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Highty ho State of Hockey legion! Welcome to a back-to-back edition of in-game commentary coming to you live from the press box at BankAtlantic Center, more commonly known as "the house that Mike Russo built." That's right, Star Tribune beat writer Mike Russo started his career here, if you weren't aware of that already. He's sitting down to my left and he is in his element right now. He looks so happy that I wouldn't be surprised if he even wrote a positive story about your Minnesota Wild for tomorrow's fish wrap.
Of course, I only kid Mr. Russo. I'm pretty sure he's written a positive story about the Wild. I just can't think of one off the top. But it won't be long before he's writing a "gamer" full of superlatives in a couple hours after the Wild mops the Florida ice with the Panthers.
He's going to be especially complementary of Jose Theodore, who will be getting his third start of the year tonight. The southpaw netminder is currently in my line of vision on the ice and his pregame warmup performance has been nothing short of exquisite. One can only assume that this will translate into a brilliant goaltending performance, but if I can be honest, I have to make an admission. For the first time ever, I'm hoping that the opposing team scores one goal tonight. I've heard a rumor that when the Panthers score a goal, they litter the ice with rubber rats, and I've got a whole bucket full next to me filled with rubber rats that I've been trying to get rid of. I can't think of a better place. So, after the Wild build up an 8-0 third period lead, I'm hoping former UMD Bulldog Jason Garrison lights the lamp, even though he's not playing.
Do you want to know who is
playing? Why, it's none other than Marco Scandella
, who is going to make his NHL debut tonight. The prized defenseman was recalled from the Houston Aeros today, and Head Coach Todd Richards said he wants him to play a steady, sound game. To me, I interpret that as an expected hat trick for the rookie. With Scandella in the lineup, Justin Falk
comes out as the only healthy scratch. Of course, Guillaume Latendresse
, Chuck Kobasew and Marek Zidlicky are all back home in Minny with lower body injuries, and I know they're reading live in-game commentary on their computers. Pierre-Marc Bouchard
will probably just read it over my shoulder up here in the press box.
I know you really want to know about the fashion choices of tonight's combatants, so here you go. For the third straight game, the Wild are going with the road whites. The Panthers are wearing their third jerseys, which are navy, trimmed in baby blue and white with the roaring cougar head on the chest.
That does it for the pomp and circumstance. It's apparently Hockey Night in South Florida, so let's do this.Period 1
19:22 - Radek Dvorak was out there for the first shift of the night, meaning he has just set the record for games played in a Panther uniform at 574. They announce it after the first whistle and the crowd gives him a nice ovation as he gives a quick wave while on the Jumbotron.
15:42 - The guys in white have yet to mount any semblance of an early rush. Right now, they are "weathering the storm" as the Panthers buzz around Wild zone.13:07 - MIN 0 - FLA 1 - There's the Panthers first goal, but there are no rats on the ice. What a bust! Now I would just assume the Panthers never score again. They get way too many chances after a turnover at the Wild blueline causes an oddman rush. Theodore comes up with a couple huge saves, but nobody can clear the rebounds and finally former Yale Bulldog Chris Higgins punches it in from the left side.
12:14 - MIN 0 - FLA 2 - Have the Panthers lost a game this year? Right now, they look like hockey's version of the Harlem Globetrotters. They race out of their zone with some quick passes and Rostislav Olesz gets the puck on the left side. He blows by everybody and cuts to the net before making a last second dish over to former Northern Michigan Wildcat Mike Santorelli who buries it past a helpless Theodore. This is not the way to erase the painful memory of last night's game.
9:31 - I'm pretty sure this is completely against the rules. Cal Clutterbuck
skates up the right side and fires a low wrist shot that squirts through the pads of Tomas Vokoun. The puck is gliding right toward the goal line as Casey Wellman and Dennis Wideman slide into the goal. Just as the puck is about to cross the line, Wideman puts his glove on the puck and throws it out of there. At the very least, it should be a penalty shot. But instead, it's nothing. They review the play, wave off the goal and there is no penalty shot. That's about as bad as it gets.
8:03 - With the Wild on the power play, Higgins nearly bags a shorty to build an even bigger deficit. He jukes around Greg Zanon before making a quick backhand shot that is snuffed out by Theodore.
4:40 - Just as he gloves a long shot from the point, Steve Bernier barrels into Theodore, knocking him off kilter. Kyle Brodziak
is right there, and he doesn't take kindly to his goalie getting hit. He puts Bernier in a headlock and roughs him up a bit. Everybody gathers around the net, and Brad Staubitz and Bryan McCabe get into it a bit as well. But the only penalty of this incident is going to Bernier.3:02 - MIN 1 - FLA 2 - There's no throwing this one out of the net. Clutter gets what should be his second goal of the night, and he gets it on the power play. Nick Schultz rifles a shot from the point, and it gets through to Vokoun, who gives up a delicious rebound. Clutter is standing right there about 10 feet in front of the net and he whacks at the loose puck, putting it by Vokoun. Cal is now tied for the team lead in goals with five along with fellow moustache connosieur, Brent Burns.
0:00 - That's going to do it for the first. The Wild got some life in the last 10 minutes, and I only expect that to continue into the final 40.Period 2
20:00 - I'm battling through a very slow internet connection, so bear with me if you will.
14:14 - Since there's not a lot going on at this stage, I'll give my take on the atmosphere here. First off, the building feels hughe. It seems like there are seats everywhere you look. And the crowd is fairly large as well. Sure, there are quite a few empty seats, but a lot more people than I expected. And, they get pretty loud in here as well. The last thing is that everything seems sponsored. The even have ads in the urinals, and I half expect to hear an offsides call brought to you by Party City.
13:07 - Cats defenseman Bryan Allen gains the Wild zone and pulls up at the top of the circle to fire a rocket slap shot on goal. This one is going right for the beautifully painted Theodore mask before he quickly gets his glove up to knock it away, partly in self defense.
11:54 - Scandella finds himself as the only man back as the Panthers race the other way on a three-on-one. The puck is dropped back to Stephen Weiss, who wrists a missile over a sliding Scandella, but not past the waffle mitt of Theodore, who makes his biggest stop of the night thus far.
7:13 - The Wild very nearly tie this thing up on an odd man rush between Mikko Koivu
and...Greg Zanon???? Koivu makes a nice dish to his left and Zanon, flying up the wing, puts a quick shot toward the far side and misses the post by inches.
6:40 - Once again, Theodore keeps this thing close. On a delayed penalty, he gets the left leg down to stop a blast from the point. The rebound pops right to former Michigan State Spartan David Booth in front, and he puts a shot right back on goal, but again, Theodore flashes the leg leather out there and denies him stone cold.
3:28 - Jose is making these kick saves look routine, but these shots are bringing heat. Once again, he flicks the left leg out to stop a laser from the slot by Bernier. He's easily the Wild MVP thus far tonight. Period 3
17:51 - Oh I would have paid money if Matt Cullen
could have found a way to finish this play with a goal. At the top of the Panther zone, he makes one of the prettiest 360 spin moves you'll ever see to get around Keaton Ellerby. He gets right in on Vokoun, but the Panthers netminder is waiting for him and sticks the puck away before he can tuck it in.
17:11 - Higgins, who has been dynamic tonight, has a golden chance here to pad the Florida lead. Alone with the puck in the slot and Theodore well out of position, all he has to do is throw a wrist shot into a yawning cage, but he clanks it off the near post, and the Wild still has plenty of life.
15:13 - Wellman has been very good tonight, but he is just completely snakebit at this point. With four skaters aside, Marty Havlat leads the charge into the Panther zone. He sauces a pretty backhand pass over to Wellman who has a step on the D, but he pokes his attempt just inches wide. The dam is going to break here any minute for the good guys.
11:06 - This place has come alive during a TV timeout when the dance version of "Cotton Eyed Joe" starts blaring and a Panther jersey-wearing cowboy starts dancing like a madman in the aisles. Highly entertaining.
9:18 - I thought this was it. The Panthers gaffe it up in their own end and put the puck right on Havlat's stick in the slot. Vokoun is out of position, but Havlat doesn't get a shot off right away, and when he makes a move, he loses control of the puck.
7:28 - A Florida pass toward the slot hits a skate and bounces right to Dvorak bearing down in the slot. He fires one right on, but again Theodore stays big in the net and keeps it out with the chest protector.
4:06 - The Cats catch the Wild on a bad line change, and Cory Stillman has all kinds of room to carry the puck in on the left side. But Theodore challenges him and gives him nothing to shoot at. He tries to put a move on him and tuck one in from the side of the net, but there is nothing doing over there. Theodore deserves a tying goal from his mates here in the next four minutes.
1:40 - Wild is going with four forwards out there right now, with Havlat at one of the points. Antti Miettinen gains the Panther zone and rips a shot from the right circle, but Vokoun calmly gloves it as time becomes an enemy of the good guys.
0:00 - The luck isn't there in Florida tonight, and the blown call on the Clutterbuck shot in the first period comes back to haunt the Wild. Tempers are flaring after the buzzer, but it cools pretty quickly. Although, Steve Bernier remains on all fours on the ice with blood dripping down from his face. He gets helped off by his team, who have crowded around. An obviously frustrated Wild team will look to take out their anger on the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday to close out this road trip.