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Ho ho ho State of Hockey legion! Maaah-ray Christmahs. Of course, it's not really Christmas yet. It's Christmas Eve Eve, but everyone is entitled to an early present, and you will not be disappointed in your gift from me this year...
Surprise! It's a special holiday edition of live in-game commentary featuring the Minnesota Wild and the Edmonton Oilers. Isn't that better than the pair of grey sweats I got you last year? Now, I don't want this commentary to be like the toy you'd get and play with for an hour and then never touch it again. I want you to take this commentary in small doses. Maybe parcel it out so you're reading one little nugget per day. It will make the cold winter go by so much faster.
Okay, holiday gift numero dos: Nik Backstrom in goal for the Wild. I know, I know. I shouldn't have, but you've earned it. You've been generally good this year, so I figured I'd go the extra mile and give you the guy who is soon to be the all-time leader in wins by a Wild goalie. He's only got six to go, and he's about to knock off one of those tonight as a special gift to all of you.
I wish I could the gift of ice time in tonight's game to guys like John Scott and James Sheppard, who are tonight's healthy scratches. Unfortunately, I have not yet been granted that decision-making power, but I can feature their dogs on Wild.com
. My other Christmas wishes are for Pierre-Marc Bouchard
, Brent Burns and Petr Sykora to get over their concussions and come back to playing hockey. Unfortunately, they won't be coming back tonight.
Finally, we can talk about the sweaters that each team will be wearing for this holiday extravaganza. The Wild will be featuring Christmas colors in their home reds. The Oilers will go with the road whites trimmed in blue and copper with the oil drip on the chest.
After a dazzling Opening Video tease with a holiday theme gets the crowd roaring we are ready for the Let's Play Hockey declaration from Mr. Santa Claus himself. I have lived my life as though Santa is always watching, and I'm not going to change now. Let's do this.Period 1
17:35 - Guillaume Latendresse
, in his return from two games off with the flu, makes his presence felt early. He makes a nice steal in the neutral zone and heads the other way on a two-on-one. He tries to make a saucer pass over to Andrew Ebbett in front, but it's just a bit behind him and hits off his skate.
14:37 - Another very solid shift from the Ebbett line nearly ends in a goal. After holding the zone for an extended period, the puck comes to Havlat at the point. He smartly sends a wrister toward the traffic in front and the puck pinballs around and right on goal. G-Lat is right there waiting to pop in the rebound but Jeff Deslauriers does a nice job of picking it out of the air.
11:54 - Big night so far for Ebbett. He makes another great play here by gaining the zone, and then dropping a pass back to Cal Clutterbuck
as he's falling down. Clutter drills the shot right on, and then has a crack at his own rebound, but puts it off the side of the net.
10:58 - It's Stone against Stoner! Clatyon Stoner is quickly evolving into a fan favorite in just four games witht the Wild. He's already got two assists, and now he's got two fights. Stoner drills Ryan Stone in front of the Wild bench. Stone takes exception and the two drop the gloves. Both start throwing haymakers, but Stoner finally lands a vicious uppercut followed by a knockout punch, much to the crowd's delight.6:25 - MIN 1 - EDM 0 - Andrew Brunette gives the gift that keeps on giving: a goal that will forever be known as his eighth power play goal of the season, putting him in a tie for third in the NHL in that department. "Zid" Zidlicky gets the puck at the point and gets a hard slapper through to Deslauriers. The Edmonton keeper makes a pad save, but Brunette cleans up the garbage by backhanding it in. That's the way to start off the holidays.
4:36 - MIN 1 - EDM 0 - Robert Nilsson, or as he will now be known, "The Grinch," gets this one knotted up at one apiece. Former Jefferson Jaguar Tom Gilbert fires a shot on goal that Backstrom stops, but a big rebound pops out to Nilsson, who throws it past a diving Backstrom.
0:00 - The final horn blares throughout the building to signal the end of the first. The shots were flying in this one as the Oil holds a 14-10 edge. Time for some water and some strategy talk, and then a blitzing of Edmonton in the second and third.Period 2
19:27 - The Wild catches a break as Dustin Penner gets the puck in the slot and sends a quick pass down low to an open Gilbert Brule, who fans on his chance at a wide open net. In fact, his shot actually goes away from the goal and underneath a prone Backstrom rather than toward the cage.
17:12 - Not a fun night so far for Stone. He's already been pummeled in a fight, and here he gets stapled to the sideboards by Clutterbuck. Then, the puck comes back that way, and Clutterbuck drills again, almost in the exact same spot.
15:29 - Nick Schultz, looking to extend his point streak to a career-high four games, does a nice job of skating up into the zone and launching a slapper on goal. Deslauriers makes the stop, but Owen Nolan gets a great chance on the rebound, putting just wide.
12:22 - On a delayed penalty, Mikko Koivu
leads a two-on-one with Antti Miettinen on his right side. Koivu keeps it and puts a quick wrister right off the post.
8:54 - Havlat makes a dandy move along the far boards in getting past Lubomir Visnovsky and he's got an open path to the net. From a shallow angle, he tries to go upstairs and Deslauriers (whose name is a nightmare to type by the way) just does get a shoulder on the rising wrister.
6:24 - Stone's frustrations continue, this time because of Backstrom. Stone gets open cutting down the back door, but as he tries to stuff one in, Backstrom slides over and denies him with a great stop.
5:30 - Derek Boogaard has had his frustrations with referee Brad Watson, who is calling the game tonight. Watson made two absurd calls on Boogey in Vancouver earlier this month, and this one ranks up there as well. Watson calls Boogey for a cross check for shoving Sheldon Souray in the back, right after taking a cross check in his own back from Souray. Boogaard does not look to be happy as he yells at Watson on his way to the bin.1:38 - MIN 2 - EDM 1 - Nice! "Cowboy" has done this before in his illustrious career. The grizzled vet glides through the slot with the disc on his backhand. He keeps it there and lets go with a perfect shot that glances the crossbar and falls into the cage. Man, that is pretty. Period 3
18:53 - Nolan is now two-thirds of the way to the Gordie Howe hat trick. He and Souray start trading jabs behind the Edmonton goal, and the gloves come off. They trade a few punches, but mostly just stay locked up. I assume that Nolan is cautious because he doesn't want to get hit repeatedly by a blatant forearm with a brace on it. Not that Souray would ever do such a thing.
16:18 - Look out! Former Wild prospect Patrick O'Sullivan has a breakaway all alone on Backstrom, but this ain't the Wild netminder's first rodeo. He stays right with him and makes a perfect save with the waffle glove. Kim Johnsson is going to get the gate for slashing on the play, but we'll trade the penalty for that any day of the week.
10:59 - When Havlat and the 5-foot-11 Nilsson are getting into it, you know things are getting chippy. After an offside whistle, Nilsson takes a shot at Marty, who obviously is going to be perturbed. He responds by grabbing Nilsson by the ear flaps and shaking his head like a piggy bank. That brings everybody into the scrum where holiday pleasantries are exchanged.
9:29 - Now Clutterbuck? Yes, Clutterbuck I can see being involved in the middle of a fracas. After a Backstrom save, Clutter lowers the boom on Shawn Horcoff. That brings Penner, who is a large man, into the fray and he goes right after Cal. Another brief melee breaks out, and the Wild are going to come out of this one shorthanded.
8:36 - Nolan really wanted the Howe trick. On a two-on-one with Eric Belanger, he takes a cross-the-slot feed from Bella, but he tries to send it back to Bella, but the pass is tipped away by the Oilers defender.
7:14 - Right now, Koivu is staring daggers at linesman Ryan Galloway. Koivu was leading a rush, but the play is called offside as Kyle Brodziak
may or may not have gotten into the zone a step early.
5:11 - Backstrom appears to have shaken off the nerves surrounding his new pads. He comes up huge as a great Wild power play goes awry with the Oilers causing a turnover and heading the other way. O'Sullivan hits a streaking Souray with a cross-ice pass, but Backs is there again, sliding over for another gigantic save.
2:59 - I'm reminded of how much I dislike Steve Staios. The guy who used to take every opportunity to run Marian Gaborik, now takes a cheap shot at Ebbett. As Ebbett is on the ice on his stomach, Staios waits for the play to go the other way and then slams his stick across Ebbett's back in an obvious crosscheck.0:04.8 - MIN 3 - EDM 1 - I'm going to call this one. G-Lat seals it by slamming the puck into the vacated net and sending the crowd into a frenzy.
0:00 - Game over! The Wild ends a mini-losing streak by pulling out a big 3-1 win over a divisional opponent. Merry Christmas everybody!