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It's a beautiful day, is it not State of Hockey legion? It's warm outside and your Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs are National Champions! If you're like me, you're still a bit dazed from celebrating last night, but it's time to shake off the cobwebs. We've got the final game of the season today, and folks, it is a biggie.
The final spot in the Western Conference playoffs will hinge on the Minnesota Wild slamming the Dallas Stars in the NHL's final game of the season. All eyes will be on tonight's game, and let me just say to the folks in the Windy City, we got your back. Your football and baseball teams can jump into Lake Michigan in January for all I care, but I think I speak for the entire state of Minnesota when I say we'd much rather watch the Blackhawks take down the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the playoffs than watching the lowly Dallas Stars get swept in four games.
Hawks fans might be a little weary of their fate being in the hands of a non-playoff team, but they can rest easy. Jose Theodore is going to be getting the start against what is sure to be a very charged up Dallas squad. Theo loves these situations, and he will be at his best in what could be his last start in a Wild uniform.
The other good news is that the same lineup that picked up a victory in Edmonton on Friday will be at the ready tonight. Martin Havlat (upper body), Guillaume Latendresse
(lower body), John Madden (lower body), Nick Schultz (concussion), Cam Barker (upper body), Marek Zidlicky (lower body) and Marco Scandella
are all injured. There won't be any healthy scratches tonight, which is always nice.
For the final game of the season, the Wild will go with the home reds. The Stars are in the road whites trimmed in green and gold with "Dallas" written across their chest.
Kevin Sheehan, a Wild season ticket holder, gets us started with the "Let's Play Hockey" declaration. It is Fan Appreciation Day, so let's do as the man says, shall we? Pack your bags Chicago, you'll be heading to Vancouver in a few hours.Period 1
19:17 - Right off the bat, the Wild comes out flying with the line of Matt Cullen
, Cal Clutterbuck
and Antti Miettinen. They put on a passing clinic with Cullen getting a wide open look at an empty net from the slot. A Dallas stick forces him to make one move to many, and he throws the puck into a laid out Kari Lehtonen.
18:54 - Now the top line is buzzing. Pierre-Marc Bouchard
has a shot from the slot stopped by Lehtonen, but he wriggles around a defender to get to the rebound. From a shallow angle, he puts a shot just outside the post, causing the net to ripple and fans to think he put one in.
14:38 - The Stars are starting to find their legs a bit, and maybe a little bit of that fire. A long shot from the point is sponged up by Theodore, and former Wisconsin Badger Adam Burish sticks his nose into the crease. Brent Burns stands up to him and gives him a quick facewash.13:55 - MIN 1 - DAL 0 - There is just no containing Brad Staubitz these days. He's a beast out there. A long shot from the point by Burns hits a Dallas body in front, but Stauby is right where he should be in front. He gathers up the loose puck patiently waits for Lehtonen to commit, and then sticks a backhander top shelf. The Windy City is jumpin', jumpin'.
11:33 - Burns isn't letting anybody get near Theo tonight. Another long shot is swallowed up by the Wild keeper, and when Loui Eriksson tries to follow up, Burns puts him on his rumpus.
10:42 - The Stars power play nearly ties this thing up as Jamie Benn finds Stephane Robidas cutting down the slot. The defenseman crushes a one-timer and hits squarely on the post, then hits the back of Theo's leg. The puck just lays there in the crease before getting swept away by Jared Spurgeon
9:31 - That's what I'm talking about! The highlights from last night's national title game are shown, followed by the entire UMD Bulldog hockey team being shown with their trophy in a suite. They get a standing ovation from the crowd, and it is much deserved.7:32 - MIN 1 - DAL 1 - Tied up. The Stars certainly aren't going to be slowed by a one-goal deficit and they come right back. Brad Richards gains the zone before dishing off to Eriksson, who gives it right back to Richards in the right circle. He quickly one-times a shot that beats Theodore on the short side.
3:53 - MIN 1 - DAL 2 - The Stars power play gives them the lead, and it's Eriksson, who has been everywhere so far tonight. He gets the puck in the right circle, holds for a bit and then takes a couple steps before rifling a shot that beats Theodore on the blocker side. That's 15 shots in the period for Dallas, which as come alive since the Staubitz goal.
0:58.2 - Spurgeon gets involved in the offense and carries the puck in deep before putting a hard, low shot on goal. Lehtonen kicks the rebound out to Bouchard, who can't pull the trigger, but does put a pass back into the crease, but nobody is there to put it home.
0:00 - Rest easy, Chicago. We just need some time to recuperate, and the boys will grab that lead again in the second.Period 2
14:14 - The Wild power play gets to work for the first time tonight as Cullen zips a quick shot on goal. Lehtonen gives up another juicy rebound, but Clutterbuck is unable to corral a bouncing puck with the Dallas netminder down.12:41 - MIN 2 - DAL 2 - Boom! It's looking more and more like Spurgeon can find a permanent place to live next season, rather than calling the Holiday Inn his home. He gets this thing squared up again on the power play. With Andrew Brunette holding the puck behind the net, Spurgeon pinches in and slams a one-timer over the glove of Lehtonen, sending the crowd into a frenzy.
8:07 - MIN 3 - DAL 2 - Could the Blackhawks be going to the postseason on the strength of the first goal of the season from Colton Gillies? We shall see, but the kid puts the Wild back on top with a fantastic finish. Chuck Kobasew and Kyle Brodziak try to hook up, but the puck starts bouncing around in the slot. With his back to the net, Gillies reaches back and then spins around with a backhand that puts the Wild up once again. This could be an amazing finish, and the Wild have now closed the shot gap to 16-15.
4:45 - Eric Nystrom, clearly frustrated by the outcome of last night's game, unleashes some anger on Robidas by destroying him against the glass in the Dallas corner.
2:24 - Now we've got some ugliness in an otherwise tightly contested game. Gillies and Jeff Woywitka crash into the net and blast Lehtonen, who is slow to get up. Meanwhile, the puck is at the point, and after firing the puck in deep, Greg Zanon takes a vicious slash across the skates from Burish right in front of the Wild bench. The players on the bench react and several players come in to confront Burish, and only Gillies is going to get a penalty out of this, which makes no sense.1:43 - MIN 3 - DAL 3 - Fans in Minnesota are up in arms as are Blackhawk fans as the Stars take advantage of some questionable calls that lead to a 5-on-3. Former Minnesota Gopher Alex Goligoski gets the puck at the point and cranks a rocket through traffic. The Stars get the equalizer, and they'll stay on the power play for close to two minutes.
0:30.8 - Cloquet's own Jamie Langenbrunner shakes loose between the hash marks and gets off a one-timer, but Theodore plays it perfectly and snags it with the lobster mitt.Period 3
17:57 - The Stars have another power play to try to break this deadlock as Richards rifles a shot that clips the cross bar.13:13 - MIN 4 - DAL 3 - Miettinen has just dealt a severe blow to his former team's playoff chances. Once again, Brunette gets things started by getting control near the side of the net. He spots Miettinen on the doorstep on the left side and he doesn't miss. Just over half a period remains, and the Stars are going to start pulling out all the stops. This should be entertaining.
10:40 - Steve Ott may be thinking about this one all offseason if the Stars don't win this game. Mike Ribeiro finds the nuisance all alone on the right side of the crease. Ott has all kinds of net to shoot at and he completely butchers it, putting it back through the crease and wide of the cage.
7:42 - Mittens almost puts an even bigger hurt on the Stars, winding up for a massive one-timer from the left circle, but Lehtonen makes a huge stop with the waffle mitt.
5:00 - Five minutes left in the season, and the Wild aren't letting the Stars breathe. The red jerseys are swarming and storming the Stars, pinning them in their own end.
3:31 - Theodore saves Chicago's season. Some miscommunication in the defensive zone leads to a golden chance for Ott. From the right circle, he has a clear path to charge to the net. He makes a move and gets Theo to go down, but the netminder gets his arm down for a desperation save and keeps it out. The players pile up in the crease, but nobody is putting the puck through that mass of humanity. Nobody.
2:04 - The crowd loves the effort of Kobasew, who, without a stick, is able to somehow clear the zone and get the puck to the Stars zone. The Wild players have obviously taken this role as spoiler seriously.
1:21 - Lehtonen is off for another attacker.0:12.1 - MIN 5 - DAL 3 - You'd think we just won a Stanley Cup up in this piece. Some remarkable hustle by Clutterbuck, chasing the puck into the Dallas end, then a drop pass to Bouchard who rifles hit home in a fitting end to his comeback season.
0:00 - Go home Dallas! You're welcome Chicago! Thank you Wild fans!