking at a clean break after causing a turnover in the Dallas zone. Credit Dallas. They aren't giving up an inch of open ice, even on the penalty kill.
9:19 - I'd say Brad Richards (no relation to Todd) has a lock on player of the game tonight. He nearly pads the lead by carrying the puck into the zone, all the way across the slot to the other side and he almost waits out Harding long enough to send one into the short side. Fortunately, he hits the side of the post and the Wild's slim hopes of an enjoyable plane ride home are still alive.7:24 - MIN 2 - DAL 4 - Game on! Buckle up Wild fans. It could be an interesting conclusion...again. Antti Miettinen notches his second of the game by putting another perfect deflection on a pass. This time, Owen Nolan carries up the right side and slides one into the slot for a streaking Mittens. He just puts his stick on it and sends it off the crossbar and in. These goals would be even more fun if they happened earlier in the game.
5:00 - MIN 3 - DAL 4 - This is just silly! Is there any time you can count this Wild team out? The third period warriors cut the lead to one. After a couple glorious chances are thwarted, Miettinen grabs the puck behind the net and finds Koivu at the side. He quickly buries one into the top shelf over a prone Auld. Five minutes. One goal needed. Who gets it?
2:35 - Nolan sends a shot through a screen that Auld never sees, but is able to stop. Two players have whacks at the rebound but the puck skips away.
0:00 - Once again, the furious rally starts too late, and the Wild returns home having dropped all three games on its road trip.