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Wake up State of Hockey legion! What do you think you're doing? If you think you're just going to sleep your Saturday away, you've got another thing coming. Your room is a mess. The dog needs to go for a walk and I'll be darned if you think you're going to get those things done and still have time to read a live in-game commentary featuring your Minnesota Wild and the Columbus Blue Jackets.
This afternoon, I'll be coming to you live from my beloved perch in the Al Shaver Press Box, high above the rink surface at Xcel Energy Center. For the past two days, I've been watching hockey games from the Xcel Energy Center penalty box as I've been working there during the WCHA Final Five games. When you're in the penalty box, you are surrounded by sweaty, smelly and foul-mouthed guys who just committed a penalty on the ice. Here in the Al Shaver Press Box, I'm surrouned by sweaty, smelly and foul-mouthed guys who committed a penalty by becoming members of the bottom-feeding media.
In case you haven't heard, the flying W's could use a win in a big way today. A term I like to use in these situations would be "must-win." Others say "do-or-die," but I find that lame. When it comes to "must-win" games, there is not another person on this planet that I would want manning the Wild crease than Niklas Backstrom
. He'll be getting the start betwixt the pipes tonight after stopping some 47 shots the other night in San Jose. He won't need that many to get a victory today.
The Wild will go with the same lineup it used on Thursday against the Sharks. Guillaume Latendresse
(lower body), Cam Barker (upper body) and Marek Zidlicky (lower body) are all dealing with some injuries.
For you uni watchers out there, I'm happy to inform you that the Wild will be going with the home reds for this one. The Blue Jackets will don the road whites trimmed in blue and red with the silver star on the chest.
Denver University head coach George "The Gwoz" Gwozdecky and North Dakota head coach Dave Hakstol get us started with the "Let's Play Hockey" declaration. If those two can set aside their differences, then I don't see why the rest of the world can't as well. Anyway, let's do this.Period 1
18:38 - The Wild gets the first scoring chance of the game as Marty Havlat comes up with the puck as he cuts down the slot. He's got some room to move into until he flicks a wrist shot that Mathieu Garon gets a piece of with the leg pillow.
15:57 - The Wild ices the puck and we've got our first whistle of the game. We might be out of here by 2:00 today.
15:07 - Rick Nash finds himself open in the right circle and he catches a pass from the other side. Backstrom quickly slides over, squares up and absorbs the shot right in the chest protector. Nash gets rather close to Backstrom after the save, and that draws the ire of Clayton Stoner
. He gets in the face of Nash, who responds with a jolt to Stoner's face. Not necessary, Rick. 10:58 - MIN 0 - CBJ 1 - If Nash keeps getting open space, he's going to deliver much like he does here. Along the far boards, Derek Dorsett fights off a check and then dishes to the big man cutting down the slot. He has way too much time to pick his spot, and he hits it with a wrist shot that zips past the blocker of Backy.
9:08 - MIN 1 - CBJ 1 - Stauby! Brad Staubitz buries his first goal in a Wild sweater and he picked a perfect time to do it. He owes a lot to John Madden, who carries the puck from his own blue line all the way to the deepest part to the Blue Jackets zone. After he draws two defenders, he backhands a pass to the left side where Staubitz has a lay up. The big man does not miss from there, and that provides a jolt to this crowd which had gone completely silent after the Nash goal.
5:39 - Backstrom coolly gloves a rocket shot from Fedor Tyutin that is screaming toward the far corner. Backstrom has been extremely sharp thus far, despite the early goal.
3:32 - Nash looks like a man possessed today. He breaks out of his own zone and streaks in on a partial breakaway. I say partial because Greg Zanon is keeping pace and hounding him from behind. He hassles him enough to force him into going to the backhand, and Backstrom is all over that move, making the stop and steering it to the corner.
1:26 - Oh my! Backstrom comes up with a dazzling stop as Antoine Vermette sends a pass to the front where Sami Pahlsson is camped out all alone. Backstrom has to go into the splits and he needs every bit of flexibility he has to get teh right toe out and take away the seemingly easy tally.
0:00 - That's going to do it for the first 20. The Wild boys will grab some beverages and rest the bones so they can come out flying for the final 40.Period 2
17:28 - Matt Cullen
finds Cal Clutterbuck
with a centering pass and Clutterbuck gets good wood on his one-timer from in tight. This looks like a sure goal as it heads for the top shelf but is snared by the lobster mitt of Garon. The crowd lets out a groan as they were ready to explode there.
16:01 - After an icing, Mikko Koivu
comes together with Scottie Upshall in front of Backstrom. They start to tangle a bit, which is not something we really need to see when Koivu has a bad digit. He still doesn't back down and those two start jawing at each other. Both are going to get two minutes in the box.13:35 - MIN 2 - CBJ 1 - Eat it Upshall! Just seconds after they get out of the box, Upshall tries to take another run at Koivu. He brushes off that hit, and then gets the puck high on the right side of the Columbus zone. He puts a pass over to Clutterbuck at the top of this circle, and this one-timer will not be stopped. He crushes it and beats Garon up high for his 19th of the season. He's now one shy of joining Havlat in the 20-goal club.
9:41 - Backstrom hasn't been nearly as busy in the second as he was in the first, but he hasn't lost his focus. He comes up with a huge stop on Pahlsson once again, stopping the first shot and then getting his pad on the rebound attempt that comes a split second later.
6:46 - Andrew Brunette can do magical things with the puck when he's behind the opponent's net. He's able to work himself free by putting the puck off the back of the Columbus net and then regaining control. He then puts a pass to the front where Chuck Kobasew has a point blank chance, but Garon is able to make the stop right along the goal line.
4:57 - Staubitz is now an assist shy of the Gordie Howe hat trick. After Staubitz lays out Sami Lepisto with a clean check behind the Blue Jacket net, Derek Dorsett steps right in and drops the gloves with Stauby, who makes a speedbag out of Dorsett's noggin. This bout goes on for awhile, but Staubitz finally ends it by pounding his opponent to the ice. On his way to the box, Dorsett then starts getting into it with Eric Nystrom, who is just laughing at him. Dorsett is now headed to the locker room as he's getting two for instigating, plus five and a 10. The refs then even it up by calling a charge on Staubitz, which is really a joke because that was not a charge in the least.
2:29 - Koivu tries to deliver a hit on former Clarkson Knight Grant Clitsome at the Jacket blue line, but when the defenseman tries to duck out of the way, their knees connect. Clitsome can't get up and he actually starts crawling toward his bench before the whistle blows. Eventually he gets up and can at least make his way to the bench.
1:57 - Upshall sure his picking his battles with some big-time enforcers. After getting into it with Koivu earlier in the period, he's now tangled up with Havlat. That brings everybody on the ice into the scrum, and it's going to be Havlat and Upshall that get the gates for roughing.0:55.8 - MIN 2 - CBJ 2 - After Nash completely whiffs on a wide open attempt from about five feet in front of Backstrom, the Blue Jackets make up for it. The puck is quickly worked back to the point where Kris Russell blasts a shot off the post and in. That's a disappointing end to an otherwise great period for the Wild. Period 315:53 - MIN 2 - CBJ 3 - Get ready for some desperation hockey. The Blue Jackets have been allowed to hang around, and now they've grabbed the lead. Jan Hejda gets the puck at the point and cranks a shot through traffic. Backstrom goes down into the butterfly, but the puck squirts through and over the line. The Wild needs an answer right quick.
11:45 - Nick Schultz nearly has the shift of the decade, first completely taking out referee Wes McCauley in the corner and then pumping a one-timer from between the circles that would be a goal if not for a dazzling pad save by Garon, who has been exceptional this afternoon.
7:55 - The Wild is throwing pucks at the goal from every angle, and one guy that can score goals from places he shouldn't is Brunette. He wheels around from behind the net and tries to stick a backhand top shelf and just inside the post, but he clips the outside of the iron.6:20 - MIN 2 - CBJ 4 - There has not been an answer for Nash today, and he delivers a knife to the gut right here. The Jackets relieve the pressure in their own end and break the other way. Derick Brassard hits Nash steamrolling down the slot and from 15 feet out, he beats Backstrom with another wrister. That's his second of the game, and could have been his fourth.
5:07 - MIN 3 - CBJ 4 - And there's your answer. Antti Miettinen makes it a game again, and he does it right when it needs to happen. Schultz springs him loose in the high slot and he rips a shot past Garon. That's his first goal in 17 games, which means he's about to get hot. I can think of a good time from him to pick up another one.
4:08 - Backstrom comes up with a game-saver on Vermette and the Wild head the other way.
2:31 - The Wild is going with four forwards and Spurgeon as the defenseman right now.2:03 - MIN 4 - CBJ 4 - YEEESSSSSSSS! The strategy works and we're all tied up! It's Spurgeon who gets the puck and rips a slap shot on goal. Garon makes a pad save, but Pierre-Marc Bouchard is there by himself to gather the rebound and easily tuck it in. He goes crazy in his celebration, as does the sellout crowd inside this building. Get ready for an insane finish.
0:30.2 - The Wild takes a timeout.
0:00 - The Wild controls the play in the final 30 but can't find the net. We are headed to overtime, where the boys will look for that uber-important second point.Overtime
3:15 - Madden hits Zanon cruising down the slot all alone, but he's robbed on a sliding stop by Garon. Damn you Garon!
1:40 - Havlat makes a sick move to get around Craig Rivet, but as he's about to let his backhand go from eight feet out, his shot is blocked at the last second by the stick of Russell.0:33.5 - MIN 4 - CBJ 5 - How does this happen? The Wild completely dominates the overtime, and the Blue Jackets get a fluke to win it. From behind his own net, Brent Burns tries to send a long pass out of the zone, but he hits Stoner in front of the net. Stoner tries to clear, but the puck comes right to Vermette who buries the wrist shot up high and holds the Wild to just a point.