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Bon soir State of Hockey legion! Welcome to live in-game commentary from beautiful Montreal, Quebec, Canada, where they speak a whole 'nother language. In the 24 hours that I've been here, I've picked up "bon soir" and that's pretty much it. For some reason, many people here in Montreal automatically address me in English, which probably means I just emanate "ugly American."
Tonight marks the return of Guillaume Latendresse
to Montreal where he played for parts of four seasons. G-Lat was surrounded by media types following today's morning skate, but I had no clue what he was saying because most of it was in French. I'm guessing he guaranteed a Wild victory tonight against the Habs, solely because he knew who was starting in goal for his new team tonight.
That person is Niklas Backstrom
, who has given up two goals over his last three starts. If he were addressing Montreal fans, Jerry Seinfeld might say, "good luck with all that."
As for who is not playing, you can scratch John Scott from your homemade roster, or the one you printed off from your favorite website, Wild.com. Andrew Ebbett, who is with the team on this trip, will not play as he gets a couple more days to come back from a concussion. Four Wild players are at home including Owen Nolan (lower body), Pierre-Marc Bouchard
(concussion), Brent Burns (concussion) and Petr Sykora (concussion). They are no doubt following their teammates here on live in-game commentary.
The French know fashion, so let's gab over that for awhile. The Wild will wear their freshly laundered road whites for this contest. The Habs will go with the classic home reds trimmed in blue and white with the Ch on the chest.
I can already tell this is going to be an experience unlike many in the NHL. As part of the pregame festivities, every single name of every player that has worn a Canadien uniform is scrolled across the rink along with highlights of several being shown on the enormous jumbotron above the ice rink. Then, we get a stirring rendition of the national anthem, sung half in French, and half in English. The puck hasn't dropped, but this crowd is already jumping. Let's get to it.Period 1
18:02 - The acoustics in this building are spectacular, which makes sense in a place called Bell Centre. Every skate stride and puck hitting a stick is clear to the ear even from way up here in the Press Gondola. There must be a series of microphones all around the rink surface. 17:19 - MIN 1 - MTL 0 - Merci Robbie Earl! The former Badger continues to impress as he gets the good guys up early for a change. Earl steals the puck in the neutral zone and then zips up the right wing. He picks his spot and fires a perfect wrister that gets through Carey Price. Right after the puck goes in, Earl gets drilled by the hip of Ryan O'Byrne and goes flying backward into the boards, but he appears to be okay after scoring his third "but" of the year.
16:34 - MIN 1 - MTL 1 - The Wild hasn't liked playing with an early lead all season, so no worries because the Habs tie it up less than a minute later. Sergei Kostitsyn has some room on the right side and after some quick little dangles, he makes a move and roofs a backhand just under the crossbar for a beautiful goal. U2's "Vertigo" starts blasting over the loud speakers, which is making me think about TCG Bank stadium in June.
11:58 - Backstrom is forced to come up big as the pride of Alaska Scott Gomez wreaks all kinds of havoc in front and causes Backstrom to have to go down into the splits to make a big stop.
10:43 - The pace is back and forth as the teams trade scoring chances. Antti Miettinen looks harmless as he gets the puck in the high right circle, but his rising wrist shot has eyes as it gets past Price and slams off the cross bar.
8:34 - We have a Clayton Stoner
sighting. Making his Wild debut, Stoner starts a nice breakout play. Stoner is the first Wild player to wear #7 since former Gopher Erik Westrum. Jamie Spencer, the Wild's VP of Ticket Sales is sitting to my right, and he got that trivia question right. Not bad for a former Gopher and a guy who made a previous in-game commentary appearance for his dance moves at Cantina last week.5:52 - MIN 2 - MTL 1 - Très bon! The Wild power play strikes on its first opportunity tonight, snapping a skid of five games without a power play marker. Martin Havlat gets the puck along the near boards and he quickly fires a pass to the front where Mikko Koivu makes a perfect deflection for his 10th of the season. Give Andrew Brunette an assist on the goal as well as that trio stays red "chaud."
0:00 - You can close the book on an entertaining, up-tempo first period. The Wild heads to the locker room with a one-goal lead and a hop in their collective step. Time for a world famous LaFleur hot dog!Period 2
16:44 - Greg Zanon is just a force in the defensive zone this year. The Wild makes a bad line change and Zanon has to race off the bench into the action to be the lone defender on a three-on-one. Zanon challenges the passer and slides to perfectly deflect the puck into the corner.
14:42 - The Habs have come out flying in the second, putting five "tirs" on goal to Minnesota's zero. Backstrom has to come up with another big save on Maxim Laperriere, who has a two-on-one and tries to fire one in on the short side, but Backs gets enough of it with the lobster mitt.
13:24 - This time it's Nick Schultz playing an odd-man rush perfectly by laying his stick flat and sweeping away an attempted pass by Matt D'Agostini.
12:05 - Earl is making his presence felt tonight. Already with a goal, Rowdy Robbie clobbers former Wild blueliner Marc-Andre Bergeron behind the Montreal net. Bergeron's feet actually leave the ice and he practically lands on top of the net. John Madden would call that hit a "de-cleater."
10:24 - Mayday! Montreal continues to buzz Backstrom, who has to make repeated sprawling saves on a mad flurry in tight. After sliding all over his crease, he makes two big pad saves and watches a couple shots float just wide of the net.
6:38 - G-Lat gets a welcome home from Hal Gill. After taking a whack at the puck in Price's crease, Latendresse takes some abuse from Gill, as well as the fans who get rather animated any time he touches the puck.
2:44 - It's going to come. It's going to come. It nearly does here. Derek Boogaard nearly nets his first of the year by stopping a ring around the boards with Price way out of the net. Boogey has to control it before firing at a shallow angle with Price scrambling back. The Habs keeper hits his own post as well as the puck that nearly finds some room between the post and the leg pillow of Price.Period 3
17:58 - After a Backstrom save and a whistle, Stoner is there to protect his goaltender and he mixes it up pretty heavily with Laperriere. By the way, I can't wait for Stoner and Colton Gillies to be teammates with the Wild, as they were in Houston. The look like twins.
14:46 - The noise level in the building rises every time the Canadiens start skating the other way. This time, the cheers quickly turn to sighs as Marek Zidlicky does an outstanding job of backchecking to break up a two on one by knocking the puck off the stick of Montreal's best player, former Michigan Wolverine Mike Cammalleri.
11:26 - The Wild finally eases some of the pressure in their own zone as Schultz carries the play the other way. Hometown boy Eric Belanger gets the puck on his stick and he cracks a heavy shot on goal, but Price is still awake at his end and he's able to glove it.
9:55 - A good shift by the Wild's second line leads to a chance as Havlat hits Kim Johnsson in the high slot, and he gets off a one-timer that Price stops with a big pad save.8:13 - MIN 3 - MTL 1 - C'est Magnifique! Cal Clutterbuck buries a huge insurance goal after Chuck Kobasew's slapper from the left side caroms off the backboards to the other side. Clutter is there waiting, and he stuffs it under Price who is late getting over to the post. This couldn't come at a better time as the Wild has been struggling to generate anything since the first period.
5:10 - Zanon lives a painful life. The guy just takes shot after shot and he keeps going. Here he takes a slapper right off his upper arm as he's standing upright. He is visibly in pain, but he keeps right on going. Guy's a gamer.
3:15 - Aggressive move here by the Habs as they pull Price with more than three minutes remaining.
2:39 - Bruno has a chance to ice this one, but his shallow angle shot from the far boards hits the side of the post.
0:00 - Another big win for the flying W's, who just find ways to win. The good guys have now won nine of their last 11. Time to take a joyous bus ride to Ottawa.