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What's the haps, State of Hockey legion? Let me start off the night by being the first to wish all of the Wild fans in New Zealand a Happy Waitangi Day. As you well know, it was just 170 years ago today that the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand's founding document, was signed. And since then, New Zealand has provided wonderful things like kick-butt rugby teams, high quality wool and Rachel Hunter. Thank you, New Zealand.
Tonight, (or in New Zealand, this morning), the Wild will be hosting the Philadelphia Flyers and the mane on the head of Scott Hartnell. Rumor has it that another locker had to be constructed in the visting locker room just to support his flowing locks that look about as long as the Princess' hair in the movie, "Braveheart."
All the hair in the world isn't going to help Hartnell and his more folically-challenged teammates tonight, and that's because they are going to have to deal with the lovable Anton Khudobin between the pipes. Khudobin might be one of the funniest players ever to pull on a Wild jersey, but when it's gametime, he's more about making opponents and their fans cry like little babies, and he'll be doing that tonight in his first-ever NHL start.
Khudobin is going to be backed up by Wade Dubielewicz due to the absence of Nik Backstrom (illness) and Josh Harding
(hip). Derek Boogaard is going to return to the lineup tonight, while James Sheppard and John Scott will be the healthy scratches. Pierre-Marc Bouchard
(concussion), Chuck Kobasew (knee) and Clayton Stoner
(groin) are out because of injuries.
I've got some more good news on the wardrobe front. The Wild will wear the green third jerseys tonight, and the Fightin' W's have lost just once at home in the greenies. The Flyers will sport the road whites trimmed in orange and black with the winged "P" on the chest.
That's going to do it for the pregame mumbo-jumbo. Let's get to some old school hockey action.Period 1
19:29 - One save down, plenty more to go for Khudobin, who easily gloves a floater from Jeff Carter. The first save is always important, so it helps that this one could have been stopped by most grandmothers.
18:06 - This save is much tougher as Aaron Asham carries the puck down low and then tries to stuff one in on the short side, but Khudobin expertly lays down the leg pillow along the goal line to keep it out.
17:39 - The Wild's first scoring chance is generated by the fourth line as the Boogeyman gets to the puck behind the Philly net and sends a no-look pass to the front where Robbie Earl is all alone. He rips a point blank one-timer but Michael Leighton makes a sparkling save. Then, Earl gets called for a bogus slash when he breaks a player's composite stick when he tries to lift it, not slash it. The good news is that the play coincides with Boogaard planting Kimmo Timonen on his rear, and then taking on three Flyers at once.
10:19 - It's the Wild bullying the Flyers so far tonight as Boogey again drills a Flyer defenseman. This time, it's Lukas Krajicek who gets belted, losing his helmet in the process. Boogey might be the Wild's player of the game through the opening 10 minutes. Actually, we'll give him the #2 star thus far. Khudobin already has 14 saves to Leighton's three.
7:37 - As he did many times two nights ago, Marty Havlat steals a puck in the neutral zone and leads an odd-man rush the other way. He's got Guillaume Latendresse
on his left, but instead, he pulls up and drops it back to Kyle Brodziak
trailing the play. Brodzy can't get good wood on his first attempt, but the puck stays near, and he fires a second attempt that Leighton knocks out of mid-air with unprotected part of his blocker hand.4:23 - MIN 1 - PHI 0 - Sound the alarm! The Wild strikes first as Owen Nolan wreaks havoc behind the net where Leighton is trying to play the puck. Nolan is able to force the puck out front where Cal Clutterbuck pounces on it and drives it in for his 11th of the year. Talk about animated celebrations. He skates up the boards on one knee and delivers some big-time fist pumps before giving an "'atta boy!" to Khudobin.
4:07 - MIN 1 - PHI 1 - So far it's all about the agitators tonight. Daniel Carcillo answers at the other end. Braydon Coburn fires a shot on goal that Khudobin stops with the blocker, but Carcillo is able to bat the puck out of the air and into the net for the first-ever NHL goal scored on Khudobin, who could very well face 20 shots in his first full period. He's seen 17 so far.
0:00 - The horn sounds and the Wild will head to the locker room tied on the scoreboard, but trailing in shots, 17-7. I think a little Powerade and some chalk talk will turn things around for our boys.Period 2
18:11 - On the Wild's first power play, the faceoff is won back to Havlat at the point, and he cranks a shot that glances off the outside of the post.
17:14 - I have no idea how we're not talking goal right now. Nolan knocks a pass down with his glove and skates the puck down low. He makes a perfect feed to the crease, and G-Lat appears to make an even more perfect deflection, but somehow Leighton is quick enough to get a piece of the shot before it crosses the goal line.
17:02 - Here come the Wild again as Miettinen has a lone breakaway. He gets between the circles and he opts to fire a wrister, trying to squeeze one through the wickets of Leighton, but the Flyers netminder makes another big stop to keep this one tied.
12:36 - Brent Burns follows up a foul up with a great play. After trying to clear, but sending the puck right to Simon Gagne, Burns is scrambling. But after Gagne puts his shot off the post, the puck is laying in the danger zone, where Burns is able to fire the puck out of the zone from his knees.8:12 - MIN 2 - PHI 1 - We will take it! After the Wild pumps shot after shot at Leighton on the power play, they finally get one at even strength off a broken play. Nolan dishes to Eric Belanger at the top of the zone, and then goes straight to the net. Belanger knuckles a shot on goal that Leighton can't handle. Nolan whacks at the rebound, but it appears he hits former Denver Pioneer Matt Carle's stick, which hits the puck through Leighton.
6:24 - Yikes! We've been here before with the Kurtis Foster
incident, but thankfully, the result of this dangerous play is not nearly as bad. On a delayed icing call, Marek Zidlicky hustles back to get the puck and he's chased by Mike Richards, who puts his stick in there, tripping Zid and sending him crashing into the backboards. Richards is going to get two minutes, and he's lucky he's not getting more.
4:52 - What a night it's been for Nolan. The grizzled vet nearly bags another as G-Lat makes a great centering feed from behind the net. Nolan puts it right on, but Leighton is quick with those leg pillows and he stuffs him on the doorstep.
4:10 - I knew the Wild was dominating this period, but I had no idea it was to this extent. After getting outshot 17-7 in the first, the Wild has now evened the shot totals at 22 apiece.
2:28 - I've said it before and I'll say it again, Mikko Koivu
is one guy you don't want to anger. He gets taken out by former Princeton Tiger Darrell Powe on another dangerous play behind the Wild net. Koivu goes ballistic, taking repeated shots at Powe's legs with his stick. He then takes a few more shots at Powe in front of the net.
1:06 - If Nolan gets an assist tonight, I'm giving him a Gordie Howe hat trick, even though he's only getting two minutes here for dropping the gloves with 1980's heavy metal wannabe, Hartnell. Nolan lands a quick blow before Hartnell bear hugs him and the two go down to the ice. Both get roughing minors, and as PR guru Ryan Stanzel just said, "That's about as much as you can get away with without getting a fighting major."Period 3
16:52 - Khudobin continues to impress as he makes his 29th save of the night, this one on Powe who fights through a Koivu hook and tries to send one in on the far side, but "Who-Da-Man" plays it perfectly and makes the stop.
14:16 - Brunette uses his posterior to perfection as he always does by holding off Oskars Bartulis while holding the puck behind the Philly goal. He then throws a pass out front to Mittens on the doorstep, but his bid is denied by Leighton.
14:00 - The refs have let a lot of plays go tonight, but this one is ridiculous. Mittens takes an obvious high stick to the face by Coburn, and that starts a two-on-one the other way. Asham again leads the play and he's hell-bent on sticking one past the pride of Kazakhstan, but it's not happening. Khudobin shuts the door again.
12:45 - On a Wild power play, the puck comes back to the point to Kim Johnsson, who falls down, which leads to a breakaway for Blair Betts. Luckily, Koivu is nearby and he turns on the afterburners to catch up and make a remarkable diving play to stick the puck away from behind.
11:12 - This Wild power play has been slightly less than spectacular. This time, the Flyers have a three-on-one the other way with Burns the only green guy back. Burns goes down to takeaway the pass, but Mike Richards waits him out by pulling the puck back and then having a clear lane to Khudobin, who makes his biggest stop of the night on a wicked wrist shot from 10 feet out. As any announcer will tell you, the biggest thing is he doesn't give up a rebound.
4:08 - Andrew Ebbett nearly gives the Wild some breathing room by getting loose in the slot and one-timing a great pass from Latendresse. Leighton, who has been very good (but he's no Anton Khudobin), somehow gets the waffle glove up in time and knocks the puck out of play.
1:46 - In his first NHL start, Anton Khudobin has just tied a Wild season-high for saves in a game, getting a shoulder on a Gagne shot, and then hanging with the play and gloving it out of the air. Harding made 38 saves earlier in the year in a loss to Washington.
1:30 - The Philly net is empty.
0:00 - That's it! Khudobin gets the win in his first NHL start, and what a start it is! A 38-save effort and the Wild comes away with two more yooooge points.