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Well hello there State of Hockey legion! Welcome back to everybody's favorite online hangout - Wild.com's live in-game commentary presented by Sun Country Airlines. Side note: I saw a Sun Country billboard on my way into work today and it said "30 non-stop destinations, where will you go?" My only answer was "playoffs homeboy!"
I am coming to you live from my perch in the Al Shaver Press Box high above the rink surface at Xcel Energy Center. Tonight, your Minnesota Wild will run roughshod over the dirty Colorado Avalanche, and then hand the keys to the building over to the Minnesota State High School League for the boys' hockey tournament, which will start on Wednesday. I hope those kids are watching at home, because the Minnesota Wild is about to put on a clinic on how you win a big game. In fact, the Wild has a few players that have skated in the state tournament, so you've got to think they're primed for this time of the year.
Goaltender Matt Hackett
is not one of those Minnesota boys, but he looks like he could be in high school, skating up during pregame introductions and saying hi to his grandma. But no, young Matt is in the NHL, and tonight he's going to make his first-ever Xcel Energy Center start. The kid has never lost at this level and his goals against average is smaller than Cody McLeod's IQ, so why wouldn't you give him the chance to help the Wild kick off a win streak tonight?
As for the rest of the lineup, please give a warm in-game commentary welcome to Steve Kampfer, who will make his Wild debut tonight. Cal Clutterbuck
(upper body) looks good to go for this one, so Chad Rau
and Kurtis Foster
will be the healthy scratches. Nick Palmieri
(upper body), Mikko Koivu
(upper body), Clayton Stoner
(lower body), Guillaume Latendresse
(concussion), Mike Lundin
(lower body) and Pierre-Marc Bouchard
(concussion) will be out with injuries tonight.
For this Sunday night affair, the Wild will sport the green third jerseys. The Avs are wearing their road whites trimmed in black, blue and burgundy with the snow-covered "A" on the chest.
Chad Greenway, Vikings linebacker extraordinairre, gets us going with the "Let's Play Hockey" declaration. Chad sounds pumped up, so let's feed of that and win this one going away.Period 1
19:14 - It's an exciting day for UMD Bulldog fans as Mike Connolly makes his NHL debut tonight for the Avs. Connolly was easily one of my favorite Bulldogs of all time, and he was the engine on that National Championship Bulldog team from a year go. Coincidentally, that was the last time he was on the Xcel Energy Center ice. Anyway, Connolly now has his first NHL shot that he puts on goal from the left side, but Hackett sponges that one up.
19:04 - Darroll Powe
gets the Wild's first scoring chance as he steamrolls Matt Duchene after he crosses the blueline. He then moves in on Semyon Varlamov, but he's stuffed as he tries to lift one upstairs.18:18 - MIN 0 - COL 1 - If the Avs are going to score, at least let Connolly be the one that gets it. Instead, it's Jamie McGinn that has an easy tap in after Peter Mueller's spin-around shot in the slot pops right to him in the crease. Now that Hack doesn't have to worry about the shutout anymore, he can just worry about closing the door the rest of the way.
14:49 - Since the goal, the Wild has had a bunch of chances, but Varlamov holds them off. Then, the Avs get a glorious chance as Duchene dances around in the left circle before getting a pass over to a wide open Ryan Wilson. It looks like an easy one for Wilson, but Hackett lunges to his left and steals one. 11:35 - MIN 0 - COL 2 - Somebody needs to get in McGinn's face. He comes up with another greasy goal on Colorado's first power play of the night. After a nice play by Stefan Elliot at the blueline, Mueller pumps a shot from the top of the right circle. That one is blocked, but his next one gets through. Hackett makes the stop, but McGinn follows up and puts one upstairs for a two-goal lead.
7:16 - Dany Heatley
and Gabriel Landeskog have something brewing tonight. They've been going at it, and Heatley delivers a big hit on the rookie along the boards in the Avs end. They continue to jaw at each other as they head to their benches.
4:54 - There is no quit in Stephane Veilleux
. He is making the most of his second chance with the Wild. He is involved in a lengthy battle behind the Colorado net, but he sticks with it and then darts to the net with the puck, nearly stuffing it in. Matt Kassian
is looking for the scraps, and he takes shots and headlocks from four Avalanche players simultaneously.
2:03 - Hackett has been a busy man-child tonight. He comes up with another stop on a long shot from Jan Hejda. Then, he stays with Landeskog's rebound attempt and comes up with another big one with the leg pillow.
0:00 - The Wild closes the first with a flurry, but still trail by two. Hackett has already make 15 stops in this one. Period 2
19:12 - Tom Gilbert
and Heatley have been showing some Badger chemistry since Tom's arrival in his hometown. They combine for a great play as Gilbert hits Heatley in the slot, and the Heater makes a pretty touch pass over to Kyle Brodziak
, who gets in alone on Varlamov. The Avs netminder gets aggressive and comes way out of his net, forcing Brodziak into a tough shot that is turned away.
16:54 - Kampfer makes a nice play on the Wild's first power play. He gets some space at the point and sends a heavy shot on goal. Brodziak is in front for a tip, but Varlamov again comes up with another stop.
15:26 - Heatley should have about 40 goals this year, but he's stuck at 20. He nearly gets 21 as he maneuvers his way through the slot and right in on Varlamov. He beats the Russian netminder with a sick backhand up high, but puts it off the iron.
12:00 - Oh my this is scary. Elliott tries to play the puck at the blueline but loses his footing and falls backward into the boards along the Colorado bench. He goes in so hard, that he knocks the door open. To make matters worse, Cal Clutterbuck
is skating right at him and tumbles over him. Elliott tries to regoin the play, but he's in pain and goes back to the bench.
10:05 - Nick Johnson
launches a one-timer from the point off a pass from Gilbert, and Varlamov just does get enough of it to deflect it wide.
3:05 - Some good work by Kassian leads to a chance for Matt Cullen
, who pounces on a loose puck at the hash marks. He lunges to get a shot off, but Varlamov swallows that one up.
0:00 - The Wild has 20 minutes left to turn things around. My youth hockey coaches used to always tell me that a two-goal lead is the worst lead in hockey. So that has to be true.Period 3
19:41 - The Wild comes out flying on the first shift. Cullen blazes into the Colorado zone along the left side. He puts a pass into the slot for Heatley, but he get handcuffed a bit and can't get a lot of hair on the shot.
16:05 - Devin Setoguchi
delivers a hard hit on Jay McClement in front of the Wild bench, and he goes into the boards hard. It hasn't been a fun night for Avs players along the boards.
10:53 - Heatley once again has had oodles of chances, but he can't find the net. Erik Christensen
makes a nice pass to him in the slot, but his one-timer misfires a little high.
8:47 - I mean, I don't even know what to say. Of all the great chances Heatley has had, this is probably the greatest, and still he gets denied. A shot from the right circle hits Varlamov and falls right at the feet of Heatley, who has an open net from four feet away. He puts it toward the goal mouth, and somehow Varlamov kicks his leg back toward the net and kicks it away. I'm doing a terrible job of describing just how sure of a goal this looked, and still nothing.
5:04 - The Wild has been putting the pressure on, but still no results. The Avs finally break free and get something going in the Wild end. Landeskog fires a bullet from the right side, but Hackett sponges that up in his chest protector. It's been a very solid home debut for Hackett, who can't be faulted for either Colorado goal.
4:18 - Hackett again comes up big when a centering pass gets deflected right to former Dartmouth Big Green David Jones in the low slot. Jones has Hackett going the wrong way, but his top shelf shot finds Hackett's arm.
2:13 - Hackett heads to the bench so the Wild can press for a goal.
0:00 - This one's a bit of a blow to the ol' playoff hopes. But, there's always the chance for revenge on Tuesday in Denver. Can't wait!