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Welcome back State of Hockey legion! I want you to know that you are always welcome here on Wild.com during live in-game commentary. I don't care if you injure yourself often, or if you and your agent can sometimes be a pain in the rear during contract negotiations. I say, once a Minnesotan always a Minnesotan, and we can always be friends. However, if you come back here in enemy colors, there's going to be a brief period of time where we can't be friends.
Tonight is one of those nights. As I sit here in my perch in the Al Shaver Press Box high above the frozen water at Xcel Energy Center, I am watching the New York Rangers and Marian Gaborik skating around in a red, white and blue sweater to my left. I never had a problem with "Gabby" because he always provided so many thrilling moments in his time here, and I think he is a good person. But, there are at least 22 players I like a whole lot better than him right now, and they are all wearing red and green tonight. And they're task is to shut him down, beat him up and get him out of here in a sour mood.
Leading the Gaborik Frustration Brigade (G.F.B.) will be Niklas Backstrom
, who is starting in goal for the Wild tonight. He has been causing opponents to look to the heavens in exasperation all season long, and that's going to continue tonight. Get used to Gaborik doing the same thing tonight, and let's hope that he doesn't pull anything (sorry, low blow). But Backstrom has basically been unbeatable this year, and one can only assume that continues tonight.
There are a few guys who won't be on the ice tonight to welcome back Gabby and former Wild tough guy, Derek Boogaard. Clayton Stoner
will be a healthy scratch. Pierre-Marc Bouchard
(concussion), Chuck Kobasew (lower body) and Guillaume Latendresse
(lower body) are out with injuries.
The Wild will sport the home reds for tonight's showdown. The Rangers are going with the road whites, trimmed in blue and red with "RANGERS" printed diagonally down the chest.
Gaborik has been announced as a starter in the Rangers lineup, and the announcement of his name is met with a smattering of cheers, but quite a few "boos."
Carl Pavano, who used
to have the best 'stache in the Twin Cities before Cal Clutterbuck
broke out his beauty and became the new hotness, gets us started with the "Let's Play Hockey" declaration. Carl, you steadied the rotation in the summer, so I see no reason to not listen to you. Let's get this thing going.Period 1
19:50 - Just 10 seconds in, Gaborik makes his presence felt. Going into the corner in the Wild zone, he delivers a hard check on Greg Zanon and puts him on his rump. Good for Gabby, but I have a feeling that he might be on the opposite end of a hit like that later. And I think the delivery might be made my Clutterbuck.
17:23 - The fans get a kick out of two Boogaard episodes within about 10 seconds. First, he tries to level Cam Barker as he makes a pass out of the Wild zone, but Barker gets low and Boogey just kind of rides up his back. Seconds later, Boogie tries to get in a passing lane as Barker swings the puck over to his partner. The Boogeyman was never known for his agility, and he loses an edge, nearly wiping out completely.
16:52 - There's Gabby again, and he doesn't look like he's lost a step yet. He churns up the left side and gets about 15 feet from the net before snapping off a rocket that Backstrom just gets enough of with the lobster mitt.
12:05 - Backstrom is on another planet these days. After making an initial stop on a shot in close, the puck bounces out to Marc Staal right in the danger zone. Staal fires a shot on goal with Backstrom down, but he somehow gets his leg on the shot and then holds it underneath for a whistle.
6:59 - The potent Wild power play puts on a give-and-go clinic before the puck is dropped back to Matt Cullen
. He unleashes a slap shot from the left point, but it's gloved by Marty Biron. Why does it feel like Biron has played for 20 NHL teams? He's only played for four Eastern Conference teams, but I feel like we see him all the time.
5:08 - Gaborik skates up the right side to a chorus of boos, which quickly turn to cheers as Barker plants him squarely on the ice.
3:48 - Clutterbuck and Boogaard just reversed roles for a bit. Usually, it's a guy like Clutterbuck ducking out of the way of a check, and Boogey is the one who goes crashing into the boards. This time, Clutter gets a head of steam as he looks to level his old buddy in the Ranger corner. Boogaard nimbly steps aside and it's Clutter who hammers the glass.
0:00 - An action-packed, scoreless first period comes to a close. It's time for the boys to get their fluids replenished so as to have enough energy to hang five on the scoreboard in the second.Period 2
19:34 - Marty Havlat leads a two-on-one with Eric Nystrom on his left. Havlat threads the pass through the D, but it's a little behind Ny's stick and slides through his wickets.
18:30 - Mikko Koivu
and U.S. Olympian Ryan Callahan are having themselves a little go in front of the Ranger bench. I love it. Koivu got angry last night, and he ended up scoring the tying goal.
17:21 - Robbie Earl has made a huge impression tonight. He has been all over the rink and causing problems for the Blueshirts all night. Here, he gets the puck at the top of the left circle and puts a missile right on, but Biron snares it with the glove.
16:04 - Ow! Havlat tries to lift the stick of Callahan and catches him right in the face. That's going to be a pretty obvious highsticking minor.
14:14 - After getting robbed by Backstrom on back-to-back chances, Gaborik hovers over the Wild netminder, which brings several guys in red to Backy's aid. Gabby delivers a shot to Eric Nystrom but then backs off quickly. Burns, his good buddy, is also in the vicinity but Burnzie spares him his wrath.
12:25 - I could have sworn there's a rule somewhere that states: "If a player is just standing on the ice after a whistle, a deliberate punch to the face is a penalty." Apparently not. Clutterbuck is just standing outside the crease when Biron hangs onto a Zanon shot. Erik Christensen
doesn't like it so he drills Clutter in the face with a gloved hand and puts him on the ice. 11:10 - MIN 0 - NYR 1 - The bad guys get on the board first, and it's due in large part to some work by one of the former good guys, Boogaard. He drills Earl against the sideboards, which leads to a turnover. The puck is worked around and after a save by Backstrom, the puck comes to Artem Anisimov in the right circle and he drills one into the empty net. 5:36 - MIN 0 - NYR 2 - The Rangers just barely avoid going offside on a power play, although the fans feel that former Wisconsin Badger Derek Stepan definitely is over the line. They then set up and from the corner, Stepan hits Michael Del Zotto pinching in from the left point. Del Zotto catches the pass and waits for Backstrom to dive over before sticking a wrist shot just inside the post. That really gets the boos (not booze) flowing, but a super slo-mo replay shows that Stepan just barely stayed onside. Sorry Wild fans. The zebras get this one right.
1:22 - The Wild avoids disaster here as Ruslan Fedotenko catches a pass in the slot and puts a wrist shot directly off the far post.
1:00 - MIN 0 - NYR 3 - No help from the pipe this time. Backstrom stops a Ranger shot, but the puck comes to the side of the net where Alexander Frolov is camped out. Despite Backstrom getting his pad in position to make the save, Frolov is able to chip the puck up directly into the air and just inches inside the cross bar. This isn't exactly the way the Wild had this one planned out, but there's plenty of time left for more third period magic. We all know a three-goal deficit is peanuts. Period 3
18:46 - We're four-on-four right now, and that affords some space for Clutterbuck to get a head of steam going up the right side. He crushes a slapper that Biron stops with the handle of his goalie stick.15:07 - MIN 0 - NYR 4 - The mountain just got a little steeper as Brandon Dubinsky finds a loose puck at his own blueline and he's got a clear path on this breakaway. He goes to a forehand move, and Backstrom stays right with him, getting his pad on the shot, but not enough. The puck bounces behind him and just sneaks inside the far post. The overflow sellout crowd appears a bit deflated at this point, but that's going to change as soon as the comeback starts.
8:07 - Clutterbuck is still bringing his usual intensity. He goes into the corner and staples former Boston University Terrier Matt Gilroy against the glass. He also bounces hard off of him and lands on the ice while last year's Hobey Baker winner stays upright.7:12 - MIN 1 - NYR 4 - And the comeback is under way. Kyle Brodziak makes a great play to sidestep a check in front of the New York bench on a shorthanded rush. He nearly goes down but holds his balance and then puts a perfect pass over to Cullen cutting up the slot and former Ranger buries a wrister against his former team for his 11th career shortie.
5:52 - MIN 1 - NYR 5 - And the comeback just got tougher again. Brandon Prust puts a centering pass to the front of the cage intended for former Boston College Eagle Brian Boyle. He fans on the shot, but the puck skips over to Fedotenko who chips it in from the other side of the net. That's a punch to the gut right there.
4:49 - MIN 2 - NYR 5 - Hmm. You can never count this Wild team out. There's still time up on the clock and the deficit is smaller again thanks to Havlat. He grabs a loose puck off a faceoff in the New York zone and from a tough angle, he picks his spot with a wrister and puts it past Biron. No matter the outcome, it's good to see Havlat start tearing it up again.
4:21 - Oh man! There it was. Havlat finds Nystrom all alone in front and he puts a shot upstairs. This looks like a sure goal, but somehow Biron comes up with a spectacular save. The puck is laying in the crease along with a mass of bodies, but nobody can find it and knock it in. That one would have blown the roof off this place.
2:15 - If you're looking for some good news, your number one ranked UMD Bulldogs just defeated Wisconsin in overtime for the second straight night. That makes me partially happy, but I'll be fully happy when the Wild scores three quick goals here as a power play starts.
1:23 - Some fans in the lower bowl are feeling creative (at least I'll say that's what they're feeling) and building a massive tower of empty plastic cups. This thing is stretching at least 20 feet long at this point.
0:00 - The comeback falls short. The Wild goes down to the Rangers. A tough one for the good guys, but better to lose to the East than the West.