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Ho, ho, ho! Happy Hockey Day Minnesota to all in the State of Hockey legion! I hope the ghost of Frank Brimsek came down your chimney last night and brought you all of the things you put on your Hockey Day Minnesota list. Maybe it was a new pair of skates, or a composite stick or Cooperalls. I sure hope a live in-game commentary was also on your list because that's what I'm giving you. Sorry it's not wrapped, and if it's not the right size, leave the tags on so you can return it for one that fits.
Plus, the commentary is just the first part of my gift to you. You'll get the second part in a couple hours in the form of another Wild victory over the St. Louis Blues. I will hand deliver it from my beloved perch in the Al Shaver Press Box at Xcel Energy Center. Now, I've got absolutely nothing against the fine people of St. Louis, Missouri. They make some pretty good malted beverages down there. But this is Hockey Day Minnesota, not Hockey Day Missouri. This day belongs to us, and we will own the moment tonight. You heard it here first, but Minnesota boy Matt Cullen
lights the lamp twice tonight, including the game-winner.
Nik Backstrom, who got a night off last night, will be manning the crease tonight for the good guys in green. Backy has been unbeatable lately, so why wouldn't he be starting a big game like this? That was a rhetorical question, by the way. And if you don't know what rhetorical means, don't worry about it. I still don't get it.
As for the lineup in front of the Wild goaltender, it's going to remain unchanged. All the healthy bodies are in there, while guys like Guillaume Latendresse
(abdominal), Marco Scandella
(concussion) and Marek Zidlicky (shoulder) are all out with injuries. The word is that Latendresse will meet with a doctor on February 21 to discuss when his potential return might take place.
As I mentioned earlier, the Wild are dressed to the nines in their green third jerseys. The Blues are in the road whites trimmed in blue and yellow with the musical note on the chest.
This being the greatest day in hockey, we've got the three Minnesotans on the Houston Aeros - Jarod Palmer
, Nate Prosser
and Chad Rau
- to get us going with the "Let's Play Hockey" declaration. By the by, you can watch those three carry the Aeros to a seventh straight victory tomorrow afternoon at Xcel Energy Center.
All right, this sellout crowd is rockin'. Getchya popcorn ready.Period 1
18:23 - From his own end, Clayton Stoner
floats the puck high through the neutral zone as he absorbs a hit from former North Dakota Fighting Sioux, T.J. Oshie. At the St. Louis blueline, Martin Havlat calmly waits for the puck to return to earth, and he catches it on his stick for a partial break. He's got Kyle Brodziak
on the left, but he lets a quick backhand go that just misses wide.
16:38 - Does anybody have better puck instincts than Wild captain Mikko Koivu
? He reads a St. Louis breakout perfectly in the slot and has a wide open lane to the net. Perhaps trying to catch Jaroslav Halak off guard, he winds up and drills a slapper, but the Blues keeper gets the leg pillow down to make the stop.
13:55 - The Wild's top line is dominating every time they hit the ice so far tonight. This time, Andrew Brunette does what he does behind the net, emerging from the goal line with Brad Boyes draped all over him. Shielding the puck expertly, he spins around to the forehand and lets a low shot go that Halak sponges up.
12:13 - The Blues finally get some life in their sticks, getting their first shots on goal on their first power play. The shots come in a chaotic flurry, but Backstrom calmly stays with it and ends the action with a big glove save on a point blank shot from Matt D'Agostini.
11:39 - Back at full strength, the Wild are back on the attack. Koivu has Havlat on his right on a two-on-one. He tries to send a pass over, but it's blocked by a sliding Carlo Colaiacovo. The puck pops up in the air and Koivu connects with a swipe in the air, but Halak makes another big stop. Koivu has been a beast tonight. He is everywhere.
6:27 - We might have a review whenever play stops again. Alex Pietrangelo dances in toward the net and then gets off a wicked backhander that beats Backstrom, hits metal and bounces out. The play continues, but it sure looks like the puck hits the back iron and then bounces out...
...The whistle blows and it's a TV timeout. Let's see if they go to a review...Apparently not. Play starts right back up after the break without any kind of protest.
4:47 - The gloves are off. Cam Barker takes exception to the way that D'Agostini drills him from behind into the backboards. He immediately gets up and starts delivering some hacks and cross checks to D'Agostini, who gets the puck. That brings Barker in for one more big hit, and the gloves finally hit the ice. The two tangle for awhile, and D'Agostini appears to land a few to the back of Barker's head, but the two both go down in a heap.
3:12 - This one is getting heated, yo! Brad Staubitz delivers a big hit behind the play on Colaiacovo. They both go down, and Stauby is slow to get up, but he's being helped up by Cam Janssen, who wants to brawl. And this is a brawl. These two throw haymaker after haymaker, and it looks like Janssen is going to get the decision. But Staubitz rebounds and crushes him with a knock out blow. This game has the feel of one that may see a few more tussles. 1:09 - MIN 1 - STL 0 - Just too much heat on this one. On the power play, Jared Spurgeon gets the puck at the point and slides a pass into the left circle for a Cal Clutterbuck one-timer. Clutter doesn't come close to getting all of it, but he does send it along the ice toward the goal. It somehow eludes a sliding Roman Polak and then finds its way through Halak's five hole. That's an addition to Clutterbuck's career high, which ticks up one more to a team-leading 17.
0:00 - Just as the horn sounds, former Wisconsin Badger Brad Winchester takes a flying leap at Nick Schultz behind the Wild net. They both go down, and Koivu is right there to deliver a few shots to Winchester's head. Everybody comes in, but nobody will drop the gloves this time. Period 2
19:22 - The Wild comes out with fire once again, and of course it's Koivu leading a two-on-one into the St. Louis zone. He puts a pass right on the tape of Antti Miettinen who puts his shot off the right post.
17:54 - Backstrom's entire body is in the net right now, but the puck isn't. The puck is pinballing around in the crease, and two other Wild players are down in the blue paint with Backstrom, but the puck is somewhere on the outside.15:53 - MIN 2 - STL 0 - No iron here. This is nothing but net. On the Wild power play, Brunette glides toward the goal while behind the goal line. Seeing the ice like no one else, he throws a pass back into the left circle where Miettinen punches a one-timer past Halak for a huge goal.
15:02 - A blast from the point off the stick of Brent Burns hits traffic in front and skips over to a wide open Havlat. He cranks a shot toward the empty net, but Halak slides over in time to get his face in the way, causing a loud crack. They stop play so Halak can get his affairs in order, because that one cannot feel good.
13:08 - Koivu has the puck and is leading a two-on-one for the 82nd time tonight. He's got Spurgeon on his right, but the St. Louis defender goes down to take the pass away. Koivu decides to fire a shot, but Halak absorbs it and won't give Spurgeon the chance at a rebound for his first NHL goal.
12:21 - More shenanigans after the whistle as Winchester is creating all kinds of trouble in front of Backstrom. He and Greg Zanon are going at it pretty good, and then Staubitz comes in late and wrangles him up with a headlock. Stauby is going to be the only guy to get the gate on this one for being the late guy in. 11:38 - MIN 3 - STL 0 - What a Hockey Day this is turning out to be! With both teams down a man, the Wild wins the draw in the St. Louis zone. The puck is won back to Burns at the point and he fires a shot toward the goal. The puck hits traffic and bounces right back to Brodziak and it goes off his body and in. That's going to be the end of the night for Halak as former New Hampshire Wildcat Ty Conklin comes on in relief.
5:45 - The oooohhs rise from the stands as Alexander Steen cranks a one-timer from the right side and rings it off the post. 5:12 - MIN 3 - STL 1 - The Blues are on the board, thanks to a power play, which seems to be the only time they can even get the puck in the Minnesota end. Oshie stickhandles in the slot and then dishes to a cutting Patrik Berglund who easily deposits a shot into a yawning cage.
0:00 - What a rip-roarin' good time this one has been. Still 20 minutes left, but the Wild has it going on tonight. Just keep that up and we're looking at two more big points. Period 3
15:24 - The Blues get another power play, and that means they're pressuring again. They don't get too many opportunities, but just as Burns comes out of the box, Boyes unloads a one-timer from the left side that Backstrom stops with a sliding pad save. As per usual, Backy has been stellar, and the Wild's best penalty killer.
10:34 - Oh yes! Clutterbuck absolutely unloads on Oshie in the corner and the crowd adores it. After a whistle, the two players are smiling at each other as they talk, but I don't think the smiles are the friendly kind of smiles. More than likely, they are of the sinister variety.
8:28 - The Wild is showing no signs of sitting on this two-goal lead. They are looking to insert the dagger, and Clutterbuck nearly does. He races ahead of Pietrangelo to get to a loose puck in the Blues' zone, and then puts a high backhand on goal that Conklin gets just enough of with a shoulder save.
4:32 - Unreal. After Clutterbuck delivers two clean hits on former Minnesota Gopher Erik Johnson and Barret Jackman in the St. Louis zone, he heads back toward the bench. Johnson is also going toward his bench, but he delivers a vicious slash to the back of Clutter's leg that everybody, including referee Gord Dwyer sees. Yet, there is no call. It's acceptable to slash the game's best checker, even if his hits are clean, apparently.
2:08 - Conklin heads off for another attacker.
0:00 - You knew this was coming. The tempers boil over in front of Backstrom with Steen taking some vicious shots at Zanon. That brings everybody in and Stoner starts tangling with former Minnesota State Mankato Maverick David Backes. Stoner delivers a huge blow and cuts Backes, adn the two go down in a heap. Meanwhile, Steen is gliding by the Wild bench and yapping away. As Stoner exits the rink, he waves his arms to the crowd, getting a huge ovation. The biggest crowd of the season (19,322) is going home happy, and this Wild team is going to the playoffs, mark my words.