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Guten tag State of Hockey legion! And welcome to a special in-game commentary live from the press box in the brand spanking new CONSOL Energy Place. When I say brand new, I mean brand spanking
new. I mean just last week, I caught a Pittsburgh Penguins game on TV and those poor guys didn't even have an indoor arena so they were forced to play outdoors. Just one week later, they're in one of the most spectacular arenas you'll ever see. Of course, I'm still partial to Xcel Energy Center, and this place incorporated a lot of features from our beloved home rink, but some of the stuff here is ridiculous. I haven't seen too many interactive screens where you can pull up information on a youth hockey program by touching a jersey on a screen. Wow!
Anyway, I'm not here to gush about some building in a foreign land. I've got bigger potatoes to fry, like commenting on the Wild's quest for a fourth win in a row, an undefeated road trip and the chance to move into the top eight. In the words of Maximus Decimus Meridias as he spoke to his Roman army before whupping up on Barbarians, "Imagine where you will be, and it will be so." I imagine myself on a westbound plane in a few hours slapping hands with Wild players and staff members after yet another road win. It will be so.
Make no mistake, the Penguins have their fair share of large guns even without the concussed Sidney Crosby, but one thing they don't have is the red hot Jose Theodore, who will get the start tonight. They also don't have a guy like Wild backup Anton Khudobin, who is easily one of the funniest characters ever to pull on a Wild jersey. He was recalled from Houston today as the Wild tries to get Niklas Backstrom
healthy from a lower body injury. I've been keeping an eye on Theo during warmups, and the guy looks locked in.
Joining Backstrom on the sidelines tonight will be Antti Miettinen, who is out with a lower body contusion. Of course, Guillaume Latendresse
(abdominal) and Marek Zidlicky (shoulder) are also out of the lineup, and following their teammates on live in-game commentary. Get well soon, guys!
If you're wondering about uniforms, I've got some information you're going to love. For the third straight game, the Wild will go with the road whites. I have to imagine they are in serious need of a trip to the laundromat. The Penguins are breaking out their baby blue third jerseys trimmed in navy and white with the ice skating flightless bird on the chest.
We've got ourselves a packed house in Pittsburgh where the capacity is 18,087 (get it? 87?). I don't want to be the one to tell them that they're going home disappointed, so I'll just let the Wild's game do the talking. Let's do this thing.Period 1
19:41 - It doesn't take long for Matt Cookie Cooke to re-introduce himself to old rival Nick Schultz. He lays a hit on my bowling teammate from yesterday and it's hard enough to dislodge the glass in the Wild zone. This could be a long night if glass comes loose after every hit.
16:22 - The Pens get their first shot on goal in the game and it's a long one through traffic by former Minnesota Gopher Paul Martin. He threads a high shot through traffic that catches Theodore up in the chest. The rebound pops to Mike Rupp, but John Madden does a great job of blocking his shot with Theodore out of position.
15:16 - It's not a bad thing for the Wild to have Crosby out of the lineup, but Evgeni Malkin has some skills as well. He skates up the right side and then darts to the slot where he lets a wicked wrist shot go. Once again, Theo is up to the task with a great save.
12:39 - The Wild power play unit moves the puck around expertly in the Pens zone until finally Brent Burns sends a pass to the front for Patrick O'Sullivan. The disc bounces hard off O'Sullivan's skate and through the legs of Marc-Andre Fleury but trickles just wide.
11:30 - Clayton Stoner
lays a hard, clean check on Jordan Staal at the Wild blueline. Staal, who had been out with injury for a long time before returning last week, stays down on the ice, which the fans don't like. Cooke also doesn't like it, so he skates over to Stoner to pretend like he's tough, when really he just likes to hear himself talk.6:37 - MIN 1 - PIT 0 - There's the start we're looking for. The Wild gets the lead and it comes at the end of a shift for Mikko Koivu's line. Cam Barker does a great job of getting the puck up ice as the Penguins make a line change. Andrew Brunette dishes to Koivu, and from the left side he sends a rising wrister toward the front of the goal. That's where Chuck Kobasew is battling in front of the net, and the puck bounces off his midsection and in behind Fleury. That's the seventh of the year for Chuck, who I had picked to score last week. He's just making up for it tonight. 1:54 - MIN 2 - PIT 0 - Man, the Wild is picking up right where it left off in Boston on Thursday. Right off the draw in the Penguins zone, Kyle Brodziak gets the puck over to Pierre-Marc Bouchard in the low slot. He fires one from close range that Fleury stops, but Marty Havlat is there to pounce on the delicious rebound and punch it through the leg pillows of the Flower. Marty is now in double digits for goals, giving the Wild four players with at least 10 at the halfway point.
0:00 - We will take that period on the road any day of the week. The Wild comes into a packed house and silences the masses with two late goals. Time for a little hydration, and then there's more where that came from, I assure you.Period 2
18:59 - The Penguins have come out hard to open the second and Tyler Kennedy makes an early bid to light the lamp. He makes a nifty move to get around Stoner and in tight on Theodore, but the Wild keeper stays big in his net to stuff him on one side of the cage, and then gloves another shot by Kennedy from the other side of the net.
17:25 - Just over a minute into its second power play of the night, the Wild has already pumped five shots on goal during this man advantage alone. That includes an absolute missile off the stick of Matt Cullen
that catches Fleury up high. The Wild is now about to go on a five-on-three for the next 36 seconds.
16:32 - The Wild is peppering Fleury, but he's keeping his mates in this one. Koivu has plenty of space in the left circle so he moves in and then puts a rising wrister toward the upper corner, but Marc-Andre just gets enough of it with the lobster mitt.
14:12 - It's now a goaltending exhibition. In the Minnesota end, former Michigan Tech Husky Chris Conner emerges from the corner with the puck and finds Malkin all alone in front. The big Rusky puts it right on goal, but Theo stays right with him and flashes the leg pad out for another huge stop.
10:48 - Some things never change. As he skates to the bench, Cooke delivers a chop to the back of O'Sullivan's leg well away from the play. That guy is the epitome of cheap, classless hockey player. There's no way to sugarcoat it.
7:34 - Former Minnesota Gopher Alex Goligoski turns the puck over at the blueline on a Pitt power play, and the Wild race the other way with Cal Clutterbuck
headmanning to Cullen. Number 7 has a partial break and he lets a slap shot go when he gets to the left circle. Fleury sponges that shot up nicely, not giving up a rebound.
2:15 - Uff da. Stoner takes a big hit from behind by Maxime Talbot behind the Wild goal. No call.
0:00 - You knew the Penguins would come hard in the second, and they did, but the Wild withstands the barrage and holds onto a two-goal lead, which you may have heard is the most dangerous lead in hockey. Period 3
17:10 - The Wild catches a break early in the third as former Wild blueliner Zbynek Michalek leans into a heavy slap shot that zips through the legs of Schultz and rings hard off the inside of the far post. Sometimes, the iron is kind.
14:43 - Bouchard has some room to carry up the right side and he lets his slapper go from the left side. Fleury gets his waffle glove out to make that stop, but the Wild hasn't shown any signs of sitting back or playing conservatively.13:40 - MIN 3 - PIT 0 - Chicks dig the water bottle shots! From the left side of the rink, O'Sullivan makes a picture perfect dish across the ice to a wide open Clutterbuck. From about 15 feet out, he goes upstairs with a laser wrist shot that pops the water bottle high in the air. Clutter is going to take some heat, however. After his goal, he loses an edge in the corner and goes hard into the endboards. He's a little slow to get up, but I'm sure he's not in too much pain after giving the good guys a huge insurance goal. Clutter now has a goal in each game during this road trip.
8:05 - Wow, the refs completely blow it here as they somehow miss former Ferris State Bulldog Chris Kunitz give an absolute slew foot to Theodore as he skates in front of the Wild goal. This is a very dangerous play, and could also have resulted in a goal since the Pens controlled the puck at the point.
6:07 - During a TV timeout, the arena camera crew finds a youngster with some sick dance moves, and they keep showing him on the Jumbotron. Each time they go back to him, he breaks out a new move. The crowd, which hasn't had anything to cheer about all night, is loving this kid. I'm in the same boat.2:59 - MIN 4 - PIT 0 - Nobody deserves a goal more than Brodziak, who has been exceptional on this road trip. With Fleury pulled very early for an extra attacker, Brodziak gets the puck inside his own blueline and flips a backhand all the way down the ice, and it just trickles over the goal line. What an absolute fantastic effort for the guys to play this way after a hard fought win in Boston two nights ago.
0:00 - That's going to do it folks. The Wild wins its season-high fourth in a row and goes home after a perfect trip through the East. Plenty of room on the bandwagon folks! Hop on, because this is going to be a fun second half.