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In-Game Commentary vs. Nashville

by Glen Andresen / Minnesota Wild

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Good evening State of Hockey legion! Welcome to this Wednesday night edition of live in-game commentary, right here on I am coming to you live from the Al Shaver Press Box, where my perch seat is starting to form fit to my gluteus maximus. It's where I belong, and it's where the Wild needs me, because every other place I've done an in-game commentary, the Wild has been kicked around. But not here at the Xcel Energy Center, We make it a point not to lose games here, and the Wild doesn't intend to start tonight.

Tonight's victims will be the Predators of Nashville, who seem like decent fellows, but that and a dollar might get them a can of soda. It won't get them a win tonight.

As I peer down to the ice surface below, I can see the Wild and the Predators are immersed in pregame warmups and listening to a horrendous song on the P.A. system. I know the players are in charge of music during warmups, but whoever picked this song needs to have his head checked.

I seriously doubt the music is having any effect on Niklas Backstrom, who is tonight's starting goaltender. If I may be blunt, he looks locked in for this one, as usual. He'll be backed up by Anton Khudobin, who was called up from Houston yesterday. I talked to Anton about his goalie mask today, because it has two angels on it. I told him he must be very secure in his manhood to have that kind of artwork on there, and he said he is indeed.

A couple guys will be sitting out tonight's game, and that of course includes Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion), Kim Johnsson (upper body) and Josh Harding (lower body soreness). Petr Sykora will also miss tonight's game for reasons unknown, but it's assumed that his groin injury may be acting up again. Nope, I've just been told that it is a coach's decision.

The Wild will be going back to the home reds for tonight's matchup, putting the new greenies to rest after four straight. The Predators are sporting the road whites, trimmed in navy, gold and silver with the prehistoric cat on the chest.

Two distinguished officers from the Minnesota National Guard get things started with the "Let's Play Hockey" declaration. Sir, yes sir!

Period 1

17:24 - MIN 0 - NSH 1 - Is this deja vu? Once again, the Wild finds itself in an early hole as the Predators score on their first official shot on goal (they had another one that Backstrom gloved, but for whatever reason, the stats crew didn't give them a shot). Steve Sullivan, who always seems to terrorize the Wild, sends a pass from the corner to J.P. Dumont in front. Arguably the Preds' most talented scorer, Dumont quickly lifts a backhand that beats Backstrom up on the blocker side. This is the ninth time in 12 games that the Wild has trailed 1-0.

16:47 - The boys almost get that one right back. On a three-on-two, Antti "Mittens" Miettinen fires a hard, low slap shot on goaltender Dan Ellis, who makes a kick save. The puck pops right to Mikko Koivu, who has an open net, but he can't find the handle and a scrum in front yields a whistle even though the puck is loose at the top of the crease.

14:27 - MIN 0 - NSH 2 - Right now, I suspect that sweat is starting to trickle down the neck of Anton Khudobin, as he watches Backstrom give up a second goal on Nashville's third shot. With James Sheppard in the box, the Preds quickly gain control and feed Shea Weber at the point. He lets a long shot goal and it evades Backstrom for a two-goal Predator advantage.

6:29 - The Wild is starting to press offensively to try and get the crowd back on its side. Derek Boogaard does a nice job of holding the puck along the boards long enough for his linemates to get set. Miettinen then finds James Sheppard in the lower circle, and he gets a nice one-time shot off and forces Ellis into a tough save.

4:23 - Koivu continues to battle for the puck in the Nashville zone, and he slaps a loose puck toward the front where Benoit Pouliot is stationed. The puck hits off Benny's skate and deflects just wide of the goal.

0:00 - Not exactly what we were looking for in the first period, but the Wild has an intermission to regroup, and then 40 minutes to steamroll these Preds and take this thing. Keep the faith, people!

Period 2

19:29 - MIN 1 - NSH 2 - Boom goes the dynamite! Just three seconds - THREE SECONDS! - into the Wild's first power play, Brent Burns cuts the lead in half. Koivu cleanly wins the draw and drops it back to Burnzie. It looked like most players expected him to fling it over to his partner, but he catches everyone off guard by wristing a long shot through traffic and into the upper corner. That's what we're looking for.

18:00 - MIN 2 - NSH 2 - Is it the Xcel Energy Center magic coming through once again? Cal Clutterbuck takes a pass from Eric Belanger as they enter the zone. Just as he gets to the top of the right circle, Clutter lets a slap shot go toward the opposite corner and he beats Ellis cleanly. Is there any wonder why this kid is a fan favorite? He just makes good things happen.

17:42 - MIN 3 - NSH 2 - Go crazy, folks! Go crazy! The Wild is scoring goals faster than your average in-game commentary writer can type. What did Todd Richards say at intermission is my question. In less than two minutes, a two-goal deficit is now a one goal lead as Owen Nolan gets a pass in the slot from Marek Zidlicky and he just calmly wrists a shot past Ellis for his second of the year. The three goals in a span of 1:47 is a Wild record at home. It actually scored three goals in 1:41 back in 2004 in an 8-2 win at Chicago. Also, that's going to do it for Ellis. Pekka Rinne is the new Nashville target.

15:51 - Clutterbuck can dish out the hits, but he can take them too. I think even he'll admit that Nashville's Francis Bouillon (I'm guessing he's French) gets the better of him here. As Clutter tries to skate the puck out of his own zone, Bouillon goes low on him and sends him flying in the air.

14:00 - After Rinne holds onto a long shot, Marty Havlat and Dan Hamhuis are skating side-by-side into the corner. Suddenly, Hamhuis loses his mind and grabs Havlat by the throat. Naturally, Marty doesn't like this, and he starts flailing away at Hamhuis in the corner before James Sheppard and some others jump into the fray.

13:16 - MIN 3 - NSH 3 - These are the two lowest scoring teams in the Western Conference, but you wouldn't now it from the way the goal lights continue to light up. Former Wild farmhand, Joel Ward, scores his first of the year in a four-on-four situation. Ward skates up the left, then cuts to the middle before letting a shot go that beats Backstrom on the blocker side. You never like to see the opponent score, but it's hard not to root for Ward, who played college hockey in Canada, and was a tryout player at Wild camp several summers ago. He's also one of the nicest guys you'll ever want to meet.

11:29 - The Nashville goal is not being given to Michael Santorelli, instead of Ward. We can now be fully TO'd about the goal since Ward didn't get it. 

5:37 - Nashville is turning on the pressure once again, and they are bombarding Backstrom with pucks and bodies. After a flurry in the Wild crease is followed by a long shot that "Backs" gloves down, he's involved in an animated conversation with Referee Kelly Sutherland about getting a whistle earlier than he did. At least, that's what I assume he's angry about. I'm not a lip reader when faces are covered by a goalie mask.

0:33.7 - Koivu has a great scoring chance as time winds down on a three-on-two, He gets the puck in the left circle and tries to sneak one in on the short side, but he's stopped by Rinne, who has calmed things down for the Preds since he entered the game.

Period 3

14:20 - A rough shift for Pouliot, who hits the ice about four seperate times. First, he's checked from behind into the boards, then he gets up and is sent back down. Then, he tries to throw a check in the Nashville zone, and again he's dropped.

12:08 - After Nashville controls the play for a lengthy period of time, the Wild breaks the other way led by Koivu and Clutterbuck. Their odd-man rush is snuffed out, but they stick with the play and Koivu sets up Big John Scott right in front. He puts a shot on that Renne stops. Then, a mad scramble ensues and Scott has another whack at the puck, but Renne is still there and he finally swallows up the loose puck.

10:52 - Clank! The Wild catches a break as Martin Erat fires a shot from the circle that beats Backstrom upstairs, but it hits the post where the pipe and the crossbar meet.

9:16 - MIN 3 - NSH 4 - Ow! This one hurts, and it hurts bad. With the Wild in a perfect position to grab the lead on the power play, the Wild can't hold the zone. Jerred Smithson races the other way, and makes a move on Burns and whistles a shot past Backstrom. That can take the wind out of a team's sails in a hurry. It can also take the wind out of an in-game commentator. I'm having trouble breathing.

6:29 - Turnovers at the blue line are becoming way too prevalent for Minnesota. Sherriff Shane Hnidy's shot from the point hits Marcel Goc, who races the other way on a breakaway. He tries to pull Backstrom over and make a move to the backhand, but he loses control and doesn't get a shot on goal.

5:52 - Hark! I hear the sound of Van Halen's "Right Now" cranking over the PA system. I do believe this foreshadows another Wild rally.

2:55 - Clutterbuck lowers the boom on Bouillon for the second time this period. With Bouillon off balance just inside his own blue line, Clutterbuck hits him at full speed and absolutely flattens him. 

1:23 - With a faceoff coming in the Nashville zone, Backstrom heads off for an extra attacker.

0:52.1 - Koivu finds Brunette right in front, but his quick shot is stopped by the pad of Renne.

0:00 - It looked like the Xcel Energy Center magic was there for awhile, but the shortie from Smithson was a backbreaker. The Wild loses its first game at home this season.

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