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Ah yeah State of Hockey legion! Where my dogs at? Just FYI, I refer to "my dogs" as my commentary followers who reserved their spot on the Wild bandwagon way back in the summer. You guys aren't surprised by the Wild finishing the first half of the season in playoff position. You probably smell good, too. Now, for you others who were doubters, you're still always welcome here at live in-game commentary. But I have to say, the bandwagon is quickly filling up, and the window and aisle seats are scarce. If you get on too late, you're going to be sitting next to some sweaty guy that snores constantly.
Tonight, I'm coming to you live from my beloved perch in the Al Shaver Press Box, high atop ice level at Xcel Energy Center. I saw some nice buildings on the East Coast over the past week, but nothing beats our house on the corner of Kellogg and West Seventh. You can try to replicate, but you can never duplicate.
Xcel Energy Center is one-of-a-kind, in much the same way that Jose Theodore is different from most. There's not a goaltender on the globe that is playing as well as this guy is right now, and that's why he's going to get a fifth straight start, and yes, a fifth straight win. Tonight's victim? None other than the hated Dallas Stars, who lucked out the last time they beat Theo in overtime. If there's one guy you don't want getting revenge on you, it's Jose. He will torment you, and make everyone in the state of Texas feel about two-inches tall.
There's no change in goal, and there won't be any change to the lineup, either. Antti Miettinen is still out with a lower body contusion, and Guillaume Latendresse
(abdominal) and Marek Zidlicky are also out. Niklas Backstrom
is unavailable because of a lower body malady, so the bubbly Anton Khudobin will be the backup tonight. Jared Spurgeon
will be only healthy scratch tonight.
As for the attire, the Wild are looking fresh in their home reds tonight. The Stars are in their road whites trimmed in black, green and gold with the South Star on the chest.
Five Miss USA contestants get the crowd going with the "Let's Play Hockey" declaration. I have made it one of my personal rules to never say "no" to five Miss USA contestants, so let's get this thing started.Period 1 17:27 - MIN 0 - DAL 1 - This is something we didn't see at all on the road trip - the Wild's opponent scoring first. The Stars pretty much bring everybody up on a rush into the Wild zone with Brad Richards carrying up the right side. He spots the last guy into the zone, Trevor Daley, who jumps way up in the rush. Richards puts it right on the tape and Daley punches the first shot of the game past Theodore. Daley then nearly loses his balance, causing him to hug the ref standing right there.
16:24 - Eric Nystrom is supposedly banged up, but he shows its not slowing him as he races ahead on a partial shorthanded break. He does have Matt Cullen
on his left, but the newest old Star, Jamie Langenbrunner is in hot pursuit. He forces Nystrom into taking a shot with the backhand, but Andrew Raycroft makes that stop.
13:32 - This time it's Cullen with control as the Wild gains the zone. He pulls up in the high slot and fakes a pass to his left before letting go with a wrister that Raycroft sponges up nicely.
13:22 - As he did repeatedly just a few nights ago in Trenton, New Jersey, Theodore robs Langenbrunner off a rebound attempt by flashing the left leg pillow at the last instant to kick one out.
13:14 - Just seconds later, the Stars think they have another as the puck goes over the line, but only after former Wisconsin Badger Adam Burish barrels into Theodore to knock the puck in. Burish ends up in the net and when he emerges, he looks like a fool as he starts celebrating well after the ref waved it off. Not only does he not get the goal, but he'll also get two minutes in the box for goaltender interference.
12:43 - On the power play, the Wild works the puck back to the point for Pierre-Marc Bouchard
. Like he did from the same spot last Sunday against Phoenix, he rips a slapper through traffic and beats Raycroft, but this time he only finds iron.
6:26 - It will come if Butch keeps firing like this. He and Brent Burns pretty much play keepaway in the Dallas zone and work around the perimeter. In an instant, Burns spots Bouchard wide open across the rink and hits him. Butch one-times it perfectly, but Raycroft slides across to get just a piece of it to cause it to hit the post. That's Bouchard's second pipe shot in five minutes.
5:06 - Daley again skates way up into the play and gets behind everyone. The Stars find him, but fortunately Theo is ready for it this time and he comes up with a huge stop.0:48.6 - MIN 0 - DAL 2 - Wow! Sometimes the other team makes a jaw-dropping play, and Jamie Benn does that here. Skating in on Cam Barker, he makes a sick toe drag move to get around the Wild defender and then roofs a quick shot over the shoulder of Theodore. I think you'll see this on a few highlight shows this week, unfortunately.
0:00 - If you ask me if I'll take that period or leave it, I'll say leave it. Not it's time to regroup and erase this Dallas lead with a couple quick ones in the second. Period 2
17:09 - Benn has another bid from in tight, trying to go upstairs again, but Theodore keeps his team in it by making another big stop.
16:22 - The Wild is down two, but it's not for lack of effort. They're still banging bodies as Nystrom clobbers Nicklas Grossman against the glass behind the Dallas net.
9:46 - The Wild's master of the carom, Clayton Stoner
, flings a backhand from the sideboards into the slot. The puck banks hard off a skate and ricochets right on net, forcing Raycroft to react quickly with the waffle glove.
8:32 - Theodore is quick as a black pepper snake as he smoothly slides to his right to swallow up a shot from a wide open Loui Eriksson at the bottom of the left circle.
2:48 - Bouchard and Burns connect again, this time with Butchie finding Burnzie. Looking for his 13th tally, Burns cranks a one-timer, but Raycroft stretches out the right toe and needs every inch of it to make the stop. Period 3
16:03 - Theo continues to do his part. He comes up with a save on Mark Fistric's rocket from the high slot, and then he denies super pest Steve Ott who tries to put the rebound in from the doorstep.
14:10 - Burns has put on a passing clinic tonight. He somehow zips one through traffic to Havlat in front, and he puts a redirection right on goal, but Raycroft again reacts ultra quick with a huge save.
13:03 - It's been a long night for Grossman. He gets squashed by Clutterbuck in the corner, lifting both feet of the Dallas defenseman.
12:45 - Down at the other end, Theodore is down on all fours on one side of the net and lunges over to the other side to make a diving glove stop on Benn. 10:08 - MIN 0 - DAL 3 - The old cliche is that hockey (and every other sport) is a game of inches, and that's apparent as the Stars pad their lead...barely. From the right circle, James Neal spins and fires a wrist shot on goal that squeezes through the arm and chest of Theodore. The puck falls behind him and just trickles over the line about two inches before being pulled back by the Wild keeper. That hurts more than watching the Green Bay Packers celebrate a playoff victory.
5:32 - MIN 0 - DAL 4 - Benn could have about five goals tonight, but he's probably happy with two after finding room with a wrister and beating Theodore between the legs. I'm not saying a Wild rally is impossible. I'll just say it needs to start immediately if not sooner.
0:00 - The Wild streak is over as the boys lose their first game in 2011, but redemption is in store in just a couple nights on the road in Nashville. A new win streak is on the horizon.