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Yo, yo, yo State of Hockey legion, and a Happy Baron Bliss Day to all of the Wild fans in Belize. I don't want to insult your intelligence by assuming you don't know that Baron Henry Edward Ernest Victor Bliss (great hockey name by the way), willed two million dollars to a trust fund to benefit the citizens of the colony of British Honduras, or as it is now known, Belize.
I'll be celebrating Baron Bliss Day from the spot where I like to celebrate all major holidays, my perch in the Al Shaver Press Box high atop the rink at Xcel Energy Center. It's what the Baron would have wanted. He would also want me to write a detailed online commentary covering a Tuesday night matchup between the hated Florida Panther's and the Minnesota Wild, the most popular team in Belize according to a survey I just conducted in the Al Shaver Press Box.
Why are Belize fans so in love with the Wild? Well, look no further than between the pipes where Nik Backstrom owns the goal cage. The guy is Elvis in Belize, and he's also the starting goaltender tonight. Can Baron Bliss Day get any better?
It could if Cal Clutterbuck
were healthy enough to play, but he is out tonight because of a charley horse. Pierre-Marc Bouchard
and Clayton Stoner
are also out of this contest. Big John Scott is going to be the healthy scratch, which means Petr Kalus is set to make his Minnesota Wild debut. I predict he scores a goal on his first shot. Call your bookie now.
Baron Bliss Day must be a special occasion because the Wild is breaking out the green third jerseys for this one. The Panthers will go with the road whites trimmed in red, navy and yellow with the ferocious pouncing cougar on the chest.
Hub Meeds, the original Minnesota Viking mascot, is wearing a helmet with huge horns on it, and he gets us going with the "Let's Play Hockey" declaration. If there is one thing I've learned in 30 years on this earth, it's listen to guys wearing hats with horns sticking out. So let's do this.Period 1
16:59 - MIN 1 - FLA 0 - Water bottle shot! The Wild seemed to be passing up way too many shots in their first power play, but Mikko Koivu finally takes one, and a good thing happens. Cam Barker unloads a slapper from the point that hits a skate. It ricochets over to the left circle to Koivu. Rather than shoot right away, he takes his time and gives a quick shoulder juke before whistling a wrister just under the crossbar, and it sends Tomas Vokoun's water bottle high in the air. Chicks dig water bottle shots.
13:14 - The Panthers get their first chance on the power play as Dmitry Kulikov sends a wrist shot on goal from the point. Backstrom makes that stop, and then recovers to rob former Wisconsin Badger Steven Reinprecht's rebound attempt from on top of the crease.
11:42 - Andrew Brunette gets the puck in his kitchen behind the opposition's net, and he cooks up some good dish back there. He fights off a defender long enough to send a great backhand pass to the front where Koivu one-times it quickly. Vokoun makes the stop, but he doesn't get all of it and the puck keeps going and trickles just wide.
9:55 - Former UMD Bulldog Jason Garrison unloads a slap shot from the point that Backstrom hangs onto. It's not that exciting, but I can't pass up the chance to mention a former UMD Bulldog.8:59 - MIN 2 - FLA 0 - Now we can talk about a former Wisconsin Badger! Nick Schultz makes a fantastic play in the neutral zone by stepping up to gain control. He then gets a pass off right before getting hit, and he puts it right on the tape of Robbie Earl cutting down the slot. When Earl has time and space, he's dangerous, and he wires a shot cleanly past Vokoun for his sixth of the year. And, that's a career-high 14 helpers for Schultz.
3:17 - Backstrom stonewalls Reinprecht two more times. First Reinprecht redirects a centering pass, but Backs gets the leg pillow down. Then, he lunges to his left and gets his arm down to turn away another tap in. He is in the zone right now as the Wild is getting outshot 11-3, but winning 2-0.
0:00 - The Wild heads to the locker room with just its second two-goal lead at the first intermission all season. That calls for a pretzel with cheese.Period 2
15:45 - A whole lot of nothing finally yields a great scoring chance for the Wild. Barker smartly jumps up into the play to help Koivu on an odd-man rush. Once he gains the zone, Koivu pulls up and Barker goes to the net. The Finnish captain throws a pass back to Antti Miettinen, who has all kinds of daylight. He sends a shot toward Barker in front, but the puck deflects just wide.
13:59 - I haven't even mentioned the red hot Guillaume Latendresse
yet tonight. He crashes the net after a quick backhand shot by Andrew Ebbett. Latendresse's presence causes Vokoun to lose control of the puck, but the play is whistled dead. G-Lat and Nick Tarnasky then trade shoves and words for a long time as they slowly skate to their respective benches.
10:30 - Reinprecht tries to carry the puck all the way up the ice and then split the D in the Wild zone. The problem is the two Wild D-men are Cam Barker and Brent Burns. Those are two big boys, and Reinprecht looks like he hit the midsection of a hippo.
5:37 - Sometimes NHL officiating baffles me. After Latendresse delivers a solid hit on former Minnesota Gopher Keith Ballard, the two players tumble to the ice. Ballard is up first and he refuses to let G-Lat get to his skates. When Latendresse finally does get up, Ballard pushes down on his helmet and practically blinds him with his own bucket. I can't imagine that's within the boundaries of good etiquette, but I've been wrong once or twice.
2:14 - We've got a fracas! Martin Havlat fires a couple shots on goal from close range and Vokoun covers up. Brian McCabe then takes a couple shots at Havlat, who responds with a crosscheck. McCabe comes right back with a haymaker and that sets everybody off. All 10 skaters get tangled up with each other, including Koivu, who is jawing intensely with Bryan Allen. Brent Burns is also down there going from tussle to tussle and pulling Panther players off his teammates.Period 3
17:58 - MIN 2 - FLA 1 - We've got a game now. The Panthers cut the lead to one as McCabe springs Michael Frolik on a clear breakaway. Frolik gets in alone and makes no mistake on a quick shot, putting it off the post and in. The Wild is now looking at a 23-7 deficit in shots. Seven shots through two-plus periods isn't going to get it done.
13:23 - Radek Dvorak gets around Burns by streaking to the outside, and then cuts to the net where Backstrom is forced to come up with another big stop. And yes, the Wild is still stuck at seven shots on goal. Florida has 26.
12:51 - As Brunette tries to dump the puck in, his stick snaps in half. That's at least four Wild sticks that have snapped so far in this game. Zidlicky, Schultz and The Bark Dog have all snapped sticks as well. I say we blame Equipment Manager Tony Dacosta. He needs to make a better twig.
10:38 - Havlat sets up Burns beautifully in the slot, but his rocket misses just high. Still stuck at seven shots.9:20 - MIN 2 - FLA 2 - You could sense this coming. Reinprecht has been a force all night, and he sets up Cory Stillman who gets this thing tied up. Reinprecht gains the zone and then drops the puck back to Stillman, who fires a shot that tips off a Wild stick and in. And yes, still seven shots on goal.
8:49 - Koivu gets off a weak wrist shot that makes its way to Vokoun, and we finally have our eighth shot on goal. The crowd reacts with a loud mock cheer. In case you're wondering, the franchise record for fewest shots in a game is 11 and the fewest shots at home is 13.
2:12 - Havlat and McCabe are not getting along tonight. As the Wild gets the puck in deep, those two continue to jostle and both collide with Vokoun's net. Havlat is very perturbed and looks like he's about to go after McCabe, but thinks better of it. Nothing happens except some harsh words.
0:00 - We are going to get some extra hockey tonight, which is good, because that will give the Wild a chance to avoid having the fewest number of shots in an NHL game this season. The season low is 11. The Wild currently has nine.Overtime
2:24 - After a long shot by Greg Zanon gets deflected and nearly finds the net, Schultz gets the puck down to Kyle Brodziak
all alone in front. Brodzy tries a quick move and then lets a backhand go, but puts it over the net. Stuck on 10 shots.
1:33 - Koivu makes a slick pass to a pinching Zidlicky, but his bid is fired wide.
0:00 - We are going to a shootout folks. The Wild finishes overtime with 11 shots on goal, which ties the franchise record for fewest shots, sets the record the fewest shots at home, and equals the season low in the NHL. No matter. A win is a Koivu backhand flip away.Shootout
Koivu is going to lead us off as the crowd rises. He tries to make a move to the backhand, but Vokoun gets his stick on it to make the save.
Stephen Weiss is up for Florida. He tries a move to the backhand, but Backstrom lays the pad down and stuffs him.
Cowboy Nolan will shoot next. He hesitates and then tries to go upstairs, but no dice. Vokoun turns it away.
Former Michigan State Spartan David Booth tries a backhand shot, but Backstrom says no.
Zidlicky is up. His wrister to the stick side is easily denied by Vokoun.
Kamil Kreps can win it, but he comically loses control without ever getting a shot off.
Latendresse will go next, but he also tries a shot from far out, and Vokoun makes it look easy again.Now Stillman can win it, and he does, tucking a wrist shot inside the far post.