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How goes it State of Hockey legion? It's a beautiful day, and I couldn't be more thrilled to have you joining me on live in-game commentary, right here on Wild.com, where dreams come true. I am coming to you live from my beloved perch in the Al Shaver Press Box high atop the ice surface at the Xcel Energy Center.
From my perch, I'm killing two proverbial birds with one stone. I've got one eye on the TV above me so I can watch the replay of last night's thrilling USA victory over Canada at the World Juniors, and I've got one trained on the ice where your Minnesota Wild are partaking in warmups, as are the Calgary Flames. In fact, I just saw Flames thug Dion Phaneuf flip a couple pucks to some fans watching the warmups. Nice try Dion (if that is your real name) but your goodwill gestures will only earn you points with the big man upstairs. They will not get you and your teammates a win tonight.
I say this because Niklas Backstrom
is between the pipes for the good guys tonight, and the guy isn't about to let his team drop five in a row. He's turning pucks away in warmups like their diseased. He is dialed in.
The Wild is going to be without the services of a couple guys. Clayton Stoner
, Petr Sykora and James Sheppard are going to be scratched as Owen Nolan is back in the lineup. Brent Burns (concussion), Pierre-Marc Bouchard
(concussion) and Chuck Kobasew (knee) are all out with injuries.
As far as attire goes, the Wild has already won tonight. They'll be wearing the home reds for this one. The Flames are going with the road whites trimmed in red, yellow and black with the burning "C" on the chest.
A family of season ticket holders shout out the "Let's Play Hockey" declaration, and the customer is always right. Wild win over the Flames coming right up.Period 1
19:44 - What you have to love about Cal Clutterbuck
is he will not discriminate when it comes to hitting. Unlike an Alexandre Burrows, who is super tough when it comes to facing guys 5-foot-9 and shorter, Clutter will step into the beefy guys as he does here by staggering Phaneuf in the neutral zone.18:26 - MIN 0 - CGY 1 - Not the start we were looking for. From the right circle, Nigel Dawes fires a slap shot on goal. Backstrom makes the save but gives up a juicy rebound on the other side and Olli Jokinen is there to send it in. That ruins my chances of the joke I was dying to use, which was that Jokinen should have won the Best Defensive Forward award last year because he's the only forward that could shut down Jarome Iginla. Now, the joke is wasted thanks to his marker. Somehow, the stats crew is only giving the Flames credit for one shot on goal, when the first shot was clearly a save, and the second was clearly a goal.
15:20 - With the Wild on the power play, Andrew Brunette works his way to the front and sends a backhand on goal. Miikka Kiprusoff makes a pad stop with a wide open Martin Havlat on the doorstep, but Marty can't get his stick down in time to put away the rebound.14:13 - MIN 1 - CGY 1 - In case you're not aware, I am a genius. Wild media relations apprentice Carly Peters asked me no more than three minutes ago who would score the first Wild goal. I said Eric Belanger. Ding ding ding! Bella lights the lamp on the power play by cutting through the slot and putting a perfect deflection on a pass from the point by Marek Zidlicky and it zips over the shoulder of Kiprusoff. You still have time to buy a lottery ticket. 4, 8, 16, 19, 42 and 34 are your lucky numbers.
8:55 - We are just over halfway through the first period, and the Wild now has 13 shots on goal, meaning they are on pace for about 78 shots on goal tonight. If we can score on 20% of those shots, we'll be in good shape.
0:00 - A run 'n fun start to the game gave way to a much slower second half of the period. Still, the Wild is in a good spot, getting the better of the scoring chances and controlling most of the even strength play. We'll catch a break so the Wild boys can replenish their fluidsPeriod 2
15:22 - MIN 2 - CGY 1 - I hope you know I was kidding when I said I was a genius. The real genius is Carly the apprentice. I kid you not, she said the next goal was going to be scored by Kyle Brodziak. Really. She said that! Sure enough, Guillaume Latendresse sends one in front to Brodzy, who doesn't get all of his one-timer, but he gets enough of it to float it toward the open net and elude Kiprusoff.
14:52 - Clutterbuck goes to the net in search of a rebound and he gets thrown to the ice by Robyn Regehr. Cal just takes it and sure enough, Regehr is headed to the box. You have to love Clutter.
13:43 - The Wild just misses an insurance goal as they thwart a shorthanded rush and then send the puck to Antti MIettinen at the Calgary blue line. He has a clear breakaway, but he tries to slide one around his future Olympic teammate and it trickles just wide.
11:29 - My star of the first half of the game is Clutterbuck. He's been held off the scoresheet thus far, but he's been all over the ice. Here, he has a partial breakaway, but as he's fighting off a check he sends a shot wide and then topples over a sliding Mark Giordano and goes sliding into the end boards. 8:37 - MIN 3 - CGY 1 - Nobody up here in the Al Shaver Press Box predicted it this time, but Belanger strikes again! At the Calgary blue line, Owen Nolan chips the puck ahead for Bella, who races ahead of everyone. He looks like he's going to pull the puck to his forehand but instead he quickly roofs a vicious backhand past Kiprusoff who has given up three goals for seemingly the first time in his life.
5:07 - Recently recalled Robbie Earl gets a chance to make another strong impression, and he nearly rips this slapper past Kiprusoff, who makes a great glove save.
4:03 - Zidlicky is another Flying W that has had a great night. He pinches into the offensive zone and moves toward the slot before sliding one back to an open Mittens for a fierce one-timer that just whistles wide of the cage.
2:29 - Unreal. You won't see a better save than this. G-Lat gets the puck on his stick below the right circle and he's got Kiprusoff down on his rear. Guillaume puts it right where he should and has it pegged for just underneath the crossbar. Somehow, Kipper reaches up and snares it just before it can cross the goal line. Latendresse even raises his arm and then drops them at his side because he can't believe this one gets taken away from him.Period 3
16:25 - Latendresse just can't figure out Kiprusoff tonight. He gets set up on a great touch pass by Brodziak, but Kiprusoff slides over and sponges up G-Lat's bid from in tight. That's Guillaume's seventh shot on goal in this game.
14:56 - Mikko Koivu
and Havlat work the give-and-go to near perfection. Havlat enters the zone and dishes to the captain, and then dashes toward the goal. Koivu places his pass deftly onto Havlat's stick, but his tip is read by Kiprusoff who makes yet another huge save.8:21 - MIN 4 - CGY 1 - There it is! A well deserved goal for Clutter on a great rush up the ice by him and Brodziak. They both go to the middle as they enter the Calgary zone and then Brodzy gets the puck on the right and looks to shoot, bringing Kiprusoff over to his side. He then makes a perfect pass to the other side where Clutter punches it home and excitedly points at his buddy who made the play possible. Huge goal for the good guys.
0:00 - For a team that has had the Wild's number over the years, Minnesota has dominated Calgary in their two meetings this year. The Wild gets a big momentum boost by turning in a 4-1 win over their Division rivals.