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What's happenin' hot stuff in the State of Hockey legion? I'm going to try and send warm thoughts your way tonight, because brothers and sisters, it is chilly willy out there tonight. Yow-wee! But don't you worry folks, it's like a hot, steaming cup of joe up in Xcel Energy Center tonight, and the heat waves are going to penetrate from my computer to yours when the Wild starts lighting up the Colorado Avalanche.
After a few days out West, I'm back where I belong, in my beloved perch in the Al Shaver Press Box. I've got the best seat in the house to watch this contest, the Andrew Brunette 1,000 game ceremony that will take place, and hopefully to meet Simon Brunette, Bruno's golden retriever. The four-legged Bruno will be assisting Andrew's brother, Jamie, with the Let's Play Hockey declaration. I love dogs, and I especially love retrievers, so if you don't see any live comments at any point tonight, it's because Simon and I are just playing a little game of fetch with Mike Russo's coffee mug.
Simon picked a good night to take in his first Wild game. He'll get a first hand look at the best goaltender in the NHL, Niklas Backstrom
. Backy, who has surrendered a whopping one goal in two games, will get the start tonight. Bad news for Avs fans, good news for Simon.
The news gets worse for the faithful Colorado hockey, who can't wait to see the 112th return to the ice by Peter Forsberg. But Floppa has some visa issues, so he's going to have sit this one out. The Wild has some guys sitting out as well. Guillaume Latendresse
(abdominal), Marek Zidlicky (shoulder) and Marco Scandella
(concussion) are out with ailments.
As for the sweater choices, the Wild will go with the home reds for this one. The Avs are sporting the road whites, trimmed in black, blue and burgundy with the snowy "A" on the chest.
After a fantastic video tribute
to Bruno, he joins his wife, mother and father on the ice for the presentation of a crystal, a silver stick, a Rolex watch from Mikko Koivu
on behalf of Wild players and a check to the Valley East hockey association in the amount of $15,000. Get it? 15
,000. That's just solid.
Jamie and Simon nail the Let's Play Hockey declaration, and then Simon plops down for a quick rest. Bow wow wow yippee yo, yippee yay! Let's do this.Period 1
15:55 - Kyle Brodziak
gets a full head of steam right up the chute and gets right between the two circles before firing a quick wrister that just misses. The puck takes a big carom off the backboards, and Brodzy is nearly able to bank the rebound in, but puts it off the side of the cage.
14:10 - The Wild bruisers do a fantastic job of cycling the puck down low in the Colorado zone. At the end of a shift, Eric Nystrom carries the puck out front, then spins back the other way and puts a tough shallow angle shot on goal, but Craig Anderson is there for the stop.
12:11 - On their next shift, the checking line is it again. They continue to pin the Avs deep, and Nystrom destroys Philippe Dupuis against the boards, leading to another Wild shot on goal.
8:19 - Former Dartmouth Big Green David Jones finds a streaking Matt Duchene behind the Wild defense in the Minnesota zone. Duchene is in all alone, but a rolling puck causes him to misfire high above the net.
7:08 - In a role reversal, it's Koivu setting up camp behind the opponent net with the puck and finding Bruno right on the doorstep. Andrew connects, but Anderson stuffs him from in tight, making his best stop of the night. This place would have exploded if Bruno had put that one in.5:00 - MIN 1 - COL 0 - You miss 100% of the shots you don't take, so on the power play, Antti Miettinen gets the puck at the point and takes his coaches words to heart. He winds up and cranks a rocket that zips past players in front of him and catches the far upper corner. That's a big goal for the streaky Mittens. When he gets one, more are sure to follow. I'm calling at least two more tonight, and perhaps he'll pull a Mike Connolly and settle on five.
4:49 - MIN 1 - COL 1 - That's a quick retort from the Avs. Off a face off in the Wild zone, the puck gets kicked around in the left faceoff circle. It finally lands on the stick of Jones, and he quickly slides it on the ice and between the wickets of Backstrom, who has now reached his quota of goals to surrender. That should be it for Avalanche celebrations for the night.
4:09 - MIN 2 - COL 1 - Goal-a-palooza continues thanks to Mighty Marty Havlat. Getting the puck behind the net, he fights off former Denver Pioneer Paul Stastny as he gets the puck out front. He then spins around the opposite way and is able to sweep the puck between Anderson's toe and the left post. Three goals in a minute. I need a breather. I'm winded!
0:00 - It's been a fun night so far. I'm gonna go wrestle with Simon during intermission. You're free to wrestle whoever you choose, but just be back here for the second period.Period 2
17:45 - No goal! The guys in the video room in Toronto finally see it our way. Stastny gets the puck behind the Wild net and then throws a pass into the crease, where both Jones and Greg Zanon have tumbled onto the ice. The puck is then knocked in with a glove, and it's immediately waved off by Referee Chris Lee, who says Jones knocked it in with his hand. They put it to a review, and it's determined the call on the ice will stand.
17:03 - After Backstrom hangs on to a Colorado shot, the shoves and words start flying back and forth. Cal Clutterbuck
and former Boston University Terrier Brandon Yip start jostling, and Cam Barker gets in on the act a bit as well. All the way back to the bench, Clutter and Yip continue to yap at each other.
13:38 - The Wild are a man down, but nearly pad the lead due to some great hustle by Matt Cullen
. He pokes the puck away from the Avs behind the Colorado net and then flicks a pass out to the point for Nick Schultz. The blueliner then sends a shot toward the goal and Miettinen puts a tip on it, nearly deflecting it past Anderson.9:18 - MIN 3 - COL 1 - Boom! Tough actin' John Madden does it again. Cullen and Jared Spurgeon do a great job of playing catch with the puck in the offensive zone until Cullen spots Madden in the high slot. Madden lets go with a wrister and beats Anderson up high on the glove side. That will do it for Anderson's night as Peter Budaj will play the role of Bobby Keppel and provide some middle relief.
5:55 - Brunette floats a pass ahead to Koivu, who swings and bats it out of the air and on goal, but Budaj sticks with it and gets the leg pillow on it.
5:18 - Bruno is going to put one of these in, I can feel it. He misses by an inch here, stealing the puck behind the Avs net, wheeling to the front and putting a backhand off the far post.
0:00 - Another good period for the good guys. They might say a two-goal lead is the most dangerous lead in hockey. Phooey on that. I'll take it any day of the week. Period 3
19:37 - MIN 3 - COL 2 - The two-goal lead is quickly cut to one just 23 seconds in. Battling behind the Wild net, Jones punches it to the front where Milan Hejduk is stationed. Jones is initially getting credit for his second goal of the night, but I think it's going to change. The puck looks like it hits the leg of Hejduk the Wild killer, and pops up in the air, and over Backstrom before landing softly over the goal line. Get ready for a desperate Colorado team to start blitzing the Wild cage.
15:45 - Backstrom makes a save on a long shot from the point and behind him Barker rides Ryan O'Reilly into the Wild net, knocking it off its pegs.
14:03 - The Wild very nearly get that two-goal lead back on the power play. A shot from Burns is deflected on goal and Budaj makes a kick save. The puck bounces to the left side, where Cullen pounces on it and fires a shot off the post. Cullen, who has two assists already in this one, has been all over the ice tonight. He's a beast!
12:37 - We've got mayhem! After Burns sprays some snow into Budaj, the Avs send an all out attack on him. That brings everybody into the fray. Even Budaj is mixing it up down there in the corner as everyone is pairing off in a massive headlock mosh pit. Havlat, Clutterbuck and Burns are all going at it, as are Yip and Ryan Wilson, who are trying to tag team Marty. I keep looking to my right to see if Backstrom is going to challenge Budaj in the first goalie fight in Wild history, but he's staying put. When all is settled, the three aforementioned Wild players are going to the box, as are Yip and Wilson. Colorado will somehow get a power play out of this.
10:35 - The Avs are flying right now as Chris Stewart streaks up the right side and throws a backhand on goal. Backstrom kicks that out where Stastny is crashing the net, and he pushes it just wide as he's falling down with Barker.
9:09 - Pierre-Marc Bouchard
is incensed right now, and for good reason. Former New Hampshire Wildcat Daniel Winnik delivers a high, blindside hit near Butch's head. That's not going to sit well with a guy who missed a full season with a concussion. He tries to slip a hip chick on Winnik behind the play, but he misses and that's the end of it.
3:16 - It just won't come easy for Nystrom. In the high slot, he puts a perfect tip on a low shot from Burns. The puck zips past Budaj and clanks off the post. That's two pipes working against the boys so far tonight.
1:51 - Two bits of good news. The Wild will have a power play for the final two minutes of the game, and Hejduk will miss all of it. He takes a hooking penalty on Clutterbuck, and the Wild can do its best to run the clock out.
0:56.3 - Budaj heads to the bench. We're five on five now.
0:00 - Back into the top eight! The Wild gets two more huge points and a huge victory at home.