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What is up State of Hockey legion, and may I wish all of the Wild fans in Finland (and there are many for obvious reasons) a very Happy Independence Day. As we all well know, Finland won its independence from the Russians back in 1917 and they've been sending us good coffee, great cameras and great hockey players pretty much ever since. Thank you for spending part of your Independence Day celebration here on live in-game commentary presented by Sun Country.
I am coming to you live from HP Pavilion in Northern California, which apparently is famous for good wine. It might explain why everybody in the press lounge for tonight's media meal was twirling their glasses and sniffing their beverages before taking a sip. The fact that what they were drinking was Mountain Dew didn't seem to bother them. They wanted to get the most out of their drinking experience and let that aroma permeate their nostrils.
I liken it to how the Minnesota Wild is going to permeate the offensive zone tonight against the San Jose Sharks. And when they aren't, it will be Josh Harding
stopping so many San Jose shots, the guys in teal will be experiencing frustration headaches that hurt more than any trip to wine country could ever produce.
As far as tonight's Wild lineup goes, you can scratch Nik Backstrom (groin), Justin Falk
(upper body), Guillaume Latendresse
(concussion) and Marek Zidlicky (concussion). Colton Gillies and Nate Prosser
are going to be tonight's healthy scratches and maybe they'll be sitting by me in the press box and giving me repeated high fives after all the Wild goals. I do expect a lot of them so let's hope they're hands aren't dirty.
As for attire, the Wild will wear the road whites for the second game in a row. The Sharks are going with their home teals trimmed in white and black with the stick-eating fish on the chest.
Sharks mascot S.J. Sharkie is out there on the ice right now trying to get this crowd riled up. He's wearing a teal, sequined jersey, which looks like it belongs on Evan Lysacek.
The shark head is on the ice, which means San Jose players are skating right under those big teeth, and we're about set to go. Let's get it on!Period 1
19:37 - The sharks are an angry bunch right now, coming after the Wild like there's chum around Harding. Jamie McGinn and Michal Handzus both have point blank attempts right in front of Harding. The Wild keeper makes a couple big saves and then Handzus puts one off the side of the net before Harding finally is able to cover up.19:00 - MIN 0 - SJ 1 - We've got them where we want them now. The Sharks get on the board right at the one minute mark. Off the faceoff, former Miami University Redskin Dan Boyle cranks a shot from the point. Harding makes the stop and the puck pops high in the air and lands in the slot. That's where former Wisconsin Badger Joe Pavelski is, and he wheels around and whacks it into the net.
18:49 - The Sharks are on the attack again, and after Harding makes a stop, he takes a big hit to the head from the leg of Nick Schultz. Harding goes down very hard and is in obvious pain. As a scrum develops behind the net, he lays on the ice and has to be attended to by Doc Fuller. He eventually stands up, but he's not going to be able to go on. That means Matt Hackett
is on for his NHL debut.
16:18 - Hackett makes his first NHL save and it's a big one and it's on ol' Brent Burns. Number 88 is pinching in on the right side and has a lane. He punches a hard shot to the far side but Hack is able to deflect it away, and then make a nice follow up save soon after. That ought to calm the nerves a bit.
15:00 - We're five minutes into this one, and the Sharks have already pumped 13 shots on goal.
14:00 - Hackett is definitely getting baptized into the NHL by way of a shooting gallery. Pavelski rockets a shot on goal from the right circle. That stop is made, as is the follow up from in tight by Jim Vandermeer. It's now 16-1 in shots for the Sharks.
11:46 - Here's a chance for the good guys finally. Nick Johnson
makes a nice steal of a clearing attempt. He throws a pass to Kyle Brodziak
cutting to the net and Brodzy makes a nice tip as he's crashing toward Antti Niemi, who just does get a pad on it.
9:44 - Another steal in the Sharks zone leads to a great scoring chance as the Wild is beginning to come alive. Brodziak causes a turnover to Johnson, who makes a quick dish to Cal Clutterbuck
in front. He puts a quick shot right on, but Niemi recovers from having played the puck behind the net and makes a huge stop.
9:15 - Hackett's night just got even more interesting. Cody Almond
clips Jumbo Joe Thornton in the face with a highstick. The Sharks are going to go on a four minute power play.
6:35 - Mercy! The Sharks are controlling the puck and firing away, but Hackett is holding is ground, as are the penalty killers. There's now 1:20 left on the Almond penalty.
5:15 - What a job by Hackett and the PK unit. The double minor is over and despite trailing in shots, 21-5, it's still just a one goal game.
3:17 - The Brodziak line has been the engine for the Wild tonight. They generate another chance, starting with a Clutterbuck hit, a Brodziak pass and a Johnson shot that misses by inches.2:19 - MIN 1 - SJ 1 - And that's why you keep playing, friends. One ugly goal can change everything. Dany Heatley cuts around Boyle to get on a shot on net from about 10 feet out. Niemi makes that save but Mikko Koivu is right on top of the crease and he's able to punch a backhand off the rebound under Niemi. This team just won't get rattled.0:11.6 - MIN 2 - SJ 1 - Shots...schmotts! You can have your 23-10 shot advantage. We'll take the 2-1 lead going into intermission thank you very much. The Wild power play gets to work and does how you should, working the puck around. From the right circle, Koivu sends a perfect cross pass to Pierre-Marc Bouchard cutting down the left side. He's got Niemi moving and he hits his spot. What a way to finish this bizarre first period.
0:00 - I'm out of breath, and all I'm doing is typing. Let's regain our composure and come back in a few to put this thing away. Deal?Period 2
20:00 - Already down a goaltender, the Wild will now be down a forward. Devin Setoguchi
is out with a lower body injury.
16:23 - The Sharks continue to fire away, but nothing doing so far. McGinn has some room down the left side, but he tries to pick a corner and fires his shot off the outside of the net.
13:01 - Playing in his hometown, Casey Wellman gets his first scoring chance. He wins the race to a puck that bounces off the sideboards. He turns and just cranks it on goal, forcing Niemi into a challenging stop with the waffle glove.
11:44 - I get the feeling that the Sharks are starting to get pretty frustrated at what is transpiring here. They're looking like they're pressing and taking some risks that could allow for some scoring chances the other way.
2:59 - Quite a debut for the man they call "Hack." He makes repeated stops on shots from in tight by another former Badger, Brad Winchester. Hackett has now faced 24 shots and stopped every one.
0:00 - Things settled down a bit there in the second, but we are in for an interesting third. Aren't you glad you stayed up for this one?Period 3
18:50 - More frustration for the Sharks. Hackett gets a clean look at a long shot and easily snaps it out of the air. Clayton Stoner
then plants McGinn on the ice, causing Torrey Mitchell to ocme in and those two start mixing it up.
16:28 - I bet Hackett is trending on Twitter back home. I'm to Twittered out to look. But he's come up with yet another bit stop, this one on a shallow angle shot from Ryane Clowe. Hackett sponges up that shot with ol' Marty Havlat looking for a rebound.
16:00 - There's our friend the right post, making a nice stop on a Handzus shot from the left side of the slot.
10:58 - On the power play, Koivu leads a two-on-one with Heatley to the right. Koivu wants to generate a rebound, but he nearly puts one in with a hard wrist shot that Niemi barely fights off with the blocker.
5:50 - Havlat makes a nice run down the slot and moves to his backhand, but once again Hackett turns it away with relative ease. That's San Jose's 40th shot on net.
2:08 - Hackett uses every amount of his flexibility to stretch and snare a slap shot from former UMass Minuteman, Justin Braun.
1:07 - Niemi is off for the extra attacker.
0:00 - Just another two points for the good guys. Goalie gets hurt? Top goal scorer leaves early? Playing a team that you've beaten once in 10 tries? It's all good. Just another win for the NHL's best. Congratulations to Matt Hackett
, the fifth Wild goalie to make his NHL debut, and the fifth to win in that debut.