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Good evening State of Hockey legion. Welcome once again to live in-game commentary presented by Sun Country Airlines. Tonight marks a very sad anniversary that saddened the State of Hockey and the entire hockey world. It was seven years ago that former Wild fan favorite Sergei Zholtok tragically passed away while playing a hockey game in his native Latvia. It was a crushing blow to those that knew Sergei as one of the friendliest and most passionate players to grace the Wild locker room.
Sergei also brought the heat whenever the Wild played tonight's Wild opponent, the Vancouver Canucks. In fact, Sergei lit them up in the 2003 playoffs. I bet he'll be watching tonight's upcoming whooping of the Canucks from up on high, and he'll give a little fist pump at its conclusion. I'll be doing the same thing from my perch in the Al Shaver Press Box where I'll be surveying tonight's action.
I mean, right now I'm watching Josh Harding
do his thing in pregame warmups. In his last two starts, Harding has given up one goal on 73 shots. I've seen him face more than 73 shots already tonight, and I haven't seen one find the net. He's about to turn in another monstrous performance, and this time it's not coming against the Red Wings, but the Vancouver Rioters (also known in some circles as the Canucks).
Harding has been putting up his big numbers without the help of three veteran defensemen. Mike Lundin
(back), Clayton Stoner
(hand) and Greg Zanon (groin) are all continuing to miss time with injuries. Matt Kassian
was sent to Houston today, so that means there won't be any healthy scratches. That's a good thing. Nobody's feelings get hurt.
As for attire choices, the Wild will go with the home reds for this one. The Canucks are sporting the road whites trimmed in green and blue with the C-shaped killer whale on the chest.
Members of the Minnesota Roller Girls get us going tonight with the "Let's Play Hockey" declaration. I have made a rule to never disagree with a full-contact roller skater, so let's get with the program.Period 1
19:54 - The Wild very nearly gets its fastest goal in team history. Right off the opening faceoff, the puck slides into the Canuck zone. Nick Johnson
rips it away from a Canuck defenseman and gets in alone on former Boston College Eagle Cory Schneider but misfires over the net. Yes, we're going to have to be content with facing Schneider tonight. No such luck in getting Roberto Luongo in there. I love pumping Bobby Lou's tires.17:40 - MIN 0 - VAN 1 - It's the Sedin Twins doing their twin thing to help get the Canucks on the board first. Henry, or Hank as his brother is allowed to call him, gives it up to Daniel. He floats the puck in front where Dan Hamhuis pokes it past Harding. Similar start to Tuesday night in Detroit. We all know how that one ended up though.
10:46 - Dany Heatley
gets some room to maneuver in the slot and he toys with former Minnesota Gopher with some nasty deke moves. He then snaps off a heavy shot that Schneider is able to get his arm on.
10:07 - Cal Clutterbuck
is his usual self so far tonight. After absorbing a hit earlier in the shift he finds Dale Weise behind the Canucks net and crushes him against the glass. Making it more entertaining is that Weise can't quite catch his balance so his leg flies up into the air like he's slipping on a banana peel before he goes down. I, along with any fifth grader watching, definitely get a kick out of people falling down.
9:07 - Heatley has another chance as his line starts taking it to the Canucks in their zone. A centering pass to the front goes off the skate of Alexander Edler and right to the Heater on the doorstep. He tries to rap it in, but Schneider flicks his left leg out there and turns him away.
5:50 - Great work in the offensive zone by the Cullen line. They throw the puck back and forth before Setoguchi gets some space to take the puck to the net. The Canuck defenders close in on him, but that leaves a loose puck for Matt Cullen
to pick up and get in alone on Schneider. He's in a little too tight and can't quite pop it over the Canuck keeper.
4:10 - Guillaume Latendresse
flags down a floating puck with his glove and nobody near him in the slot. He doesn't have time to skate it in, so he lets a bullet of a slap shot go and misses wide on the glove side.
3:16 - Cullen must be all carbed up because he has the energy of a squirrel right now. In the span of about 10 seconds, he puts three shots on goal from close range. Schneider continues to stymie thim though, making his 11th stop on the night, and I believe the fourth on Cullen alone.
0:00 - That horn means the first period is donezo. The Wild heads to the locker room with but a flesh wound. Certainly nothing that can't be mended in time for the second.Period 2
19:25 - Oh my! What a spectacular save by Schneider, who absolutley robs Jared Spurgeon
. Latendresse fires a shot from the left circle that deflects right to Spurgeon, who is in deep and on top of Schneider. He's got a wide open net, but Schneider is somehow able to get his leg back and keep it out. A golden chance is snuffed out.
17:56 - The Wild power play can't beat Schneider, but not for lack of glorious scoring chances. Marek Zidlicky has the best chance with a rocket of a one-timer that beats Schneider and catches the crossbar.
16:05 - We haven't had a ton of Wild fights this year, but we've got one now. Brad Staubitz takes exception to a hit on Clutterbuck by former Brown Bear, Aaron Volpatti. It's Stauby that looks like the angry grizzly as he just starts laying into Volpatti with a flurry of punches. He eventually loses his balance and falls down, taking the chance away for Volpatti to land a single punch. 15:13 - MIN 1 - VAN 1 - That's what Gui does! He gets the puck in the slot and pulls off a ridiculous move to get around former Bowling Green Falcon Kevin Bieksa, who falls to his rump. Latendresse doesn't have a ton of room to maneuver as he gets to the side of the net, but he's able to sneak a quick backhand just inside the post for a highlight reel goal. What a beaut!
14:52 - MIN 2 - VAN 1 - Kah-blooey! The roof is off this hizzy. Just 21 seconds later, Pierre-Marc Bouchard takes a pass across the slot from Cullen. With a defenseman going down in front of him, Butch unleashes a howitzer that zips top shelf. Butch is fired up, and this crowd is just as ecstatic. I don't know, but I say that's an easy save for Luongo.
11:17 - Edler, who is red hot these days, gets loose in the right circle and snaps off a quick shot. Harding makes it look easy, but this is a huge save with outstretched arm and the lobster mitt.
10:02 - After a long break without any Canuck shots, Harding is getting busy again and he's taking over the game. He stops a long wrister by the finger biter, and then denies former Michigan State Spartan David Booth on the rebound.
6:13 - If not for Schneider, this game would be 7-1 at this point. He takes another one away as he snatches a Devin Setoguchi
missile out of the air. That's the 28th shot on goal for Minnesot compared to 12 for the Nucks.2:55 - MIN 3 - VAN 1 - Now the goals are comin. And they coming from everybody. This time it's Marco Scandella getting in on the action. He steps into a pass to the point from Kyle Brodziak and pumps it top shelf over the shoulder of Schneider. Scandella looks back at his bench and gives a big-time fist pump to his teammates after netting his second career NHL goal.
2:29 - Nothing wrong with a little luck now and then, but as Billy Zane said in Titanic, "a real man makes his own luck." Former Ohio State Buckeye Ryan Kesler appears to have a gimme as he taps a pass toward a gaping net. The puck slides along the goal line and nestles against the far post. Harding spins around and lightly removes it from harm's way with the toe of his stick. He then swallows up a follow up shot from Andrews. The refs go to review, but this one definitely did not go in.
0:00 - Periods like that make me smile. The Wild erases the deficit and tacks on a two-goal cushion heading into the third. Period 3
17:39 - Harding just keeps turning away the Canucks. One of the Sedins (doesn't matter which one) emerges from the corner with the puck and takes it right to the front. Harding goes down and makes the stop with the handle of his stick.13:52 - MIN 4 - VAN 1 - Stretch out that arm ref! That's a goal! Cullen steals the puck at the Vancouver blue line and he's taking this one to the house. He goes right in on goal up the left side and with almost nothing to shoot at, he finds room up top and sneaks it into the netting just behind the crossbar. The light doesn't come on and the refs just kind of stand there, but this one is in. Cullen knows it. The fans know it. Most importantly, I know it. That's goal number four on the night, tying the season high set in the home opener against Columbus.
12:30 - Clutterbuck and his pal @Clutterstache are all alone on a breakaway. Breakaways aren't necessarily Cal's bread and butter and Schneider reminds us of that by closing the door on Cal's bid for the five-hole.
11:02 - It doesn't matter tonight, but Heatley continues to get robbed. After having a blistering one-timer stopped by the leg pillow of Schneider, he puts a sick tip on a long shot. Schneider somehow unwittingly stops that and has no idea where it is. He lays flat on his back and freezes it somewhere underneath his pads.
5:47 - A three-way collision between Clutterbuck, Setoguchi and Ballard along the sideboards leaves Seto a little shaken.
5:19 - Clutterbuck gets low-bridged by Ballard, which doesn't sit well with Cal. Ballard stands over him, so Clutter jostles with him, and then tough-guy-in-his-own-mind Maxim Lapierre also goes after him. Brodziak won't stand for that so he rushes into the fray and peels off Ballard. Lapierre has Clutterbuck pinned up against the boards and tries to hoist him up and over the boards. Cal decides its time to fight back, but he accidentally catches the linesman with a fist. Obviously accidental.2:06 - MIN 5 - VAN 1 - You can take Luongo out, but you can't stop the Wild scorers from going off on the Canucks at Xcel Energy Center. Setoguchi tees off with a slap shot that Schneider fights off, but Cullen swoops in to bury the rebound for his second of the game and sixth of the year. That's his ninth career two-goal game.
0:00 - Take it easy Vancouver. We'll give you the shampoos and soaps you took from your hotel rooms, but we're taking the two points.