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How's tricks State of Hockey legion? If I know the readers of live in-game commentary (and I think I do because most of them are related to me), I'm betting you're a little angry right now. You probably have the proverbial chip on your shoulder. This six-game losing skid has you a little miffed, or as Tony Soprano might say, miffled. Hey, I get it. I'm in the same boat. Normally, before a Wild home game, I get to my perch in the Al Shaver Press Box and literally hug my chair. When I got here tonight, I gave it a menacing glare before I plopped my can on it with a little extra gusto.
The losing streak stops tonight, y'all. We need a little bit of anger. We've got to have that fire in our belly. Minnesota Nice is out the window. All those people below me in blue and white jerseys watching the Toronto Maple Leafs are going to find out what Minnesota Mean
is all about. Tonight, there won't be any hello's exchanged. Tonight, I want all Wild fans to just get on the elevator when the doors open. Don't wait for the other people to get off. When they give you a weird look, tell them "Tough beans! We've got hockey games to win. And if you don't like it, hightail it on back to Justin Bieberland, and take your Tragically Hip
CD's with you!"
If I'm looking to end a losing skid, I want Niklas Backstrom
in the crease for my team. That's why he's getting the start tonight. As I watch him during pregame warmups, I almost feel bad for the pucks that he's swatting away with much gusto. But then I remembered, I'm not feeling bad for anybody for the next three hours (except the people in Japan).
And I guess I also feel bad for Guillaume Latendresse
(lower body), Cam Barker (upper body), Marek Zidlicky (lower body), Marco Scandella
(finger) and Warren Peters
(healthy scratch). Those guys aren't in the lineup tonight, and I know they'd give anything to be out there getting a win for our great fans tonight.
Now then, I'm sure you're geeked to hear about the uniforms of the two combatant teams tonight. The Wild will be wearing their green third sweaters for the second straight game. The Maple Leafs will go with their classic road whites trimmed in blue with the big deciduous leaf on the chest. Did you know that the Leafs and the Red Wings are the only two teams that use only two colors in their team uniforms? Boom! You're smarter now than you were 30 seconds ago.
Pete and Debbie Sershon, a lovely couple from Eden Prairie who are Wild season ticket holders, get us started with the "Let's Play Hockey" declaration. Despite the fact that their Eden Prairie Eagles knocked off my Duluth East Greyhounds in the state title game, I'll oblige. Let's do this.Period 1
19:48 - The Wild comes out blazing on the first shift. Cal Clutterbuck
gets the puck along the near boards and then makes a sweet pass to Matt Cullen
bearing down the slot. Cullen makes a quick move and then tries to tuck one through the legs of James Reimer, but the darling goaltender of the NHL comes up big with his first save. 18:21 - MIN 0 - TOR 1 - It's not 30 seconds in this time, but the trend of letting up a goal early continues tonight. Joffrey Lupul leads an odd-man rush up the left side and snaps off a wicked shot that beats Backstrom on the glove side and rattles in off the far post. Again, there are quite a few cheers going up as the Leafs have a large contingent here, but nowhere near as many fans as the Canadiens had on Sunday.
14:21 - Former Minnesota Gopher Phil Kessel gets the puck in the left circle on a Leafs power play and takes a few steps toward the slot. He lets go with a wicked shot a foot off the ground, but Backstrom gets the left leg pillow out to make the stop.
13:54 - Fresh out of the penalty box, Eric Nystrom comes together with Nazem Kadri and absolutely unloads on him in the neutral zone, which gets a huge reaction from the crowd. That starts a rush the other way with Mikko Koivu
bearing up the left side. He lets a slapper go that Reimer sponges up.
10:40 - Backstrom gloves a long shot from Tim Brent, and former UMD Bulldog Jay Rosehill enters his personal space. Brad Staubitz immediately drops the gloves and accosts him, but Rosehill isn't accomodating. Stauby immediately calls of the dogs (his fists) and goes to gather his equipment. There won't be any penalties out of this.
6:57 - Killing a penalty, John Madden causes a turnover at the Maple Leaf blueline and he churns ahead of Dion Phaneuf for a clean breakaway. Madden tries to tuck a quick shot in on the stick side of Reimer, but he deflects it away with the right leg to keep the Wild off the board.
6:04 - Curses! Brent Burns connects on a home run pass to Chuck Kobasew and now he's
got a lone breakaway. He tries to beat Reimer with a quick shot, but again the Leafs goalie comes up with a big save.
0:15.8 - The refs completely blow it here. Cal Clutterbuck
is heading to the bench for a line change well away from the play. Nikolai Kulemin goes out of his way to drill Clutter with a hip check, sending him airborne. Not only is it interference, but it is a dangerous play. Everyone in the arena sees it, except the guys in black and white. Brutal no-call, especially after some ticky tack calls on the Wild so far tonight.
0:00 - The Wild settles down after an early goal, but can't convert on the breakaways and trail 1-0. A similar effort in the second will yield a few goals. That much I am sure of.Period 2
19:47 - I don't care who you are. When you see a linesman jump over a puck and then his legs give out from underneath him and he looks like Bambi on ice before falling down, you're going to laugh. Again, don't feel bad. Minnesota Mean baby.
16:52 - With a lot of open ice out there during 4-on-4 play, Madden leads another odd-man rush, this time on a 2-on-1 with Marty Havlat on the left side. Madden fakes a pass and then attempts to shoot, but he loses control and by the time he is able to shovel the puck towards Havlat, it's too late. Reimer breaks up the play.
15:04 - Breakaway number three is a no go. Once again, killing a penalty, it's who else but Madden? He's in a foot race with Phaneuf, who can't catch the 37-year-old. This time, Madden goes with the deke before trying to stick one between the wickets. Once again, Reimer is up to the task. Who are you James Reimer? Your name is better suited for a sitcom character or a weatherman stage name.
11:49 - The Wild is finally enjoying some power play time and Cullen gets a golden chance. He deftly makes his way between the hash marks before releasing a quick backhand, but once again, Reimer is all over it.8:40 - MIN 0 - TOR 2 - What can you do? The Leafs gain the Wild zone, and Clarke Macarthur (who sounds like an author of leather bound books) drops a pass back to Mikhail Grabovski and then drives to the net. Grabovski takes advantage of the space created and he rifles a shot that again catches the post and rattles into the net. The Leafs are capitalizing on their chances. The Wild are not. It's as simple as that.
5:20 - The Wild is trying to get something generated on the power play, and they nearly do as Pierre-Marc Bouchard
dances behind the Toronto net and then saucers a pass out front. Jared Spurgeon
catches it and then tries to roof a wrister, but once again Reimer comes up with a big save.
3:45 - Lupul creates some space for himself by circling in the Wild zone and getting to the slot between the tops of the circles. He lets another missile go that Backstrom stops and then tries to snare with the glove as it pops in the air. He actually bats it over to the left side of the net, but it's out of the reach of Grabovski, who would have had a lay up.Period 3
17:47 - MIN 0 - TOR 3 - When it rains, it pours. Or in our case, it rains and then turns to freezing rain and then snows and then we scrape our windshields and vow to move to Hawaii. The Leafs are awarded yet another power play, and they take full advantage. Grabovski sends a pass out to the right circle for Carl Gunnarsson (who?) and he roofs a wrister from the right circle.
8:36 - Cullen shows some fancy footwork when he slides to the ice in front of Backstrom to block a pass with his stick. The puck redirects toward a yawning net, but Cullen is able to kick the puck out of harm's way while laying on the ice.
5:49 - Antti Miettinen makes a pretty play to chip the puck behind the Toronto defense and then get behind them. He tries to go upstairs with a backhand, but Reimer is true to form and he's having none of it tonight.
1:25 - Former Denver Pioneer Tyler Bozak nearly pours salt in the wound with a shorty, but Backstrom comes up with a point blank save.
0:00 - The shutout is complete. There just isn't anything going the Wild's way right now. The skid grows to seven winless, and the Wild will have three days before they can get back on track.