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What's going down State of Hockey legion? I'd like to start off this live in-game commentary presented by the sweethearts at Sun Country Airlines by wishing all the Wild fans in Mauritania a Happy Independence Day. I'm sure I don't have to remind any of you that it was on this day in 1960 that the Mauritanians won their independence from the French. If I know two things about the Mauritanians, it's that they love to have a good time on Independence Day, and they love in-game commentary on Wild.com. This one is for you guys.
As is customary for a Wild home game, I'm coming to you live from the Al Shaver Press Box, five levels above the ice sheet at Xcel Energy Center. This is my happy place, and if I can be frank, I'm a little down that this six-game homestand is coming to a close after tonight's game against the Tampa Bay Doofusseseses (also known as the "Lightning"). Mike Doyle will be manning the keyboard on Wednesday. I will then be back at the controls for Saturday's home game and then all five road games. I'll be seeing some warm weather climes, but believe you me, none of those places hold a candle to my Al Shaver Press Box perch.
There is simply no better place to watch Niklas Backstrom
do his thing in pregame warmups. Backstrom had what you might call an "off night" in last night's loss to Calgary. That means he's about to turn in one of his best performances of the season. I don't have any hard data to support my claim, but I'm pretty sure Backy kills it in the games after he's been pulled. Just take my word for it ya heard?
It's a special tonight as we officially welcome a couple new players into the tightly-knit State of Hockey family. Apple Valley's Mike Lundin
and former Colgate Red Raider David McIntyre
are making their Wild debuts tonight. For McIntyre, it's his NHL debut, and you can mark him down for a goal and an assist in this one. Also good to see Greg Zanon and his firetruck red stache down there on the ice. Justin Falk
(upper body), Guillaume Latendresse
(concussion) and Marek Zidlicky (concussion) are out of the lineup due to injuries. Colton Gillies is going to be the lone healthy scratch.
If you only come to in-game commentary to learn about fashion, that's cool. I'm happy to tell you the Wild is breaking out the green third jerseys for this one. The Lightning are going with their new road whites trimmed in black and blue with the electric charge on the chest.
Lee Valsvik and Johnny Rocket of KOOL 108 get this party started with their rendition of "Let's Play Hockey," and we 'bout to do this y'aaaaallll!Period 1
18:35 - Zanon has not forgotten how to block shots due to his long hiatus. He sacrifices the body to lay in front of a Steve Stamkos shot from close range. There's something cathartic about watching Zanon get in the way of pucks.
13:55 - That's how you get into the rhythym in your first NHL game Davey Mac! You lay a nice, clean hit on Tom Pyatt right in front of the Lightning bench.
11:03 - Big ol' Clayton Stoner
jumps into the play and catches a nice pass at the point. He lets go with a wrister right on that Mathieu Garon can't control. The puck pinballs around in front, but nobody can connect.
9:53 - Former St. Cloud State Husky Ryan Malone makes a nice move to get around a stick check of Darroll Powe
. He takes a few steps in on Backstrom before letting a low wrister go, but the Wild keeper kicks it out neatly.
5:31 - On a delayed penalty, the Wild works the puck around in the offensive zone until Cal Clutterbuck
gets loose in the slot. He wires a shot from above the circles that Garon is somehow able to see through traffic and he makes a nice save with the lobster mitt.
0:34.8 - Backstrom makes a nice shoulder save for his 11th of the game, this one coming off a high-rising shot by former Boston University Terrier and Hobey Baker winner, Matt Gilroy.
0:00 - A stalemate after 20. The Wild will regroup a bit here and get some rest. I encourage you to do the same.Period 2
15:00 - Just a five-minute check in here. There has been one shot thus far in the period and nothing else. I've got nothing.14:07 - MIN 0 - TB 1 - That Stamkos character seems to know how to put the puck in the net. He gathers a loose puck in his own end and is off to the races up the right side. He's got a man on his left, but if he's got a chance to shoot, he's going to. He snaps an absolute bullet to the far side that beats Backstrom. It's almost not fair.
12:40 - Here's another bullet on a Tampa Bay power play, this one off a one-timer by Vinny Lecavalier. His blast skims off the shoulder of Backstrom and then hits the post dead on. The puck falls in the crease behind Backstrom, who is able to reach back and cover up. 12:21 - MIN 1 - TB 1 - Now that's a welcome two-goal swing. Instead of being down two, the Wild converts shorthanded thanks to some dynamic penalty killing from Clutterbuck and Mikko Koivu. Clutterbuck pressures Eric Brewer behind his own net and he loses control of the puck out in front. Koivu picks it up and then quickly dishes back to Clutterbuck alone in front. Like yesterday, he waits out the sprawling goaltender and then tucks it in on the other side. That's big time!
10:01 - The Wild are replicating the events that just took place for the Lightning. After a goal, the pipe keeps another one out. From his own goal line, Lundin fires a perfect home run pass to Kyle Brodziak
at the Tampa blueline. He moves in all alone and then fires a shot past Garon that clips teh near post and shoots out the other side.
7:13 - Koivu just bullies his way out from behind the Tampa net after battling with two defenders for the puck. He tries to stuff one in, but Garon holds firm along the goal line and keeps it out while Koivu finally gets knocked to the ice by Malone.
5:33 - Clutterbuck's got the hot hand and Pierre-Marc Bouchard
knows it. On the power play, Butch slowly skates the puck down low while eyeing number 22 battling in front. He makes a quick pass and Clutterbuck puts it on point blank, but Garon comes up big.2:54 - MIN 2 - TB 1 - Boom! That's just some gritty hard work leading to a big Wild goal. Nick Johnson loses control of the puck in the high slot, but he doesn't give up and is able to steal it back. He then sends an off balance backhand pass into the right circle where Bouchard unloads on a one-timer that beats Garon on the near side. Butch loves the playmaking and gives Johnson an emphatic point for the effort.
2:14 - The Wild keeps upping the pressure and now we've got a mad scramble in front of Garon. Several Wild players have a crack at it with the Lightning keeper down on his stomach, but no one can get it past the traffic. Brodziak has the best chance, but his shot is kicked away on a great save by none other than Lecavalier.
0:34.5 - Maybe in your Boston College Eagle days Ryan Shannon, but not tonight. He races in on a lone breakaway and tries to make a move before putting a shot on the glove side. Backstrom refuses to bite, stays with him and makes a fantastic glove save. This game is getting very, very exciting.
0:00 - Now that's just a good all around period of hockey. There's more where that came from. Go use the facilities, wash your hands and come back for the third. Period 3
18:38 - Stamkos isn't going to miss many of these, especially on a power play. When former Vermont Catamount Martin St. Louis sets him up for a one-timer in the left circle, he's got Backstrom scrambling and an open net. Luckily, he misfires and puts it off the far post. We'll take those post shots from Tampa all night long.
15:31 - Great shift by the Wild's new grinders. They work the puck around deep and McIntyre has a scoring chance as the puck bounces to him in front. He kicks the puck to his stick and puts a backhand on but Garon makes that stop.
12:40 - Backstrom comes up big on a two-on-one play led by 'ol Adam Hall, the former Michigan State Spartan. He dishes off to Nate Thompson, who zips a shot right on but Backstrom plays his angle perfectly and sponges up the shot in his chest protector.
11:20 - How about this toe save by Backstrom. Former Maine Black Bear Teddy Purcell threads a perfect backhand pass across the net for Stamkos who puts it right toward the goal. This looks like an easy one, but Backstrom slides to his left and gets his toe on the biscuit just before it can make its way to the goal line.
9:36 - Koivu is making good things happen on the ice when he's out there these days. From the left side, he fakes a shot before throwing the puck to the front where it banks off the skate of Jared Spurgeon
, right in on Garon. Garon doesn't even have time to react, but it his him, which I guess means he was playing well positionally.
1:45 - I would have given up my next paycheck if Bouchard could have finished this play. He completely undresses Viktor Hedman with the dirtiest of moves to get in alone on Garon. He has his attempt at the five hole stopped and then puts his own rebound over the net. 0:23.8 - MIN 3 - TB 1 - Garon is out of his net, and the puck is in it. Spurgeon makes a great outlet pass from his own zone to the tape of Koivu at center ice. He just turns and makes this one a no doubter for his 100th career NHL goal. Tampa takes a timeout, but they can take all the time they need. This one is over.
0:00 - The mini-losing streak is over and the top spot in the conference again belongs to your Minnesota Wild. Ain't nothin' wrong with that.