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Aloha State of Hockey legion! Welcome to live in-game commentary on this, the 13th of January, which of course is William Hung's 27th birthday. I have heard that Hung is a huge Wild fan, so this commentary is dedicated to him.
As is customary for a Minnesota Wild game at the Xcel Energy Center, I am coming to you from my comfort zone - my perch in the Al Shaver Press Box, high above ice level. It is in said spot that I am currently watching two teams partake in pregame warmups. The team on my right is a merry band of friendly warriors who steal from the rich and give to the poor - the Minnesota Wild. The team down to my left is a belligerent group of misfits that have never seen a baby they wouldn't take candy from - the Vancouver Canucks.
They must pay for their crimes, and thus, they must face the wrath of Niklas Backstrom
. If Backstrom were a dog, he'd be Effie, the German shorthair pointer from Pokegama Lake who rescued a 94-year-old man who fell on his icy driveway. Backstrom is going to rescue the Wild from a winless season against the Canucks, who have won the first three meetings of the season. Once he gets that win, he'll have the franchise record to break Manny Fernandez' previous mark of 113. Still no sign of Manny, but I'm sure he'll show up to mark the occasion.
The Wild will be without the services of guys like Petr Sykora and James Sheppard tonight. They are healthy scratches, will probably be joining me in the press box along with the likes of Pierre-Marc Bouchard
(concussion), Brent Burns (concussion), Chuck Kobasew (knee) and Clayton Stoner
(groin), who are injured.
Finally, we can get to the unis. The Wild will go back to the home reds for this one. The Canucks will opt for the road whites trimmed in blue and green with the C-shaped orca on the chest.
Zach Greer of your Minnesota Swarm gets us going with tonight's Let's Play Hockey declaration. If you've sufficiently caught the buzz, let's get down to some hockey biz-nazz.Period 1
18:02 - MIN 1 - VAN 0 - Sound the alarm! As the fans are still coming in due to the early 6:00 PM start, the Wild gets the early jump. Guillaume Latendresse who might has well get fitted for a bust in the Hockey Hall of Fame at this point, makes yet another great play. With the puck at the side of the net, he sees Kyle Brodziak cutting right to the goal. He throws it off Brodzy's shin pad as he slides into the net, and it's going to count. They review it, but there's no overturning this one. Count it!
16:28 - MIN 2 - VAN 0 - How's about this? Normally down a goal by now, the Wild is now up two early. Captain Mikko Koivu skates into the Canuck zone on a two-on-one with Andrew Brunette on his left. Koivu barely glances at Bruno, he just picks his corner and zips a wicked wrist shot that beats Roberto Luongo cleanly.
16:13 - Eric Belanger skates after a puck behind the Vancouver net, and he gets tripped up by Christian Ehrhoff, and he falls awkwardly and looks like he may have hurt the ol' tailbone, which by the way is a worthless part of the human anatomy. I learned that in 10th grade.
14:08 - The goal-less streak nearly comes to an end again. On another odd-man rush, Robbie Earl fires a shot toward the goal with Derek Boogaard barrelling toward the goal. Luongo keeps it out, but he pays the price in a collision with Boogey. Luongo's mask actually comes off when he's inside his own net. That draws a whistle, but not before a shot came in on him and he gets hit in the midsection.
11:14 - The Wild is trying to pile on here and they're coming close on the power play. After a Martin Havlat hits a couple things on its way to the net, Koivu gets the puck on the backhand and looks to have a wide open net. But Luongo, looking like a fish out of water on the ice, somehow gets his waffle glove on the shot and gets enough of the puck to pop it in the air and wide of the goal.
6:15 - Look out Dave Barr! Ehrhoff's errant pass in the neutral zone goes sailing into the Wild bench area and nearly plunks Wild Assistant Coach Dave "Barzee" Barr. Luckily, that guy's a marathon runner and is in impeccable shape so he's quick enough to scramble out of the way.
5:35 - It looks like Earl is making it his personal mission to set up Boogaard's first goal since 2006. The former Badger gets in deep and puts a perfect pass right on Boogey's stick in front. Boogety puts it right on, but Luongo makes a big save.
3:44 - Whoops. Owen Nolan drills Ryan Kesler from behind and puts him face first into the glass. Nolan is going to the sin bin for a couple of minutes, and he knows it. 1:48 - MIN 2 - VAN 1 - The Canucks get a big goal before the end of the first on the power play. Backstrom makes a save on a long shot from the point. He thinks he's got the puck in his breadbasket, but it's laying on the ice near his leg pad. Kesler pokes it loose and the former Ohio State Buckeye puts it away.
0:00 - That's going to do it for the first. The Wild will head to the posh locker room for some Powerade and some bonding time.Period 2
18:21 - Nolan sends a long lead pass to Marek Zidlicky who is ahead of everybody, but as he prepares to move in alone on Luongo, he loses control of the puck and never gets a shot off.
13:39 - Brodziak wins the race for the puck behind the Vancouver net, and then he finds a wide open Havlat in the slot. Marty gets a wicked shot off and beats Luongo high on the glove side, but clanks it off the cross bar.
11:11 - Kesler and Cal Clutterbuck
are exchanging words after the whistle. Wild.com really needs to get Clutterbuck mic'd up one of these nights. I'd give up a month's salary for that kind of material.
9:22 - Sit down Rick Rypien. As Nik Backstrom covers up the puck in his crease, Big John Scott thinks Rypien is getting too close to his keeper so he thumps him to the ice hard enough to make him do a backwards somersault. Rypien is not to be confused with Alicia Sacrimoni.
7:35 - Great shift by the Hav-lat-ziak line as the trio takes turn firing shots on goal and then winning the races for the rebounds, but Luongo appears to have settled in since the opening five minutes.
5:34 - Earl has that spark, that fire! While trying to pull a Canuck off of Backstrom, Darcy Hordichuk grabs him from behind. Earl is having none of that and he goes right after the Nucks tough guy and actually puts him down on the ice.
5:02 - Scary moment here. A Canuck shot from the point gets deflected high and drills Henrik Sedin right in the back of the shoulder. He goes down and is writhing in pain on the ice. After the trainers take a look, he's able to skate off without any help.4:17 - MIN 2 - VAN 2 - The Wild are going to have to work for this one. The Canucks get it tied up as Sami Salo tees off on a drop pass and rockets it past the blocker of Backstrom. It looks like Backstrom may have been screened as he was late to react.
1:13 - Backstrom has had to be huge since midway through the third period, and he makes a big save on Alexandre Burrows, one of the hottest scorers in the League right now. Henrik Sedin (yes, he's back out there) sends a perfect pass over to him on the left wing and he tries to go against the grain in front of Backs. The Wild netminder smartly drags his pad over and knocks the puck off Burrows' stick. Period 3
18:52 - MIN 3 - VAN 2 - There it is! The Wild regains the momentum on a four-on-three advantage. After working the puck around, Koivu slides one into the slot for an Antti Miettinen one-timer and this is a rocket. He smokes it past Luongo for his 10th of the season. Give some credit to G-Lat for planting himself right in front and screening Bobby Lou.
17:20 - Oh my! The Wild nearly pads its lead at the end of a power play. From about 10 feet in front of the net, Bruno threads a perfect pass to the right post where Belanger is open. Bella chips the puck up perfectly over Luongo but puts it off the post again. Why does it feel like Minnesota has been "out-posted" this year about 234 to 4?
15:12 - Willie Mitchell used to play for the Wild, but I'm not sure if he'll remember it after taking this bone rattling hit behind his own net from The Boogeyman. These two have never been overly fond of each other, so there might be a little extra oomph in the hit that sends both of Mitchell's feet into the air.
12:24 - Behind the play, Rypien is jawing in the ear of Zidlicky and looks to be goading him into dropping the gloves. Nice try Rick, but unless you wear number 87 and people call you Sid the Kid, Zidlicky isn't going to take the bait. 12:10 - MIN 4 - VAN 2 - Hot diggity! We will take it. Nolan picks up a loose puck in the right circle and sends a shot through traffic toward Luongo. This one is floating like a butterfly toward the goal but Luongo can't handle the R.A. Dickey knuckler and it finds its way over the line. That evens out the two posts the Wild have hit tonight.
10:28 - MIN 5 - VAN 2 - If it's January, it's time to put on the Mittens. Sorry, that's a pretty poor effort, but the Wild keeps pumping in the goals and I'm having trouble thinking of cheesy things to say. Miettinen chases Luongo by stealing a Vancouver clearing attempt and pumping another slap shot over the left shoulder of the Canucks target. Andrew Raycroft is going to take over between the Vancouver pipes. And dare I say the Wild is going to move within two points of a playoff spot?
8:49 - Okay NHL offices, you've got a fine to levy. Hordichuk goes right after Boogaard off a faceoff and the two start duking it out. However, as Boogey tugs on Hordichuk's jersey it gets yanked over his head. That means he doesn't have his fighting strap fastened and that's illegal. Boogaard has to stop throwing punches, and this perturbs him greatly. I'm no lip reader, but if Boogey is saying what I think he's saying, I can't put it on here. Sorry. ***Correction*** That is not a fineable offense, but it does result in a 10-minute misconduct.
8:32 - Wow! I think I just witnessed the most lopsided fight in Wild history. At center ice, Alexandre Bolduc and Big John drop the gloves. Bolduc wants Scott to remove his helmet, so he does. He then fixes his hair quickly and then starts unloading on Bolduc right in front of the Vancouver bench. This is almost painful to watch as Bolduc just takes fist after fist to the face. The refs finally have to break it up because Bolduc is about one punch away from early retirement. The big Canuck is going to have to go right to the locker room because he looks like he's skating with skateguards on his blades right now.
5:06 - Here we go again. The third fight of the period breaks out by the Wild net as Sheriff Shane Hnidy and former Dartmouth Big Green Tanner Glass drop the gloves. This doesn't contain anywhere near the excitement of the previous bout as it's mostly just grappling. A couple punches are thrown in this long battle, but it's mostly for show.
2:58 - Scott emerges from the box after his penalty expires and he gets a loud ovation from the crowd.
0:00 - That's four straight my friends! Niklas Backstrom
has the new franchise record for 114 wins. I'm expecting Manny Fernandez to go out on the ice and give him a big hug any second. Your Minnesota Wild has moved into sole possession of ninth place and is now two points from a playoff spot.