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What is cracking, State of Hockey legion? First, I'd like to start tonight's live in-game commentary by wishing a Happy Independence Day to all of the Wild fans in Sri Lanka, who gained their freedom from the United Kingdom 62 years ago. William Wallace, also known as "Braveheart," would be proud.
Tonight, I am coming to you live from my beloved perch in the Al Shaver Press Box high atop the ice rink at Xcel Energy Center. It's providing the perfect vantage point to watch pregame warmups featuring the Edmonton Oilers and your
Minn-aaahhh--sotaaaahhh WHY-YAAAAALD! The Oilers have the worst record in the Western Conference, but that doesn't mean squat. The Wild knows it's going to have its hands full with this Division rival.
That's why Josh Harding
is out there turning away warmup shots like Justin Bieber does to all those teeny-boppers that swarm his public appearances. The Oilers appear to be in for a long night trying to solve "Hards," but if he should somehow falter, he's got Anton Khudobin backing him up so it's all good in the hood.
As for those who aren't playing, the list is long. Nik Backstrom is not dressed up due to his illness. Derek Boogaard (hamstring), Pierre-Marc Bouchard
(concussion), Chuck Kobasew (knee) and Clayton Stoner
(groin) are all out. Wade Dubielewicz is not dressed, and James Sheppard is going to be the healthy scratch.
Let's talk fashion, shall we? The Wild is wearing the always lovely home reds for tonight's game. The Oilers are sporting the road whites trimmed in blue, copper and orange with the tear drop on the chest.
Nancy and Steve Trost, two season ticket holders from the beginning, get us started with the "Let's Play Hockey" declaration. The customer is always right, so let's get down to brass tacks.Period 1
17:42 - One Oiler we don't need to see get open in front of the net is former Maine Black Bear Dustin Penner. He has a crack at a rebound, but puts it right off the side of the net.
17:12 - The Wild comes right back the other way and Martin Havlat makes a great steal in the neutral zone to start an odd-man rush the other way. He hands it off to Robbie Earl, who fires a heavy snapshot that Jeff Deslauriers gets just enough of with the lobster glove.
15:33 - A good looking first power play for the Wild so far. Here, Havlat one-times a shot from the point that zips low and gets through traffic on goal. Both Owen Nolan and Guillaume Latendresse
are there to whack at the rebound, but Deslauriers is able to keep it out while flailing away on the ice.
10:57 - Former Jefferson Jaguar Tom Gilbert
didn't have to shake too many hits like this from Lake Conference opponents back in the day. But this is the Big Leagues, and he takes a mammoth shot from G-Lat as the two chase a puck in the Edmonton corner. Gilbert gets airborne before smacking into the boards.
9:49 - Wow! Who's that sexy beast that just sat a couple chairs down from me? Oh, wait, it's Bill Robertson, one of five finalists for Minneapolis-St. Paul Magazine's five sexiest males.
6:42 - I'll try to recap three amazing plays (but no goals) on this sequence. First, Marek Zidlicky makes a dirty between-the-legs pass out front, but nobody can connect. Then, Antti Miettinen crushes a slap shot that beats Deslauriers but smacks the post. Then,
Andrew Brunette has a wide open net, but he's firing from a shallow angle and puts the puck off Deslauriers' posterior. The puck then sits in the crease behind the Oilers keeper, but nobody can poke it in and finally J.D. (as I call him because it's easier to type) lays flat and covers up the disc.
5:41 - The Wild is doing just about everything humanly possible to score a goal, yet there are still a couple doughnuts up on the scoreboard. Bruno quickly jumps in front of the net and tries to stuff one in. Deslauriers scrambles to make that save, and then his outstretched pad keeps a rebound attempt from crossing the line. Zidlicky is raising his arms like the puck is in, but alas, it is not.
1:27 - For some reason, an obvious check-from-behind by Marc Pouliot on Andrew Ebbett goes uncalled. But John Scott is going to get two for roughing after dumping Pouliot in retaliation. Zack Stortini then gets involved and Scott gives him a playful shove to the face before heading to the sin bin.
0:00 - A first period completely controlled by the Wild up until the last power play, comes to an end with zeroes on the board. As long as that kind of effort continues for the final 40, we should be in good shape.Period 2
18:41 - MIN 1 - EDM 0 - It had to happen sooner or later, and the Wild finally capitalizes on a juicy rebound. Kim Johnsson sends a long shot toward the goal, where it hits traffic right in front. That makes it easy for Havlat who picks up the loose puck and moves slightly to the left. With Deslauriers down, he throws it into the empty net for his 12th of the year.
16:14 - The one goal hasn't seemed to faze J.D. Goalie. The Koivu line throws pass after pass until Mittens makes a perfect feed across to Mikko, and he cracks a one-timer, but the Oilers target makes a spectacular pad save. This game could be 5-0 right now.13:19 - MIN 1 - EDM 1 - If we were in Edmonton they might start blaring the Laguna Beach theme song, "I'm Coming Clean" by Hillary Duff because her squeeze, Mike Comrie, ties this game up at onesies. After Nolan hopped out of the penalty box to leave the Wild one man short, Sam Gagner sends a cross-crease pass to a wide open Comrie, and the former Michigan Wolverine buries it.
10:21 - How many times have I typed the name Havlat tonight? This guy is everywhere, and part of the reason could be that he's double-shifting between his normal line and the fourth line. After taking a drop pass from Earl, he makes a beautiful cut to the middle and fires a shot right on goal. J.D. makes the save, and also denies Earl and Ebbett as they whack away at the rebound.
9:21 - The power play can't buy a goal right now, despite looking like the '85 Oilers. Zidlicky cranks a shot that misses wide but caroms right out to Miettinen. He makes a perfect touch pass across to Brunette, who redirects it inches wide of an open cage.
4:49 - With his team controlling most of the play, Harding has to be on high alert, and he appears to be here by snagging a wicked shot by Sam Gagner on an Edmonton rush into the zone.
4:13 - Hopefully I didn't jinx Hards, but he scares the entire crowd here by making a blocker save on a long, harmless shot, but the puck pops high in the air and drops in the crease behind him. Luckily, Nick Schultz follows the puck the whole way and quickly clears it out of harm's way.Period 3
19:29 - Yet another huge save by J.D. as Eric Belanger dances behind the net and then sends a centering feed to Nolan bearing down on the net. He puts it right on, but Deslauriers slides over and stuffs him with a save into the chest protector.16:19 - MIN 2 - EDM 1 - There it is! You could sense the frustration building in the Xcel Energy Center, but the crowd can finally let loose on another great play by the Koivu line. The captain dances around two defenders before going behind the goal line and then quickly dishing out front to his countryman, Miettinen. "Mittens" is close to the net, but he's able to chip it up high and over the shoulder of J.D.
12:35 - Harding goes after a loose puck behind his net, and after sticking the puck away, he is in obvious pain as he gets back in his crease. After a stoppage, he is down there trying to stretch it out.11:19 - MIN 2 - EDM 2 - This isn't going to help Harding's hip, or team morale. Pouliot tries to stuff one in on a wraparound, and Harding makes that stop, and another with his right pad. That brings in the calvary who finally force it in, even though Harding appears to have the puck covered. The refs go upstairs for a lengthy review, and the goal will count. To make matters worse, Harding is in obvious pain, but he's going to stay in there and tough it out.
9:33 - Save of the year, hands down, but it comes at a price. Pouliot dekes Harding to the ice and then sends a pass across to Penner, who has nothing but net. Harding scrambles and dives headfirst, and in midair, snares it with the glove. Unfortunately, this is not good for his hip. He stays down, and we are going to see the NHL debut of Khudobin. Harding has to be helped off the ice by Doc Fuller, and he does not look to be in good shape.7:48 - MIN 3 - EDM 2 - It's G-Lat's world, and we're just living in it! He puts Khudobin in line for a win by walking Jason Strudwick and then sliding a perfect backhand underneath Deslauriers. Latendresse then celebrates with demonstrative fist pump, and this is a yooooge goal.
6:30 - Welcome to the NHL Anton! The man with fairies on his mask gets some help from them as his first NHL save comes on an Edmonton power play, and it's not easy. From a shallow angle, Gagner tries to go upstairs, but Khudobin absorbs that shot and then flops around with the puck in his crease and Penner lurking, somehow keeping it out.
5:30 - The crowd is loving the Khudobin experience. This guy is as animated out there as any Wild goaltender I've ever seen, as evidenced by his glove save of former Michigan State Spartan Shawn Horcoff's shot and then holding it high in the air for all to see.
3:49 - I didn't think the Finns were known for their big slap shots, but Miettinen has the cannon on display tonight. He leans into a howitzer that Deslauriers has to make a spectacular glove save on.2:36 - MIN 4 - EDM 2 - Yes! How fun are the Lat brothers (Havlat and G-Lat) to watch when they are rolling like this? Marty, who has been a better pickpocket than Oliver Twist, causes another turnover in the neutral zone. He speeds the other way on a two-on-one. He forces a pass over to Latendresse, who makes a perfect pass right back and Havlat buries it. Just a little over two minutes, and Khudobin will have his first win in unusual fashion.
0:47.6 - Deslauriers heads to the bench. Good riddance!
0:00 - That was harder than it should have been, but the Wild comes away with a big two points, and Khudobin gets his first NHL win.