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Wassup State of Hockey legion? A Happy Youth Day to all of the rabid Wild fans in Taiwan who are celebrating the Guangzhou Uprising of 1911, in which 72 young revolutionaries sacrificed their lives to overthrow the Qing Dynasty. How do you not respect that, especially at this time of year?
Tonight, the Minnesota Wild is about to channel the power of the Guangzhou as they start an uprising of their own never before seen in the National Hockey League. Beginning with the Los Angeles Kings, the Wild is about to rattle of seven straight victories while the Colorado Avalanche sputter to a 1-6-0 finish. Then, the Wild will just have to win 16 more games and we'll be planning a parade route down West Seventh. And I'll be here to witness it from my Al Shaver Press Box perch and bring it to all y'all through the power of live in-game commentary.
But it's first things first. We have to start with one win and work from there. That's why we've got Niklas Backstrom
manning the pipes for the red-clad Wild warriors today. Nik doesn't lose many games at Xcel Energy Center, and he certainly doesn't lose games on Youth Day, so we're good there.
As for the rest of the lineup, there are some injuries to speak of. Cam Barker (ankle), Marek Zidlicky (arm), Shane Hnidy (leg), Chuck Kobasew Clayton Stoner
(hernia) and Pierre-Marc Bouchard
are all out. That's the bad news. But before you mistake me for a downer, just wait. Mikko Koivu
is back in the lineup, and Marek Zidlicky has shaken off an elbow injury in order to play tonight. That means the debut of Elk River's Nate Prosser
is going to have to wait. He'll be the lone healthy scratch tonight.
As for attire, the Wild is decked out in the home reds tonight. The Kings are sporting the road whites trimmed in purple, black and silver with the Burger King's crown on the chest.
Kevin Love, the rebounding machine for the local team in a sport called "basketball," gets us going with the "Let's Play Hockey" declaration. I concur with K-Love. Let's do the damn thang.Period 1
17:23 - That's twice that I've heard the entire Los Angeles bench start screaming toward the ice. At first, I thought they were upset about a non-call, but the second time I realize they are shouting at their defenseman going back to retrieve the pucks that Derek Boogaard is out there and he's looking for raw meat.
15:02 - Dustin Brown is cut from the same cloth as Cal Clutterbuck
, always looking to dish out a hit. But he may want to be a bit more selective. He tries to lay a heavy shoulder into Big John Scott, but instead gets planted right on his backside.
10:18 - The first decent scoring chance goes to the Kings as Michal Handzus emerges from the corner with the puck. He makes a nifty move before firing a backhand with some heat on it. Backstrom is positioned perfectly and he sponges up that shot to get a faceoff.
9:10 - The next scoring chance goes to the good guys. Martin Havlat, as he has been known to do, spots Guillaume Latendresse
open in the low slot. Marty hits him, and G-Lat puts a one-timer right on that is stopped beautifully by former University of Massachusetts Minuteman, Jonathan Quick. I still contend that "Jonathan Quick" is a stage name, like "Dark Star."
5:28 - The normally mild-mannered Andrew Ebbett is steaming right now. He's upset that Brad Richardson was not called for a highstick earlier, and Ebbett has been going after Richardson ever since. The two exchange some heated words as they skate to their respective benches.
0:26.3 - I'm pretty sure this is the first time we've ever seen a two-on-one featuring Big John and Casey Wellman. Scott tears up the ice with Wellman on his right. He dishes off to the rookie, who tries to give it back, but the play is broken up.
0:00 - That's going to do it for a scoreless opening stanza. The Wild will get some refreshments and come back energized for the second.Period 2
18:41 - MIN 1 - LA 0 - Hot dog! The Wild hops out to the lead with a power play marker. Ebbett fires a shot through traffic that finds its way to Quick. He makes that stop, but the rebound pops out to the high slot where Owen Nolan puts a backhand right back on goal and it finds a hole between Quick's wickets. This marks the first time all season that the Wild has a power play marker in five straight games. Yee haw!
16:14 - Wellman shows off his speed by walking past Canadian gold medalist Drew Doughty to get on Quick. At the last moment, Doughty dives back and forces Wellman to try and put it in from a tough angle.
15:18 - Tempers are beginning to flare as they say. After a Backstrom save, Ryan Smyth comes in after the whistle and takes a whack at him in an attempt to jar the puck free. That angers Big John, who wastes no time going after Smyth. Those two come face to face in the corner and both have angry looks on their faces.
14:16 - Curses to you Jonathan Quick. Because of his unbelievable sprawling pad save, he robs Boogaard of his first goal of the season. Cal Clutterbuck
does a great job of driving to the net with the puck, and after Quick stops that, the puck is laying about two feet from the goal line and Boogey has a clear whack at it. But somehow Quick sticks his leg back and keeps it out and the crowd can't believe it.
13:53 - Former Princeton Tiger Jeff Halpern drives to the net with the puck, but after he's stopped, he plows into Backstrom and knocks him over. Greg Zanon goes right after Halpern who is laying face down on the ice and he wants no part of a fracas. He covers his head with his gloves and Zanon backs off.12:34 - MIN 2 - LA 0 - Now this takes some serious skill. On a four-on-four, Brent Burns gets the puck at the point. Looking like he's going to pass to the other side, Burns makes a sick toe drag move on Richardson and blows right past him as he goes to the net. When he gets in alone on Quick, he goes upstairs with a quick shot for a beautiful goal. Look for that one in the Top Five Goals for the month of March.
11:33 - Look at Zanon! Out there on a 5-on-3 L.A. power play, Zanon takes a wicked slap shot right off the lower part of the leg. This is the guy playing on a severely injured ankle. He goes down, but Backstrom comes up with a big save on Smyth and he gets a whistle allowing Zanon to head to the bench.
9:39 - I'm not sure what referree Kerry Fraser is waiting for, but he is refusing to blow his whistle despite the Kings coming off a five-on-three. Clutter delivers a hit on former Boston College Eagle Peter Harrold, who takes exception. He puts Clutterbuck in a head lock for about five seconds, with Fraser standing four feet away and staring right at the two of them.7:13 - MIN 2 - LA 1 - Wellman tips one in, but it's for the wrong team. Just seconds after Backstrom robs Richardson on a point blank try, the puck comes out to the point where former Nebraska Omaha Maverick Scott Parse cranks a slap shot. On its way to the net, the puck glances off the stick of Wellman and the misdirection fools Backs.
4:15 - Burns is an offensive (or as Canadians would say, "oh-fensive") dynamo tonight. He jumps up to lead a rush, that results in a two-on-one. He then puts a slick pass to a wide open Kyle Brodziak
, but Quick comes way out to defend that and Brodzy never gets a clean shot off as he tries to wait out Quick.
2:48 - Zanon keeps taking his beatings. This time, he carries the puck along the boards in the neutral zone and former Michigan Wolverine Jack Johnson lays a perfect hip check on him, sending him airborne like a bottle rocket. Period 3
19:30 - Good gracious! Quick makes two game-savers in the span of about a half second. First, Zidlicky cracks a one-timer off a centering pass, and the L.A. target gets to that one. The puck pops right to Antti Miettinen in the slot, and he appears to have a gimme, but Quick makes an unbelievable pad save to keep the deficit at a goal. 18:35 MIN 2 - LA 2 - And now we've got a game. Parse is enjoying the game of his life as he one-times a pass in the high circle and beats Backstrom on the glove side.
18:00 - Excuse me? After Jarret Stoll runs Backstrom, both Zidlicky and Nick Schultz pull him off their goaltender. Fraser calls penalties on both of them, and the Wild will have to kill two full minutes of a five-on-three. Koivu can't believe it as he argues with Fraser, who better have a make up call up his sleeve.
15:56 - You gotta love it! Zidlicky and Schultz scramble out of the box right as Backstrom covers up during a mad scramble. The roof is blown off of this house as the entire crowd stands and cheers the efforts of Burns, Koivu, Backstrom and Zanon, who withstand some furious flurries on the doorstep. At one point, Zanon was knocked off balance by blocking a shot, then he tried to block the return shot by diving with his back facing the shot. I think that seals the fact that he's clinically insane. My favorite moments at Wild games are when the home team kills a 5-on-3. Just exhilirating!12:22 - MIN 3 - LA 2 - How big is that penalty kill now? The Wild finally gets a turn on the power play, and they make the most of it. Havlat gets the puck at the left point, and despite the naysayers, he shows he's got a missile when he needs it. He fires a pinpoint slap shot through traffic, past Quick's glove and into the upper corner on the far side. This is place is losing its collective mind with glee.
5:49 - The Kings are playing with obvious desperation as their hold on a playoff spot is diminishing by the minute. At every chance, they are sending everyone to the net including here, where a mad scramble ensues as the puck lays in the middle of a rugby scrum in the crease. Finally, Backstrom gets a whistle...wait just a New York minute, is that Van Halen's "Right Now" I hear wafting over the loudspeakers? You're darn right it is, and that can only mean this crowd is about to overwhelm the Kings.
5:24 - Where was this play by Doughty in the gold medal game? Going back in his own zone, Doughty tries to send a pass over to his partner. He completely whiffs and Clutter ends up with the puck right in front of the net. He tries to make a move on Quick, but the puck won't settle and Quick denies him.
3:14 - Zanon makes another great play while killing a penalty, and he springs Clutterbuck (one of many Wild players having a great game) on a two-on-one. Clutter streaks up the left side and lets loose with a heavy snap shot that Quick has trouble handling. The puck drops down in the crease, but Clutter can't get to it quick enough to poke it home.
1:18 - Quick is off for the extra attacker.
0:00 - That's going to do it. The Wild holds off the Kings and scores a highly entertaining victory for the home crowd.