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Word up State of Hockey legion, and a Happy Fan Celebration Night to all of you. Fan Celebration is one of my favorite nights of the year, and I wouldn't miss it despite the fact that I feel like my body was just used as a tackling dummy.
So I am going to ask you to bear with me if I do some odd things tonight, like type "raccoon" when I'm trying to type "faceoff." I don't ask for much - except to read a running live in-game commentary of a hockey game on a Friday night.
Despite feeling a little sluggish, I will be coming to you live from my beloved perch in the Al Shaver Press Box, high atop ice level at Xcel Energy Center. I can't tell you how excited all of the people that sit next to me are to see me and my crumpled up tissues everywhere. And I can't tell you how excited I am about Niklas Backstrom
getting the start in goal tonight. He looks dialed in like a rotary telephone right now in pregame warmups.
As for those who are not playing, you can scribble Andrew Ebbett (finger), Josh Harding
(hip), Martin Havlat (illness), Clayton Stoner
(hernia), Chuck Kobasew (knee) and Nate Prosser
(healthy scratch) from your homemade roster.
I've got some more good news. The Wild will wear their green third jerseys for tonight's game, and the boys just don't lose at home in the greenies. Minnesota is 9-1-2 at Xcel Energy Center when wearing the green. The Sharks will go with the road whites trimmed in teal and black with the stick-chomping Mako Shark on the chest.
I've got some even better news. Five members of the five, that's right, five-
time National Champion Minnesota Duluth women's hockey team get us started with the "Let's Play Hockey" declaration. Absolutely ladies. Let's do this thing.Period 1
16:28 - The Wild nearly strikes on the first power play of the game. A beautiful passing play of Andrew Brunette to Marek Zidlicky to Mikko Koivu
ends with Koivu ringing one off the post from close range.12:41 - MIN 0 - SJ 1 - The Sharks draw first blood in this one as former Bowling Green Falcon Rob Blake fires a slap shot toward the front of the net where it's perfectly tipped up and under the crossbar by Manny Malhotra.
11:13 - The Wild are using their passing sticks tonight. Casey Wellman leads a fantastic rush and drops a pass back to Nick Schultz. He carries down deep and then sends a cross-ice pass over to Cal Clutterbuck
. He puts a great shot on that Evgeni Nabokov is able to stop. And the puck sits loose in the crease, but James Sheppard is unable to knock it in.7:38 - MIN 0 - SJ 2 - The Wild has been unable to cash in on their early chances. The Sharks have not had that problem. The puck is batted about in front of the net with Backstrom on his rump trying to keep it out. Blake and former Vermont Catamount Scott Nichol whack away unsuccessfully. Finally, the puck pops free to Scott Nichol.
2:22 - Once again, the Wild comes inches away. On the power play, Owen Nolan gets the puck in the corner and dishes into the slot for Sheppard. He gets off a heavy shot but misses just inches wide.
0:00 - That's going to do it for the opening 20. The Wild came out with some fire, but it's the Sharks that will enjoy this intermission up two goals.Period 2
18:01 - Former Wisconsin Badger Dany Heatley
flies up the right side and lets a shallow angle shot go that hits Backstrom. The rebound pops right out front where Devin Setoguchi
kicks it back toward the goal, and Backstrom has to reach back and stop it with the lobster glove just as it nears the goal line.
16:36 - There are some shenanigans going on away from the play in front of the benches. Derek Boogaard and Ryane Clowe come together. As Clowe climbs the boards to get into his bench, Boogey gives him one more shot in the back, presumably to help him get there quicker.14:50 - MIN 1 - SJ 2 - Count it! The Wild gets on the board with a much-needed tally. Guillaume Latendresse enters the zone and lets loose with a hard slapper. Nabokov makes the save up high, popping the puck into the air. Clutterbuck is crashing the net, and the puck hits his upper body and plops over the goal line. The play is reviewed, but it stands and the San Jose lead is cut to one.
14:34 - Backstrom comes up huge on the very next shift as former Wisconsin Badger Joe Pavelski is wreaking all kinds of havoc in front. He appears to have a gimme on the backhand, but Backy stretches out the paddle and keeps it out.
13:42 - Referee Chris Lee is way too trigger happy with that whistle of his. The Wild power play is buzzing and as the puck ping pongs in front of Nabokov, Lee blows the whistle an instant before Koivu easily sweeps one in on the backhand. Lee immediately waves it off, and Koivu immediately screams at him along with the entire arena. 13:01 - MIN 2 - SJ 2 - Kaboom! There's no waving this one off. The power play finally connects as Andrew Brunette dishes into the high slot for Antti Miettinen and he crushes a slap shot that zips past Nabokov and gets this thing knotted up.
9:07 - Oh baby! We've got the most exciting play in hockey. James Sheppard breaks loose on a shorthanded breakaway, and he's hooked from behind by former Miami of Ohio Redhawk Dan Boyle. Sheppard's shot misses high, but he's immediately awarded a penalty shot.
9:07 - On the penalty shot, Sheppard makes a nice move and dekes Nabokov to the ice, but the Sharks keeper gets his pad out and denies him.
1:12 - Koivu and Burns work together to start a shorthanded rush the other way. Koivu then dishes to Miettinen, who cranks a shot right on. Burns is there for the rebound, but he loses his stick as he tries to punch it in. Period 3
13:44 - The firewagon hockey that took over much of the second period has died down a bit. The opening minutes of the third are more chess match-like.
12:06 - Brent Burns and Clutterbuck are the bread in a Devin Setoguchi
sandwich. Setoguchi tries to gain the Wild zone, but he first meets the hip of Burns and then the upper body of Clutterbuck. Boom! Roasted.
9:45 - Nolan causes a turnover in the neutral zone and then feeds ahead to Latendresse for a partial break. He gets even with the top of the circles and unloads a snap shot that catches Nabby up high.
8:57 - Saves don't come much bigger than this one by Nabokov. With the Wild on the power play, Koivu makes a sick move to walk right by Boyle. He then sends a pass over to a wide open Brunette, but his low shot is snuffed out by a spectacular toe save. Thievery!3:51 - MIN 2 - SJ 3 - It's not often a broken stick leads to a goal, but the Sharks catch an enormous break here to take the lead. Boyle tries to take a slap shot, but his stick shatters and the puck slides slowly toward the goal and seems to fool everybody. The puck ends up on the stick of Logan Couture and he punches it past a diving Backstrom.
0:48.2 - This time a broken stick helps. With Backstrom off for the extra attacker, Patrick Marleau has the puck on his stick and a chance to end it, but as he shoots, his stick breaks.
0:00 - The effort was certainly there tonight, but the resulte wasn't. The Wild lose a tough one to the Sharks.