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...Welcome to in-game commentareeeeeeee! And of course, Happy New Year everybody. I really want this to be your best year ever, and one way to make that happen is to take a vacation to someplace warm on a flight from Sun Country. Just a little advice as 2012 approaches, because I saw a movie a couple years ago featuring Hollywood megastar John Cusack, and apparently this is going to be the last year for our planet. So make it count dang it.
Thank you for joining me online on this very special night. I'm sure there were some temptations to go out to some bars and paint the town, but we all know this is where the real party happens. Plus, there's no cover charge and there are rarely fights due to intoxication. Tonight's commentary party is BYOB, but I know my readers and they've always got plenty of the "B" at the ready. And you're going to want it on hand tonight, because once the Wild whips up on the Phoenix Coyotes, then it's really time to par-tay. In fact, you should see the Al Shaver Press Box following a New Year's Eve game. Watching Star Tribune beat writer Mike Russo dance around with a lampshade on his head is worth the price of admission.
The only thing I'd rather pay money to see is the brilliance of Niklas Backstrom
. He'll be getting the start in goal tonight after resolving to not let another goal in the rest of the year. I think it's safe to say we can expect a brilliant performance from Backstrom. I'll go as far as to say it's a foregone conclusion.
I've got some good news as well. It looks like Jared Spurgeon
will return to the lineup tonight after suffering his lower body injury earlier this week. The return of Spurge means there's one less name on the injury list, which includes Guillaume Latendresse
(concussion), Jarod Palmer
(upper body), Devin Setoguchi
(lower body), Clayton Stoner
(lower body) and Casey Wellman (upper body). None of those guys will be in the lineup tonight. The same can be said for Brad Staubitz and Marco Scandella
, who are the healthy scratches.
If you're wondering what outfits these two teams are breaking out for New Year's, I've got you covered. The Wild will go with the special third jerseys for a special occasion. The Yotes are wearing the road whites trimmed in brick red with the howling canine on the chest.
Senator Amy Klobuchar gets us started with the Let's Play Hockey declaration. Now regardless of party lines, I think we can all agree with the Senator on this point. Let's get to it.Period 1
19:53 - Right off the draw, the puck slides over by the benches, and that's where Cal Clutterbuck
levels Rostislav Klesla with a big hit to set the tone early. Klesla doesn't like it, but he'd better get used to it. The Wild showed last game that they're through being gentlemen. Lady Byng be damned.
16:05 - That's ol' Patrick O'Sullivan gettting robbed by Backstrom early on. Raffi Torres sends a rinkwide pass across the slot as the Coyotes enter Minnesota territory. The pass is crisp, but O'Sullivan doesn't one-time it, which gives Backy enough time to slide over in the splits and make a pretty stop with the leg pillow.
12:01 - This isn't the end of a Divisional rivalry like the last game, but there are plenty of bodies hitting the floor. Torres lines up Nate Prosser
and lands a big hit on the kid from Elk River.
11:08 - The Wild gets its best scoring chance of the period when Pierre-Marc Bouchard
gets knocked down against the far boards, but still maintains possession of the puck. He sends a pass to an open Greg Zanon at the point, and he fakes a shot before carrying the puck in deep. Looking for Warren Peters
, he throws a pass in front that hits a Phoenix skate and is deflected right on former Colorado College Tiger Curtis McElhinney.
6:01 - Yikes. You don't like to see a team get a two-on-oh the other way, and it doesn't happen often in these parts. But Backstrom bails out his teammates by making a huge stop with the waffle mitt on a shot from in tight by Lauri Korpikoski.
3:08 - We've got some more rough stuff as Warren Peters
plants a Coyote on the ice after a save by McElhinney. A minor scrum ensues with both Matt Kassian
and Paul "Biz Nasty" Bissonnette out there. Those two eventually have words, but for now, the gloves are staying on the hands.
0:00 - That's going to do it for a fairly even first period. The two teams will head to their respective locker rooms. I suggest you head to the fridge to crack open another beverage so you can stay hydrated for the final two periods.Period 2
17:53 - The story of this game so far has been Backstrom. He starts the second period strong with a pretty glove save on Keith Yandle after a loose puck deflected right to the high-scoring defenseman in the slot.
15:26 - Recently recalled Jed Ortmeyer
makes a bid with a slap shot from the left circle. HIs shot blazes past McElhinney but clanks loudly off the outside of the post.13:41 - MIN 1 - PHX 0 - We will take it any way we can get it. A broken play on a Wild rush leads to chaos in the Phoenix crease as Nick Johnson just hammers away at a loose puck in the crease. His persistence pays off when the puck squirts to the far side of the net where Bouchard is camped. He has McElhinney down which lets him loft a backhand over the pad and in.
10:18 - The Yotes catch the Wild on a bad change and that leads to Ray Whitney getting behind the defense. He moves in on Backstrom, who again stands tall with a stop on the quick shot.4:58 - MIN 1 - PHX 1 - This time, the bounce goes to the Coyotes. On the power play, Daymond Langkow gets the puck at the side of the net and tries to punch one in from a shallow angle. Backstrom makes the save, but the puck pops up in the air and hits Langkow in the shoulder. That causes it to sail even higher, and as it comes down, Spurgeon takes a whack at it and actually knocks it into his own net. They review this one, but it's going to count. We're squared up.
3:56 - Yandle is making his presence felt this period, but he can't solve Backstrom. Again, he carries the puck down low and fires a shallow angle shot. He picks up the rebound behind the net and circles around the other side with another attempt. Backstrom dives that way and is able to smother it for a faceoff.
1:27 - After Klesla is unable to hold the zone and is whistled offsides, he still fires a shot toward Backstrom. Mikko Koivu
gives him a tap and as Clutterbuck skates up to him, Klesla turns and jams his stick into Clutter's leg. That starts a brief tussle, but no penalties will come of it.
0:00 - This one is going to be decided in the third or later. Gear up Minnesota. Period 315:45 - MIN 1 - PHX 2 - Didn't see this one coming. After a lot of skating up and down the ice, but little else, we suddenly have a Wild deficit. Radim Vrbata gets the puck at a shallow angle. I don't know that anybody was expecting him to shoot, and that's what he does. He somehow finds some space high on the short side and beats a stunned Backstrom.
13:44 - MIN 1 - PHX 3 - When did Vrbata turn into the best player in the NHL? He bags another just two minutes later when he takes a little pass and dekes Backstrom to the ice before circling behind the net, emerging on the other side and pumping one past the Wild keeper before he can scramble back.
11:48 - Here we go with the penalty shot! Matt Cullen
gets tripped up by David Schlemko so it will be him against McElhinney. 11:48 - MIN 2 - PHX 3 - Boom! This is exactly what we need. Cullen moves in slowly before firing off a wrist shot up high. The puck clanks off the crossbar, banks off the back of McElhinney's leg and trickles over the goal line. Cullen has been goalless for the Wild, and this comes at a huge time to get the Wild back into it.
10:40 - The crowd is back into it in a big way. Everybody stands up as Clutterbuck enters the zone and he rockets a snap shot up high that gives McElhinney all he can handle. That's quickly followed by a Phoenix delay of game penalty, and now the fans are really amped.
9:05 - Prosser very nearly scores his first NHL goal and it would have set this place ablaze. A shot from the point is knocked down in front and he pounces on it, but his shot sails high and off the glass.
5:37 - It's been all Wild since the second Vrbata goal. You can feel something good is about to happen. I'm calling a Clutterbuck equalizer. Maybe Heatley. No...Clutterbuck.
5:27 - I'd be fine with Zidlicky too. He nearly comes through off a nifty centering feed from Bouchard, but McElhinney is all over it and makes a nice pad stop on the point blank chance.
2:54 - That wily veteran Whitney knows how to get behind the defense. He does again and has a break in on Backstrom. But this Wild keeper surprises him by coming way out of his crease and smothering the puck before Whitney can pull a move off. Don't worry, I'm still sensing that tying goal here.
1:55 - Wow! The guy you want getting a one-timer from 10 feet out in this situation is Heatley, and he does. But his rocket from the hash mark is once again snuffed out by the CC Tiger.
1:30 - Coming out of a Wild timeout, this crowd is raucous.
1:22 - How is this game not tied? McElhinney pokes a loose puck right out to Spurgeon who has the keeper way out of the net. He pumps a shot at the net, but it hits an off balance McElhinney and deflects wide.0;18.9 - MIN 2 - PHX 4 - Gotta be kidding me. The Wild comes so close to tying and then Whitney ices the game with an empty netter. I didn't think there was any way we weren't going to overtime.
0:00 - That will do it. 2011 is nearly in the books, but it won't close with a Wild victory. They'll get their next win in 2012 in Vancouver.