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Season's Greetings State of Hockey legion, and a happy Winter Solstice Day to those of you who observe the holiday. December 21 also will apparently mark the end of the world in three years, so you'd better get your fill of live in-game commentaries while you still can. I would hate for you to get swallowed up by an ocean and your last thought being "I failed to log onto Wild.com three years ago, and it just might have been the best in-game commentary ever." Thank you for not making that mistake.
I'm not sure I've ever been so happy to see my perch in the Al Shaver Press Box high above the frozen water at the Xcel Energy Center. After a couple crazy days in Ottawa, I needed the comfort that it provides. You can bet I'll be clutching onto my beloved Seat 58 in 2012 for comfort.
Speaking of comfort, it's always a cozy feeling to have Niklas Backstrom
in goal for the beloved Minnesota Wild as they take on the Colorado Avalanche for the fifth time. I'm certain that I don't need to remind you that "Backs" is undefeated against the Avs this season at 3-0-0. That is not good news for all the snowboarders and snow bunnies at some swanky ski resort in the Rocky Mountains who are cuddled up by a roaring fire (bad choice of words) and reading about tonight's events on in-game commentary.
The Wild will be getting Owen Nolan and Eric Belanger back in the lineup tonight. Guillaume Latendresse
remains out with the flu, and Pierre-Marc Bouchard
, Brent Burns and Petr Sykora are still out with concussions.
Robbie Earl has been sent down to Houston. Jon DiSalvatore
was called up from Houston today, and then he was sent right back down to Houston without putting on his skates. So long, Jon. We hardly knew ye.
Finally, we can get to the threads. The Wild will be rocking the green third jerseys for this one. The Avs are going with the road whites trimmed in burgundy and blue with the snowy "A" on the chest.
Now, in honor of Olga, the biggest Wild fan the city of Ottawa has ever known, it's time to rock this hizzy.Period 1
15:41 - Milan Hejduk hops right out of the penalty box and is hit with a pass from Brett Clark. Hejduk has some space and he rips a shot from the right circle about a foot off the ice. Backstrom is able to knock the puck down and cover up, but it looks like he's still getting a feel for the new padding. Somehow, Backstrom is not getting credit for a save on that, and I don't know how that's possible.
11:39 - Cal Clutterbuck
tries to stuff one in from behind the net, while Craig Anderson scrambles in his own crease but makes the stop. Derek Boogaard is right there to try and pound it home, but he can't knock it in. The red light comes on, but don't get excited. The red light behind the Colorado net has already come on three times tonight despite there not being a goal or any semblance of one.
11:15 - Off a quick redirection in front, Backstrom makes a gorgeous glove save on former Dartmouth Big Green star T.J. Gagliardi who was cutting right down the middle.
6:54 - You won't believe this but Adam Foote just took a cheap shot at Kyle Brodziak
behind the play. I know, right? Adam Foote? He actually endangers his own goaltender because he jacks Brodziak into the back of the Colorado net, causing it to tip completely over and Anderson is buried underneath. He appears to be fine.
2:49 - A bizarre play here. While killing a penalty, Greg Zanon sends a wrister from behind his own net and all the way down to the other end in the air. He actually splits the uprights if the Colorado goal had them. Then, the puck caroms off the boards and a hustling Antti Miettinen has a whack at it but is stopped by Anderson. Miettinen was going so hard that he loses his balance and goes back first into the end boards at high speed. He is definitely shaken up but he does regroup and skate off. Please don't say he's got a concussion.
2:34 - After a Backstrom save, Nolan comes together with Kyle Quincey and the two of them are angry at each over over something. Nolan wants to tangle, but the linesman intervenes and Nolan is actually going to the box, giving Colorado a two-man advantage. 0:11.0 - MIN 0 - COL 1 - The Wild kills off both penalties, but the Avs stay with the play and strike first. Backstrom makes two point blank stops on Darcy Tucker, but nobody can clear the rebound and super rookie Matt Duchene chips it in on the mad scramble. Nothing new for the Flying W's, who have now given up the first goal in 14 of the last 17 games.
0:00 - That will do it for the first 20. The Wild heads to the locker room down a goal, but my gut tells me that they will get a two-man advantage at some point in the next two periods. Always trust your gut. Period 2
18:20 - Perhaps because he's always in the right defensive position, Nick Schultz has had his fair share of pucks bounce off of his body and back toward his own goal. Here, Duchene tries to center a pass that hits the back of Schultz' skate and bounces right on, but Backstrom calmly gloves it and hangs on.
18:09 - Eric Belanger skates into the zone and hits a streaking James Sheppard cutting down the slot. Shep tries to make a move and the puck rolls up his stick a bit. He still gets a very hard shot off from in close but it whizzes just wide of the cage.16:11 - MIN 0 - COL 2 - What a shot by Colorado's Chris Stewart, who wires a drop pass from Paul Stastny. This shot is crushes so hard that it hits the back of the net in the upper far corner and bounces out of the net at least 15 feet in the air.
12:49 - We've got ourselves a fracas as Clutterbuck follows up his shot and flattens Anderson, who does his fair share of embellishing on this one, acting like he was hit by a sniper from up here in the Al Shaver Press Box. That sets off a 10-man melee behind the net with Boogey mixing it up, as well as some others. Once again, the Wild is going to be the only team penalized as Clutter goes off for goaltender interference.
10:30 - Clutter doesn't discriminate on who he goes after. He absolutely decks Foote in front of the penalty boxes. Of course, that angers Foote who gets up and wants a piece of Cal, who isn't going to be goaded into anything. Matt Hendricks also has some words for #22, who calmly skates away.
10:29 - The gloves are off! Right off the faceoff in the Wild zone, Chris Durno and Clayton Stoner
drop the gloves. Both get about one punch in before rolling around on the ice together for awhile. Call it a draw, but credit Stoner for getting the crowd involved in a game the Wild trails by two.9:31 - MIN 0 - COL 3 - The Avs add to the lead as Hejduk leads a two-on-one with Gagliardi on his left. Hejduk pays no attention to him and picks his spot with a perfect wrister to Backstrom's blocker side. Is this really the team that the Wild has beaten four times this year?
7:48 - The parade of green jersey to the sin bin continues. Marty Havlat hits former Michigan State Spartan John-Michael Liles from behind and gets called for boarding.
6:53 - Huge save by Backstrom, who stops a shot from the point with his right pad, then lunges to his right to make a remarkable blocker save on Hejduk's bid for number two.6:05 - MIN 1 - COL 3 - In the immortal words of Kevin Garnett, "We're comiiiiiiin! We're comiiiiiin!" On the penalty kill, Clutterbuck leads a three-on-one shorthanded rush. He takes the puck down the left side and he just rifles a low shot past Anderson (Wild TV - Clutterbuck shorthanded goal). Clutter is pumped, and he's been the best player in a green uni tonight. He's trying to get his team going, because as Garnett might also say, "Anything's possibaaaaaaaaaaal!"
3:29 - There is definitely some jump in the green guys now. Another rush enters the Colorado zone, and the puck is dropped back to the trailer, Miettinen. He rips a long shot that Anderson has to knock down with the glove on a sliding save.2:44 - MIN 1 - COL 4 - This is what you'd refer to as a momentum killer in the greatest sense of the term. Wild on the power play and Cody McLeod fires the puck down hard off the backboards. The problem is that both Wild defensemen see the dump in and go to the bench. Both McLeod and Hendricks go into the zone uncontested, pick up the puck and just toy with Backstrom as Hendricks finishes off the play. I'll venture to say that Todd Richards will be displeased with the brain cramp from his blueliners.Period 3
16:25 - Boogey crushes Quincey up against the glass in the Colorado zone, and he's going to get the gate for boarding. Quincey looks like a suction cup Garfield before going down to the ice. He heads to the locker room as his team goes on the power play.
10:05 - You have to laugh sometimes at how opponents react to Clutterbuck. Clutter creams McLeod so hard as he circles the Minnesota net that he goes airborne into the boards. The check is completely clean, but McLeod appears to believe that only he can dish out hits. He gets up and goes right after Clutter after the whistle and tries to put him in a headlock. That will get him two minutes in the box and Clutterbuck continues to jaw at Darcy Tucker.7:55 - MIN 2 - COL 4 - It's not over. In his first game back since missing four with a lower body injury, Nolan dents the twine to breathe some life back into the good guys. Chuck Kobasew spots Nolan in the slot with a pass. "Cowboy" takes his time and then zips one right through the wickets of Anderson. Still some meat left on this bone, but this helps.
6:03 - MIN 3 - COL 4 - Sweet sassy molassy! We've got a game. Thanks to the NHL abolishing the ridiculous two-line pass rule a few years back, Marty Havlat can do his thing. Clayton Stoner, in his third NHL game, makes a home run pass to the opposite blue line to spring Havlat on a breakaway. He skates in all alone and wires one off one post and it bounces just over the line on the other side before bouncing out. This place can sense something special happening.
5:44 - Havlat nearly ties this thing up by splitting the D and somehow getting off a shot as he falls to the ice. Anderson has to get his toe fully extended to stop this one right against the pipe.
3:32 - Coming out of a Colorado timeout, this place is absolutely rocking as the faceoff comes in the Colorado zone.
2:12 - Stoner makes another great play here. As he tries to hold the zone along the sideboards, he bats a puck down with his hands. A Colorado player doesn't want to touch it so they can get a hand pass call, but Stoner hustles into the corner and he is the first to touch it, negating a hand pass call.
0:00 - It's just not meant to be here as the furious rally comes up short. The Wild drops its first of the season to the Avs and will look to rebound on Wednesday against Edmonton.