Halloo State of Hockey legion, and a Happy Independence Day to all of you Wild fans in the great country of Finland! Of course, I don't need to remind you, or Mikko Koivu
, Niklas Backstrom
and Antti Miettinen that Finland gained its independence from Russia on this day in 1917 and I can't think of any better way to celebrate the occasion than with a special edition of live in-game commentary from my perch in the Al Shaver Press Box, where dreams come true.
Tonight, in observance of the holiday, the Wild will host the Nashville Predators and their Finnish netminder, Pekka Rinne.
That means that on Finnish Independence Day, we may have a Scandinavian country divided because facing Rinne will be our own Finnish keeper, and that is Backstrom. I might as well just tell you Finns right now that Backstrom is dialed in right now in warmups, so if you're still trying to figure out who to root for, I'll make it easy, cheer for the guys in red.
Those guys in red will actually have two guys scratched from the lineup tonight. James Sheppard and John Scott will be watching from the press box tonight. Brent Burns, Pierre-Marc Bouchard
and Petr Sykora are all out with concussions and will probably be watching assuming it doesn't make them dizzy. Concussions are not fun.
That pretty much leaves nothing else except wardrobe, and tonight, the Wild will don the beautiful home reds. The Preds will go with the road whites, trimmed in blue, yellow and silver with the prehistoric cat on the chest.
The Board of Directors for the brand new Minnesota Wild Foundation
are on hand to get us started with the "Let's Play Hockey" declaration. Don't mind if we do. Bring it Nashville. Bring it!Period 1
18:24 - Getting outshot 6-0, the Wild spring to life as Eric Belanger holds the zone and feeds a pass to Owen Nolan in the high slot. The red hot Cowboy flings a wrist shot that beats Rinne but clanks off the right post.
15:27 - The Preds are on pace for 108 shots tonight, but thankfully Backstrom looks like he's up for 108 saves. With the Preds buzzing, he turns away about four shots in the span of five seconds. It's safe to say that Nashville as come out strong tonight. I'll get on Wild PR stat magician Ryan Stanzel to find out if 108 saves will be a record.
13:30 - Greg Zanon finds Koivu lingering in the high slot and the captain one-times a shot at his countryman, Rinne, who is there to make a chest save.12:40 - MIN 0 - NSH 1 - We'll have to settle for 107 saves tonight. On their 11th shot of the night, the Predators strike as Marcel Goc pokes home a pass from Martin Erat right at the top of the crease. That's but a flesh wound. The Wild had given up the first goal in five of the last six coming into tonight. As my friend Ben would say, "you don't have to have the lead if you have the heart to come from behind." Ben is in last place in our Fantasy Football League.
12:18 - Marek Zidlicky does a nice job of holding the zone on an attempted Nashville clear. He quickly winds and fires a shot and he puts that off the post. Somebody check to see if the Nashville net is regulation size.9:29 - MIN 1 - NSH 1 - Antti Miettinen strikes a blow to H1N1. Back from the vicious strain of the flu, Miettienen is the high guy in the zone as Mikko Koivu shakes the puck loose behind the Nashville net. He pushes it out to Andrew Brunette, who finds Mittens cutting down the slot. Rinne gets a piece of the close range slot, but it squeaks through to knot this thing up.
8:54 - Pipe number three, are you kidding me? Greg Zanon (I believe) floats a long wrist shot toward the goal. As he ducks out of the way, Cal Clutterbuck
inadvertently makes contact with his stick and it deflects over Rinne and off the crossbar. There's a chance this one would have been called off for a high stick, but it doesn't matter too much because the pipes are talking loudly tonight.
8:07 - Here we go! Derek Boogaard finally finds a dancing partner in Wade Belak in the Nashville corner. After a long - and I mean looooong - pose fest, they finally tangle. Belak is able to grab hold of Boogey up high, preventing him from unloading. Boogey lands some body blows to the kidneys and gets in a couple shots up high, but not a ton happens. Still a good battle and props to Belak for being man enough to go with the big man. These two have had it out over the years. 5:18 - MIN 2 - NSH 1 - That's the epitome of a Cal Clutterbuck goal my friends! Deep in the Nashville zone, Clutterbuck absolutely destroys Kevin Klein (not the actor or the designer) with a check, causing the puck to pop right to Kyle Brodziak. He quickly sends the puck right back to Clutter who is all by his lonesome thanks to Klein being laid out. He just bangs it right through Rinne's legs to blow the roof off this place.3:08 - MIN 2 - NSH 2 - Little mistakes can be costly in the NHL and they cost the Wild a goal here. Backstrom plays a Nashville dump in over to Zidlicky, who can't hang onto the pass. Steve Sullivan then beats him to the puck and starts a play that ends with Jason Arnott finishing all alone in front.
2:32 - MIN 3 - NSH 2 - I do like this Guillaume Latendresse, and you should to. In the neutral zone, he delivers a hard hit to start the play the other way. He gives the puck up to Brodziak, who then drops it back to G-Lat. The newest Wild is left alone and he carries all the way to the other side as Rinne can't hang with him. He's got nothing but net and he makes no mistake. Big night for the checkers so far.
0:00 - The buzzer sounds, and for you non-hockey aficionados, that means the first period is over. A somewhat sloppy, but very entertaining opening stanza comes to a close with the good guys up a goal. Period 2
16:56 - Andrew Ebbett has some jets in those skis and he wheels around in the Nashville zone with the puck taking it deep. He then throws a quick pass to the front where Marty Havlat has a chance, but Rinne puts up a wall and denies him.
15:51 - G-Lats is a beast down low. He wins the battle for the puck behind the Nashville cage and then darts quickly to the near post and almost stuffs one in on the short side, but Rinne covers that spot as well.11:33 - MIN 3 - NSH 3 - You could sense this one coming as the Wild just could not clear their own zone. The Preds keep coming in waves and finally, Klein rips a shot on goal that Backstrom gets with his chest, but he can't hang on and Steve Sullivan, who I believe has about 204 career points against the Wild, pokes in the rebound.
10:34 - Heavens! The pipe down to my left is getting its paint chipped away tonight. This time, the Preds take a long shot and a screened Backstrom never sees it. It hits the post and settles right in the crease behind Backstrom, who alertly lays flat with Marcel Goc lurking right at the doorstep trying to punch it in.
6:55 - The Wild is going to get their first power play of the night, but that's of little consolation as Antti Miettinen is hobbling off the ice after getting drilled by Martin Erat in the Nashville zone.
2:58 - The Boogeyman exacts some revenge on Nashville for the hit on Mittens. Marcel Goc has his head down in the Preds zone, and he gets absolutely steamrolled by a truck with the license plate #24.
0:51.2 - Mittens is back on the ice and looks to be fine.Period 3
17:08 - We're less than three minutes into the third, and Boogey is out there for his second shift of the period. That either says that Todd Richards loves what he sees from the big man tonight, or he's not happy with what he's seeing from everybody else. 16:18 - MIN 3 - NSH 4 - Backs would like to have this one back. Arnott picks up his second of the night by skating down the right side and firing a shot that somehow squeezes through Backstrom's pads. Not a great angle, and not a great goal, but then again, we're none of us perfect. Sullivan picks up an assist for his fourth point of the night. The guy owns us.
13:38 - Nick Schultz sends a long wrist shot toward the goal that clips Nolan and bounces just wide of Rinne and the net.
13:12 - Miettinen races in on a two-on-one with Zidlicky on his right. Mittens opts for the shot and Rinne plays it perfectly to make the stop.
7:46 - Ouch! Andrew Ebbett dives for a pass in the Nashville zone. He barrels headfirst into the boards and is a bit slow to get up. Rinne gives him a stick tap on the rump in a show of good sportsmanship.
7:13 - Koivu absolutely undresses Dan Hamhuis with a toe drag move to get around him and in alone on Rinne. The Preds keeper makes the stop, but the Wild is going to get a power play out of this.6:58 - MIN 4 - NSH 4 - I think I just saw the running man celebration! Koivu connects on the power play as all five players get their sticks on the puck as they zip it around. Brunette slides it over to a wide open Koivu who buries it, and then runs in place for a mini-version of the best hockey celebration of all time. Mike Eruzione would be proud.
6:40 - Rinne is going to be lugging that goal behind him when he boards his team charter tonight. He benefits from the fourth shot of the night to glance off the post. This time, Latendresse sends a shallow angle wrister that sails over Rinne's shoulder and caroms off the crossbar.
2:20 - This will be interesting. Koivu gets called for hooking, meaning the Wild will have to kill the next two without their best penalty killer.
0:29.8 - He hasn't had his best game, but there's no one I'd want in goal at this point over Backstrom, who comes up with a huge save after an attempted pass hits the skate of Zidlicky and heads right toward the goal. Backstrom is going the other way, but he gets his left pad down to make the save and cover up.
0:00 - Penalty killed and we're headed to overtime. The Wild's point streak continues, but we're looking for a big 'ol double U in the extra session.Overtime
3:34 - MIN 5 - NSH 4 - New guy from the new guy! The Wild gets the win as Ebbett and Latendresse connect in OT. Ebbett sends a cross crease pass to Latendresse who is stopped by a sliding Rinne. But G-Lat sticks with it and sends another shot back at the goal. It hits the side of the post (yes, the same post that took away so many goals) and bounces right out front to Ebbett who whacks it in for the first game-winner of his career.