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Happy New Year State of Hockey legion! Welcome to the very last live in-game commentary of the decade. If you're planning on printing this page off so you can frame it and put it above your fireplace, I have no objections. I just ask that you wait until the Wild win is officially complete before you hit print.
I am going to say goodbye to 2009 from the only place that makes any sense, and that's my perch in the Al Shaver Press Box, high atop the ice level at the Xcel Energy Center. Yet, I'm a little bleary-eyed because tonight is the last night that Minnesota hockey legend and the "Godfather of St. Paul," Lou Cotroneo will be the Al Shaver Press Box greeter. Lou, who has been a staple since the Wild's inception, is going to hang up his spurs after tonight's game. His firm handshakes and "Hey! Howwedoin'everythinggoodokayokaygogetem!" will be missed by all of us media bottom feeders, but Lou breathes hockey so I'm sure we'll be seeing him take advantage of the first-ever lifetime press pass that has been bestowed on him by Wild V.P. of Communications and Broadcasting, Bill Robertson.
Lou also got a cake tonight, but he told me that all he really wants as a going away present is for Niklas Backstrom
to be the starting goaltender for his favorite team tonight. Lou, you got it. Backstrom is in fact getting the start tonight, and I'm sure he will dedicate this upcoming win to you.
Lou will likely be shaking the hands of a few more Wild players tonight. Pierre-Marc Bouchard
(concussion), Brent Burns (concussion), Clayton Stoner
(groin) and Chuck Kobasew (knee) are out because of injuries and it's possible they may watch from the press box tonight. James Sheppard will be the healthy scratch. The good news is that Petr Sykora will re-enter the lineup tonight after missing nearly two months with a concussion.
As for New Year's outfits, the Wild will wear their home red sweaters. The Kings are going with the road whites trimmed in black, purple and silver with the King's bucket on the chest.
Kent Hrbek, the big bear of a man that hit so many big home runs for the Minnesota Twins and deftly pulled Ron Gant of first base, gets us going with the Let's Play Hockey declaration. I agree. Let's do this.Period 1
19:34 - The Wild gets a nice chance early as Andrew Ebbett gets the puck in front to an open Martin Havlat, but the Czech Republic Olympian just misses wide with a backhand from 10 feet out.
14:56 - Probable U.S. Olympian Dustin Brown makes a great move to get around Shane Hnidy in the Kings zone and he has a one-on-one with Greg Zanon back. Zanon plays it perfectly as he's done all year, and he knocks Brown off the puck without giving up a shot on goal.13:25 - MIN 0 - LAK 1 - The Wild has been dominating early, but it's the Kings that draw first blood. Wayne Simmonds throws a backhand on net that Backstrom stops, but he can't hang onto the rebound. Brad Richardson is on the doorstep and as he fights off checks from Cal Clutterbuck and Kim Johnsson, he's able to poke it past Backstrom.
9:39 - Hudson native and former Wisconsin Badger Davis Drewiske has a plethora of family and friends in the crowd, but they probably don't like this as Derek Boogaard unloads a bone rattling hit on him just inside the L.A. blueline.4:11 - MIN 0 - LAK 2 - This would be considered a breakdown. Somehow Alexander Frolov is left wide open in front and Brandon Segal finds him with a pass. Backstrom has to dive head first to make an amazing poke check, but the puck comes back to Frolov. He spins and tries to put another shot on goal, but that's stopped by a diving Eric Belanger. But, he gets it back once again. This time, with both Belanger and Backstrom on the ice, he lifts a shot over both of them and builds the Kings lead up to two.
2:16 - Minnesota almost gets one back as Sykora throws a pass to the slot for a streaking Nick Schultz. The puck hits traffic and bounces toward the goal where Kyle Brodziak
is wide open, but it is just out of his reach.
1:40 - For the second time tonight, Mikko Koivu
snaps his stick as he tries to clear the zone on the penalty kill. As hockey parents know, that's a lot of money that just went into the garbage with those two composites. 1:06 - MIN 0 - LAK 3 - This has not been the Wild's best period in this decade. On the power play, the Kings strike again as 20-year-old Drew Doughty, the youngest player on the Canadian Olympic team, stops a Cal Clutterbuck clearing attempt. He throws a wrist shot toward the goal and Ryan Smyth, who was snubbed by Team Canada, puts a perfect deflection on it for the goal.
0:00 - Time to regroup. The good thing about this period is that it's over. Plenty of time to mount a comeback charge in the second and third periodsPeriod 2
16:43 - MIN 0 - LAK 4 - Ish. This is not the New Year's celebration we were expecting tonight. On a delayed penalty, the Kings play keep away with the puck until Frolov zips a pass across the ice to Michal Handzus on the right wing, and he one-times a shot past Backstrom giving the Wild its second four-goal deficit of the season.
15:10 - MIN 1 - LAK 4 - Here we go! We have a pulse as the Wild answers back quickly. Koivu's shot from the high slot is stopped, but the rebound comes out wide to Antti Miettinen in the left circle. He could try a shot, but he makes a great pass back to the slot for Andrew Brunette and he gets just enough of it to deflect it in.
11:53 - The Wild is starting to find its groove again. Marek Zidlicky hits Johnsson at the L.A. blueline, and Kim makes a bid for his fourth goal in four games by ripping a shot that Jonathan Quick snares with the glove hand.
6:39 - We've got a fracas, and wouldn't you know that Clutterbuck is in the middle of it? After former Michigan Wolvering Jack Johnson takes a shot at Kyle Brodziak
, all 10 skaters start to tangle, but nothing is going to be called as order is restored rather quickly.
0:00 - Now this is a brouhaha, and wouldn't you know that Clutterbuck is again in the middle of it? After the buzzer sounds, he and Scuderi have some words and the gloves are off. That brings everybody into the melee in the Los Angeles zone. Clutterbuck and Owen Nolan are the two that are the most intense as Nolan is paired off with Simmonds. The shenanigans last a good while before everything is settled and Zanon is allowed to skate around and collect all of the excess equipment. Period 3
17:29 - The Kings were involved in a penalty fest last night in Calgary, and this one is starting to turn into one as well. After former UND Fighting Sioux Matt Greene falls on top of the puck, Big John Scott takes a couple pokes at him. Greene gets up and gives him a shot, so Scott drops the gloves and makes quick work of Greene in a battle of former WCHA adversaries.
13:17 - This would have been nice, but the Wild doesn't get the bounce as Brodziak tips a feed in front that pops over Quick. It looks like it's going to land in the net, but instead it runs down the post and then rolls into the crease before getting cleared out.
11:13 - The Wild is doing what it can to try and come back, but Quick isn't cooperating. He stuffs Miettienen on the doorstep, then gloves the rebound chance, also off the stick of Mittens.
8:30 - The Wild power play just looks lost right now as nobody can connect on a pass, and the Kings are winning the races to every loose puck.6:03 - MIN 2 - LAK 4 - Slow and steady wins the race I'm told, so let's hope that this slow comeback steadily increases in six minutes. Zidlicky skates in deep with the puck and as he crosses the goal line, he fires a pass out front to Nolan, and he buries one upstairs as Quick tries to scramble over. The celebration is a bit subdued as there's more work to do, but it's a start.
4:24 - The puck and Brunette are in the net, but this one isn't going to count. Brunette has a couple of whacks at the puck right in the crease, but Quick makes the stop and covers up. Bruno then gets drilled from behind and into the net, and the puck follows him, but the play was clearly whistled down before it crossed.
2:56 - Hark! That can only be the smooth pipes of Steven Perry belting out "Don't Stop Believin'"! You know what that means? An automatic Wild rally! The last time that song was played, the Wild rallied from two down in the third to beat Anaheim. I don't see why it won't work again.
2:40 - Backstrom heads off for the early extra attacker.
2;00 - Oh my! Brunette makes a nifty pass from his office behind the net out front to Sykora, who has an opening, but he pulls the trigger too quick and puts it right into Quick along the goal line.1:38 - MIN 2 - LAK 5 - This is going to make a comeback difficult. Frolov wins the battle for a puck in the neutral zone and he puts it away into the yawning cage.
0:00 - The Wild's first decade of existence closes with a thud, but tomorrow marks a new beginning, and a march toward the playoffs. Mark my words. On that note, Happy New Year everyone, and stay safe!