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Word up State of Hockey legion, and a Happy Unity Day to all of the Wild fans in Nepal. Welcome to a special Monday Night edition of live in-game commentary right here on Wild.com, where your wildest dreams come true.
As per usual for a Wild home game, I'm attacking the keyboard from my beloved perch in the Al Shaver Press Box, high atop the rink surface at Xcel Energy Center. It's providing me the perfect vantage point to watch YOUR Minn-ah-so-taaaaaah WAYAAAALD and the Pittsburgh Penguins, who won last year's Stanley Cup, or as Willie Mitchell calls it, "The Big Silver Thing." There is a rather large mass of humanity surrounding the end of the ice where the Penguins are shooting. I can only imagine they are clamoring to get a look at Martin Skoula, who is making a return to the Xcel Energy Center for the first time since endearing himself to the State of Hockey all those years.
Personally, I always liked the polite and cordial Skoula, but tonight he's cloaked in enemy colors. Therefore, he must feel the wrath of Niklas Backstrom
. As you may know, Backstrom was yanked after two periods in his last start, which normally isn't a good thing. However, in his last 10 starts after being pulled, Backstrom is 9-0-1 with a 1.57 goals against average. Sorry Pittsburgh. I love your steel, but this is show business, not show friends. Nik Backstrom is in the business of breaking hearts.
As you may have heard, the Wild had a sick comeback win on Saturday, and thus, there won't be any changes to the lineup when your juju is working like that. James Sheppard and Petr Sykora are going to be healthy scratches. Clayton Stoner
is still working his way back from a groin injury. Pierre-Marc Bouchard
, Brent Burns and Chuck Kobasew are all out.
As for attire, the Wild will be sporting the uber popular green third sweaters for tonight's big game. The Penguins are going with the road blacks trimmed in copper and white with flightless bird on the chest.
Dr. Evan Domeyer, who saved the life of John Dow when he suffered a heart attack during a rec league hockey game, is up on the Fox Sports North stage with Mr. Dow to get us started with Let's Play Hockey. I could have used Dr. Domeyer on Saturday night, but am glad he's here tonight should anything else extraordinary go down. The two of them shout "Let's Play Hockey" to get us started tonight.
According to my fat cat boss, Saturday's live in-game commentary was the highest viewed in-game commentary of the season at right around 25 hits. We're going to beat that tonight, just like we're about to beat the Penguins like Million Dollar Baby hit a speed bag. Let's do this my little Mo Chuisles.Period 1
19:15 - Good start for the Wild who pin the Pens during the first 45 seconds. Marty Havlat gets the puck in the corner and tries to center to Kyle Brodziak
in front. The puck hits the skate of Sergei Gonchar and banks in on Marc-Andre Fleury, who makes a good save.
17:46 - Oh, there's Matt Cooke! Don't lie Wild fans, you've missed him since he moved over the Eastern Conference. Sometimes you just need those guys that you love ot hate. I know I've missed writing about him.16:16 - MIN 0 - PIT 1 - We've got them right where we want them...ahead. Some guy named Sidney Crosby gets the Pens on the board, but it's former Notre Dame Fighting Irish Mark Eaton that does the lion's share of the work, sending a long shot on goal that gets through Backstrom. The puck is going in anyway, but Crosby pokes it in for good measure. Is that how he's gotten all of his 27 goals this season? Just poking in shots that are already going in? No wonder I've never heard of him.
8:56 - Nick Schultz steps up and makes a great play by drilling Evgeni Malkin as he tries to exit the Wild zone. That allows Havlat to swoop back and pick up the loose puck, starting a scoring chance as Guillaume Latendresse
hits Kyle Brodziak
, who is robbed by Fleury.8:20 - MIN 1 - PIT 1 - They don't come much prettier than this. Okay, yes they do. But we'll take it either way. Eric Belanger enters the zone and just chips one toward the goal from just inside the blue line. The puck is bouncing and Fleury can't handle it as the puck skips right past him and goes in the net. Don't worry Marc-Andre, I used to give up goals like that in PeeWee hockey all the time. And look at me now! Don't give up on your dreams of becoming a live in-game commentary writer.
6:36 - Wild just misses on a glorious chance here. First, Mikko Koivu
throws a backhand on net that Fleury stops. Owen Nolan gets the rebound at the side of the net and lifts a backhand over Fleury and off the undercarriage of the cross bar.
2:16 - Kaboom! Latendresse smokes Kris Letang as he skates behind his own net. Football analyst John Madden would call that a "de-cleater" or in this case, a "de-skater."
0:00 - A very entertaining first period draws to a close. The boys will re-hydrate and maybe go over some things on the chalk board, and we'll be back if a jif.Period 2
19:06 - MIN 1 - PIT 2 - There was a time we used to be overjoyed when Pascal Dupuis would rip a shot into the net. Tonight, it's a sour feeling. Former Boston College Eagle Billy Guerin is given all kinds of room to maneuver at the bottom of the left circle. He waits for Dupuis to cut down the slot before sliding a pass over. Dupuis always had a heavy shot, and he still does. He buries it into the top shelf.
18:15 - MIN 2 - PIT 2 - Now this really is pretty. The Wild break in on a three-on-one with G-Lat and Havlat going tape-to-tape. Latendresse finally holds the puck until he gets in tight, and then he makes one more pretty feed over to Marty who slams it home. A nice, quick answer for the good guys, and both of these guys are hot right now.
15:50 - Arrrgh! I take back what I said about missing Cooke. I can't stand that guy. With the Pens on the power play, he completely embellishes a light cross check from Kim Johnsson, who is about the cleanest player in the League. Cooke goes down on the ice holding his head like someone hit it with a hammer. Once he sees he's getting a call, he gets right back up and joins the play. Then, after the whistle, he pretends to go after Johnsson while a teammate "holds him back."
14:39 - The Wild is now one man short.
13:50 - Johnsson hops out of the box and the successful 5-on-3 kill is complete. The crowd offers up a hearty cheer for the PK unit.
13:34 - Once G-Lat gets rolling, he's like a locomotive. He races up the left side and skates right by Letang to get in on Fleury, but Letang slaps him with a slash, and he loses the puck. How there's not a penatly called here, I do not know.7:57 - MIN 3 - PIT 2 - The luck of the Wild.com interview strikes again. Cal Clutterbuck, who was kind enough to grant me an on-camera interview after today's morning skate, gets rewarded with a big goal. Once again, it's G-Lat who is just King Midas right now, drilling a shot from the slot that hits Clutter in the shin and bounces past Fleury. You're welcome Cal. Now how about writing another blog for your fans on Wild.com? Oh, and Belanger gets an assist on the goal, making him the 14th player to record 100 points in a Wild uni.
4:20 - Just after the Smooch Cam makes a crowd pleasing appearance, one of my co-workers who shall remain nameless, says we should also do a punch cam, and guys who are in the crowd with their buddies can just give each other charley horses on camera. I'm skeptical of the idea.
1:18 - The Wild finally gets a chance on the power play, and Crosby nemesis Marek Zidlicky uncorks a howitzer that hits the handle of Fleury's stick and bounces just wide.
0:34.3 - Another great chance as Andrew Brunette gets the puck in his office behind the Pitt net. He hits a streaking Havlat with a pass, and Marty puts it right on goal on the stick side, but Fleury makes a great stop with the leg pillow.Period 3
18:56 - MIN 3 - PIT 3 - Back and forth we go. It looks like Dupuis again is haunting the team that traded him away for Adam Hall. Off another shot from the point from Eaton, the wrist shot appears to deflect of Dupuis' stick and past a befuddled Backstrom. Right now, they're giving the goal to Eaton. I suspect that will be changed. At least it should be changed.
17:37 - Boogey's streak without a goal nearly comes to an end here. Robbie Earl gains the zone and sends a shot toward the front where it hits the leg of Boogey. Fleury was moving to the opposite side while the puck goes the other way, but it slides just wide and Boogey also slides into the post. He knocks the net off just as the puck bounces off the back boards right to his face.13:47 - MIN 4 - PIT 3 - It's G-Lat's world and we're just living in it! The big man comes up with his fourth point of the night, and his first goal. Brodziak makes a great play on the right side of the net, and he makes an off-balance pass back to the left where Latendresse fights off a defender and roofs a shot past Fleury. This guy is just on fire right now.
12:40 - This is dirty pool. Clutterbuck levels Gonchar with a completely clean hit along the sideboards at the Wild blueline. Gonchar takes exception and starts screaming at Clutter. Sure enough, the play goes down deep in the Wild zone where Clutterbuck plays the puck. As he turns around, Gonchar is flying through the air, fist first and lays about as dirty a hit as you're going to see right to the head. Gonchar is going to get a five-minute major on this one, and Clutterbuck is heading to the bench for stitches. That has
to be a suspension.
7:54 - Anytime a player lays clean checks on your teammates, you have to go after him with cheapshots. It's how the world works, apparently. Clutter is back on the ice, and as he battles one defender, Ben Lovejoy of Dartmouth goes away from the play and goes after Clutterbuck, who again, is on the ice.
6:34 - Clutter goes right after Gonchar again, with another hard, clean
6:00 - I only use bold text for goals, but I almost used it here because the save Backstrom makes on Malkin deserves bold type with CAPITAL LETTERS and lots of exclamation points!!!!! On a Pens power play, a pass is dropped to the Russian who leans into a blast. Backstrom snaps his glove up there in a millisecond and even does a little Statue of Liberty pose.
4:44 - Gonchar is getting booed everytime he touches the puck. I like it.
0:40.0 - Fleury heads off for the extra attacker.
0:00 - The Wild holds 'em off! Another huge win for the good guys. Let's see...Calgary, Chicago and Pittsburgh, all in a row. Six points out of six. That's impressive. Think any team wants to see these guys make the playoffs?