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Ah yeah State of Hockey legion! What's crack-a-lackin' homeys (teenage slang for what is going on my good friends?). A happy Hump Day to all of you. You couldn't have picked a better night to join me for a little live in-game commentary here on Wild.com, which is still waiting for a Pulitzer Prize. I am coming to you live from my form-fitting perch in the Al Shaver Press Box, high above the frozen water at Xcel Energy Center.
From here, I have an eagle eye view of pregame warmups as your
Minnesota Wild gird their loins for tonight's yoooge matchup with the Phoenix Coyotes. Points are needed my friends. Points are needed. You can tell it's a big game because there are two dudes (trust me, they are definitely "dudes") currently standing next to the glass wearing Coyotes jerseys and watching the Yotes warm up. That doubles the amount of Coyotes jerseys that have been in his building in the last nine seasons.
While we appreciate the dudes buying tickets, it won't be enough to save them from witnessing the beatdown their team is about to take. After all, Niklas Backstrom
is down below me taking warmup shots for the first time since Hockey Day Minnesota on January 23. He will be getting the start tonight, and there's not a darn thing the dudes can do about it.
Anton Khudobin, my favorite goalie of all times, will be the backup because Josh Harding
needs to get some more rest for that pesky hip injury. Pierre-Marc Bouchard
(concussion), Chuck Kobasew (knee) and Clayton Stoner
(groin) are all out with injuries. James Sheppard and John Scott will be tonight's healthy scratches.
As for attire, the Wild are back to wearing their snappy home reds, even though they don't seem to lose when they wear the greenies. The Yotes will wear the road whites trimmed in brick red with the lonely, howling dog on the chest.
Terra Rasmussen, a star for the Minnesota Lady Gopher hockey team, gets us going with tonight's "Let's Play Hockey" declaration. I make it a policy to ignore requests from Gophers, but Terra seems like a lovely gal, so I'll give her the benefit of the doubt.Period 1
19:44 - Todd Richards wants a quick start and he gets it on the first shift from the Wild's "checking" line. Cal Clutterbuck
is all over the place in the slot, and when the puck finally pops free, Clutter rips a shot right on that Ilya Bryzgalov turns away.
17:00 - Another great shift for the Flying W's, and this time it's by the "fourth" line. Derek Boogaard and Robbie Earl do a great job along the boards and Earl gets the puck to Greg Zanon at the point. Captain Redbeard fires a slap shot toward the goal, and Earl puts a tip on it. Bryzgalov makes that save, then robs Boogey to keep his goal-less streak at around 5,000 games. Earl takes one more whack, but Bryz gloves it.15:14 - MIN 1 - PHX 0 - What a start! The Wild gets a reward for its early domination with a power play goal. Marek Zidlicky rips a shot from the point that Bryzgalov stops in the butterfly position. The puck drops to his side and his defenseman tries to put the puck back underneath him. That just causes all kinds of discombobulation, and Guillaume Latendresse jams in the loose puck. And it's official, "discombobulation" is the longest word used in live in-game commentary history (if it is in fact a word).
8:56 - Backstrom has had a relatively calm start to his return, but he has to come up with a big save here on Lauri Korpikoski's turnaround wrister from the low circle. 7:58 - MIN 1 - PHX 1 - And we're tied. On an odd play, Sami Lepisto goes behind the Wild net and sends a beautiful pass to the other side for Martin Hanzal. Backstrom is looking for the puck to come out the other side, and by the time he realizes where the puck went, it's by him after a snipe by Hanzal.
4:56 - Behind the play, Earl gets hit by Ed Jovanovski and as he falls, Earl's stick clips Jovanovski's breezers. Of course, that's going to set Jovo Cop off, so he turns away from the play to go after Earl. Those two exchange a few crosschecks before heading on their separate ways.
1:09 - On their first power play, Shane Doan gets a great chance by one-timing a centering feed past Backstrom but off the post. That's the good news, but the bad news is I'm watching Clutterbuck walk toward the locker room.
0:00 - A great start to the period gives way to a mediocre finish. The boys in red will need some energy drinks and strategic talk so they can regain that opening period magic for the remainder tonight.Period 2
19:44 - Last period, 16 seconds in, it was the Owen Nolan line creating a scoring chance. Here they go again, 16 seconds in. Nolan gets a step on the Yotes defenseman and then tries to slide a backhand to the far side that Bryzgalov makes a toe save.
18:17 - Andrew Brunette gets a great chance off a centering feed from behind the net. Not known for his rocket shot, he gets some mustard on this one that hits Bryzgalov and falls into the crease, but nobody is there to put it home. 17:52 - MIN 1 - PHX 2 - These Coyotes are starting to show why they are locks for the postseason this April. Doan feeds Matthew Lombardi standing on the faceoff dot in the left circle. He catches the pass and then picks his corner, rifling a wrist shot over Backstrom's glove and into the far corner.
16:08 - There's the big save Backstrom needs to get his confidence back. After stopping a shot from the point, the rebound pops about 10 feet in front to Vernon Fiddler, who puts a shot right back toward an empty net, but Backstrom dives headfirst and makes the stop with the outstretched paddle.
4:50 - Backstrom has found his groove as he makes another huge save, this time throwing the leg pillow out at the last instant to steal one away from Robert Lang. Phoenix has come on and started taking the play to the Wild, gaining a 22-15 edge in shots.
3:53 - This Earl-Jovanovski thing is becoming an interesting subplot. Earl enters the zone with the puck, and Jovo steps up to hit him, but Earl sees it coming and turns the tables on him. He throws a shoulder of his own and plants Jovanovski on his kiester.
1:10 - This looks to be the equalizer as Eric Belanger steals an errant pass by Radim Vrbata. He's got a clear lane to the net and fires a wicked shot, but Bryzgalov shows why he's an easy candidate for the Vezina trophy.Period 3
19:01 - Kyle Brodziak
gains the Coyote zone and sends a long shot in on Bryz. The Yotes netminder can't hang on with the lobster glove, and Brodzy has a chance at his own rebound, but sends that bid over the cage.14:19 - MIN 1 - PHX 3 - I don't know how this puck makes it over the goal line, but it does, and the Wild is now staring at a big two goal deficit. A shallow angle shot by Vrbata hits the side of the net, but then pops straight up in the air and glances off of Backstrom and lands about three inches over the goal line. The puck has more backspin than a Phil Mickelson chip shot, and comes straight out, but it's over long enough to be a goal.
9:24 - The Wild is struggling to break through a stifling Phoenix defensive system, but the good guys get a chance as Zidlicky gets a shot through from the point. Bryzgalov makes the stop with the pad, but he's unaware of the puck's location. Belanger tries to poke it free, but Bryzgalov stays tough and is able to cover up.
7:03 - What are we going to do about Bryzgalov? He is in the zone tonight, as he comes up with another huge save, somehow catching Koivu's pointblank snapshot in the crook of his elbow about six inches from the goal line.
4:35 - Despite the teams playing at even strength, Richards as Havlat out there playing the point alongside Zidlicky, looking for some offense. Havlat sends a low wrist shot toward Bruno in front, but his tip is snuffed out by Bryzgalov again.2:28 - MIN 2 - PHX - Richards' move pays off! With Havlat at the point, Koivu wins the puck back to him. He then dangles all the way down the right boards and then into the right circle, where he rifles a wrist shot past Bryzgalov. There's new life in the building, but as TV announcers love to say, "The clock is the Wild's biggest enemy right now." So true.
0:00 - That's going to do it. This Phoenix team is for real, at least judging by the four games they've played against the Wild. The season series ends with the Coyotes taking all four games in regulation.