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Good evening State of Hockey legion, and welcome to a very special edition of live in-game commentary presented by the fine folks at Sun Country Airlines. If you don't fly Sun Country, then bugger off. It's the absolute best airline in the skies if you know anything about flying to exotic locales.
But we've got bigger issues at hand than airline wars tonight. Your Minnesota Wild are about to wipe the ice with the Calgary Duds (also known as the Flames). But before we get to that, we're probably going to be overcome by some serious emotion. Prior to puck drop, the home team is going to honor one of their fallen heroes: Derek Boogaard. The Boogeyman's family will be on the ice for a special ceremony, as well as a tribute video that will be worth watching. Fair warning: get some tissues at the ready and if you feel the need to get misty-eyed, it's cool. I cry at the very mention of the movie "Marley and Me."
It's all good though because once we let go of that emotion, we can think about beating up on the Flames, who are in for it tonight. They have to face Niklas Backstrom
, who hasn't played since a shutout victory on November 17. The guy has already shut out the Flames earlier this month, and I see no signs that point to him falling short of that same achievement. He's dialed in as they say.
As far as the rest of the lineup, you can scratch Guillaume Latendresse
(concussion), Mike Lundin
(back), Greg Zanon (groin) and Marek Zidlicky (concussion) of your homemade rosters. They're all out with injuries, but you can expect to see Mike Lundin
and/or Greg Zanon get back in there soon.
As for the sweater choices, the Wild will go with the home reds for this one. The Flames are sporting the road whites trimmed in red, gold and black with burning "C" on the chest.
The Boogaard ceremony is soon to come, as is the video...
Phewf da! Little dusty up in this building right now. Please have a look at the video if you can, but don't lose that game face. We've got two points to secure against these rascals. Here we go.Period 1
18:03 - MIN 1 - CGY 0 - That's for you Boogey! His buddy, Cal Clutterbuck gets this charged up crowd going after the emotional ceremony with a big goal. On the power play, Mikko Koivu gets the puck at the point and spots Clutter wide open down in the left circle. He catches the pass, waits for Miikka Kiprusoff to flop to the ice, and then stuffs one in past his outstretched glove. We needed that.
15:57 - The Wild keep up the pressure at even strength. Dany Heatley
causes a turnover in the Calgary zone and then dishes back to Koivu for a quick shot from the right faceoff dot. Kiprusoff has to come up big to keep this a one-goal game. 15:23 - MIN 1 - CGY 1 - The Flames are apparently charged up as well. Mark Giordano, who isn't normally supposed to be deep in the offensive zone, has the puck along the goal line. From a bad angle, he's able to find just enough wiggle room to squeeze a shot through the pads of Backstrom. After the goal, Jarome Iginla seeks out Clutterbuck and has some words for him. That could set the table for some interesting stuff the rest of the way.
13:58 - Backstrom quickly shakes off the first goal and comes up with a huge stop. Tom Kostopoulos carries the puck in deep and delivers a pass across the goal mouth for a tap in by Matt Stajan. Backstrom is able to quickly throw the right leg pillow out to make a huge stop at the last instant.13:06 - MIN 1 - CGY 2 - Wow, sometimes the other team has a few good moves, and this was an example. Fomer Dartmough Big Green Lee Stempniak gets a head of steam into the Wild zone, makes a nifty inside-out move to get around Marco Scandella and then he tucks a quick shot five hole. That's a highlight reel goal right there.
11:54 - MIN 2 - CGY 2 - This one might not be as pretty, but I find it fairly attractive. The Wild has an answer and it's Nick Johnson, who takes a top of the slot pass from Kyle Brodziak and then wires a shot under the cross bar. It looks like it will count even though Jarome Iginla is lobbying for Johnson to be thrown out for a head butt.
11:15 MIN 2 - CGY 3 - Josh Harding has been summoned. The Flames have Backstrom's number tonight as TJ Brodie gets the puck down low. Rather than throwing a pass to the front, he puts a bit of a changeup on a shot that fools Backy and finds its way in. This is getting outrageous and I can't keep up.
7:10 - Clayton Stoner
is fired up with all the goings on thus far, so after a Harding save, he starts mixing it up with Curtis Glencross. The former Alaska Anchorage Seawolf is tasting a lot of Stoner's glove right now, but both of them are going to get two minute penalties out of this.
6:33 - Harding has had to come in cold and be very good as the Flames continue to pepper the net. Former Denver Pioneer Chris Butler sends a cross zone pass to Jay Bouwmeester for a big one-timer. Harding lunges to his left and sponges up the shot between his arm and his pad. That's big time.
0:00 - Things cooled off near the end of that period. A late flurry by the Wild yields nothing so we'll head to intermission down a measly goal. Shouldn't be an issue.Period 2
19:49 - The Wild wastes no time in coming out hard to start the second. Koivu dances in the Calgary zone before sending the puck into some open space for a rushing Nick Schultz. The all-time Wild games played leader cranks a slapper that Kiprusoff is able to kick away.
17:58 - Back at the other end, Harding continues to dazzle in relief. Alex Tanguay holds and holds and holds before flipping a backhand pass into the slot for a hard one-timer off the stick of former Wisconsin Badger Rene Bourque. This one has some hair on it, but Harding gets the waffle mitt up and then hangs on so as not to allow a second chance.
16:55 - Iginla normally puts an easy tap in like this into the net with enough force to break a TV screen. But when he's set up this time, he just lightly taps it toward an empty net and that's enough to allow Harding to slide over with another great pad stop. Harding is the difference right now.
14:04 - Clank! Brodziak nearly ties this thing up with a wicked wrist shot from the left circle that beats Kiprusoff on the far side but clanks off the iron.
8:33 - The Wild power play is buzzing, but can't convert. Devin Setoguchi
has the best chance with Kiprusoff scrambling, but his shot sails on him while Kipper flounders on the ice.
6:03 - The equalizer is coming, that much I can assure you. But it's not here, somehow. Clutterbuck wins the race to a puck along the near boards and flings it to the front. Cullen punches it right on, but somehow Kiprusoff makes a save he has no business making.
2:06 - You usually like Cullen's odds when he picks up a loose puck about 10 feet from the net and has nobody near him. He tries to tuck a wrister top shelf but Kiprusoff waves his left arm up there and gets a piece of it.
0:00 - Still a one-goal deficit up there on the board, but the Wild will have 1:29 of power play time to start the third when they'll get this thing knotted up.Period 318:21 - MIN 2 - CGY 4 - I am way off on my predictions today, so I apologize. Right after Stempniak hops out of the penalty box, the puck is sent into the Wild end. Harding has to get rid of the puck quickly so he rings it around the boards. Tanguay is the first to get there and from the sideboards, he throws it to the goal with Harding scrambling to try and get back. The puck goes off the Wild keeper and bounces in. No more predictions today, other than that the Wild will win this one.
12:43 - The refs miss Scott Hannan delivering a blatant punch to the face of Clutterbuck in front of the Calgary net. How Clutterbuck is able to deal with these attacks without complaint is beyond me.11:34 - MIN 2 - CGY 5 - And Iginla does his thing, and a comeback now seems a very difficult challenge. Glencross puts a pass in front, and Iginla lunges over Justin Falk to put a deflection on it. On his way back to the bench, Iginla has some words for the Wild bench, and as he skates by, it appears he gets squirted by a water bottle. About 12 Flames players are not standing at the red line and yelling at the Wild bench, and Minnesota will be assessed a two-minute penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.
4:21 - Stempniak has had himself a game tonight. He nearly bags another one from the right side. Without breaking stride, he flicks a wrister past the blocker of Harding and off the post.
2:19 - There's no giving up here. Falk makes a nice play, carrying the puck in deep and then hitting Darroll Powe
in front. His bid from two feet out is snuffed out by Kiprusoff, who has been rock solid since the first period.
1:22 - A goal by Giordano is quickly waved off due to goaltender interference by Stajan. There's some shenanigans going on afterward, but nothing escalates beyond that.
0:00 - Okay, well then. Back-to-back 5-2 losses certainly weren't what we were looking for. But the Wild can close out this homestand with a win tomorrow night against the Tampa Bay Lightning.