A good evening to all within the State of Hockey legion! In the midst of your online dillydallying, you have stumbled across live in-game commentary right here on Wild.com. Consider yourself very lucky. This is a signal that you should go out and buy a handful of lottery tickets, because your luck is only going to get better as the night goes along. We've got the Wild visiting the Anaheim Ducks tonight, and in the words of Will.I.Am, I've gotta feeling (wooooohooooo) that tonight's going to be a good night.
I am coming to you live from the Honda Center press box in cloudy and rainy Anaheim, California. You read that correctly, folks. I purposely stowed away on the Wild team flight to California and I haven't seen the sun in four days. I'm crossing my fingers that the weather is better at 4:00 AM when we land in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada after the game tonight.
I'm also crossing my fingers that Niklas Backstrom
has his "A" game in tow tonight. After all, he's getting the start in goal, and I have to give a air high five to Head Coach Todd Richards for that decision. Backstrom is 4-2-0 in his career against the Ducks, including the 4-3 OT victory at the Xcel Energy Center last week.
The Wild will have a couple new guys in the lineup tonight in Nathan Smith and former Michigan Wolverine, Andy Hilbert. If I'm not mistaken, Hilbert will be the first Wolverine to play for the Wild since Bill Muckalt. Smith and Hilbert will take the place of Cal Clutterbuck
(ankle) and Petr Sykora (groin), who are out with injuries. Two guys will have to sit this one out as healthy scratches. Jaime Sifers, who took a Boogaard shot off his face at the morning skate today, will be out. He'll be joined by either John Scott or Derek Boogaard. Both big men are on the ice for pregame warmups, but one of them will be in a suit by the time the puck drops.
As far as unis go, the Wild will be wearing the customary road whites and will be skating from right to left across your computer screen. The Ducks have opted for the home blacks trimmed in copper, white and orange with the word "Ducks" across the chest. Very unimaginative if you're asking me, and I know you are.
This just in: we'll have to wait at least one more game for Boogaard's return. He will not be playing tonight. Hopefully he'll be sitting up near me in the press box. He's a funny guy.
This sparsely filled arena appears ready to go, and I hope you are too. Once again, we've got a late night of hockey on tap, but I know it's not a school night because it's MEA weekend back home as my wife is happy to remind me of. For the rest of you, I can only recommend the usual concoction of two cans of Coca-Cola, four No-Doze pills, two cans of Jolt Cola, and a chaser of a two-liter of Surge.
Now let's get this thing going.Period 118:19 - A bad line change for the Wild results in a pretty goal by Ducks forward, Corey Perry. Kyle Brodziak tries to chip the puck ahead but it bounces the opposite way for Perry, who blows by Sherrif Shane Hnidy, and then dekes to his right, before pulling the puck back and jamming a backhander past Backstrom. For a team looking to eliminate mistakes, this is not the start the Wild is looking for.
15:38 - The Wild's second line quickly responds with a great shift. Holding the puck in the Anaheim zone for at least a minute, the unit of James Sheppard, Owen Nolan and Antti Miettinen continue to work the puck around until finally Miettinen finds himself open in the slot. He puts a quick shot on net but Jonas Hiller makes a great stop and holds on for the faceoff.
14:57 - Marek Zidlicky, known more for offense than physicality, steps up at his own blueline and lowers his shoulder into Saku Koivu. That gets the crowd's attention. 11:31 - New game plan, put a body on Corey Perry. Just seconds after he almost tips one in, Perry finds himself all alone in front and takes a pass from the corner from Bobby Ryan, the dude who was picked directly after Sidney Crosby. He waits out Backstrom, and then lifts one over him, just inside the far post. Is it too early for John Scott to go looking for his buddy, George Parros?
6:11 - We've got a bout, and we'll call this one a middleweight bout. Right in front of the Wild bench, Evgeny Artyukhin and Sherrif Hnidy fall to the ice. As he tries to get up, Hnidy is held down, and by the time he gets up, he's not happy. They drop the gloves, but it looks as though Hnidy isn't thrilled about fighting a guy wearing a visor. We'll give Artyukhin the decision, but he's also going to get two extra minutes for roughing, which is deserved since he didn't take his helmet off.
2:38 - Wow! Backstrom makes a spectacular save sliding to his left and gloving a wicked Erik Christensen
one-timer about a foot off the ground. Even the Ducks fans, who are eerily silent despite their team winning by two, are forced to cheer for this one. I'm not just saying it's quiet in here to be mean, either. It is silent.
0:00 - The horn sounds to end the first, giving the Wild a chance to rest up and strategize a bit.Period 2
19:11 - The Wild is starting the first with Koivu centering Brunette and Nolan. Richards continues to look for the right chemistry among his lines.
17:15 - Things are starting to look up, even though the score remains 2-0 in favor of the enemy. Benoit Pouliot, at the end of his shift, has enough in the tank to cause a turnover and head the other way on a two-on-one. With Kyle Brodziak
on his left, he takes his shot that Hiller gets a piece of with his glove. The puck drops straight down in the crease, but is cleared away.
15:32 - Now it's James Sheppard's turn to try and break through Hiller, but his wraparound that looks like an easy lay up is thwarted by the Ducks keeper who flicks his left leg out to stop the puck along the goal line.
13:14 - At one point in the first, the Ducks had a 12-3 edge in shots on goal. The Wild has erased that deficit and shots are now even at 15 apiece.
13:13 - The Kiss Cam never fails to disappoint. Tonight's highlights: the woman who mouthed "that's my dad!" and the gal who went in for the kiss, only to get her nose licked by her squeeze.
9:52 - Backstrom comes up big with a big pad save off a one-timer from Ryan, picked by Sports Illustrated as one of the top 25 NHL players under the age of 25. Two other Ducks - Perry and Getzlaf - are on the list. There are no Wild players on the list. Mikko Koivu
is 26, It's a bit of a surprise that Brent Burns, 24, was not mentioned.4:49 - St. Paul's own Ryan Carter puts the Ducks up 3-0, jumping all over the rebound of a Ryan Whitney shot from a bad angle. I won't go as far as to say this is what we wanted, but I will point out that this was the score the last time the Wild faced the Ducks. We don't give up hope here at live in-game commentary.
3:25 - You see? This is why. Eric Belanger gets the Wild on the board. He steals an errant Ducks pass in front of his own bench. He then carries the puck into the slot and fires a missile over the outstretched glove of Hiller. I won't go as far as to say I predicted this would happen, but I will point out that Belanger also scored a goal the last time the Wild faced the Ducks.
2:02 - A scary moment as Greg Zanon takes a puck to the face, but he appears okay. What's scarier is that it happens in nearly the same spot that Sifers took a puck to the grill earlier today.Period 3
15:46 - Wild catches a break during a Ducks power play as Getzlaf has an opening from a shallow angle but he clanks his shot off the outside of the post.
14:45 - Backstrom comes up huge on the same power play. The Ducks have a one-man advantage, but it's like a two-man as Koivu loses his stick. A long shot by Scott Niedermayer is deflected and then a scramble ensues. As the puck slides to the goal line, Backstrom throws the paddle back and stops it just in time.
9:42 - The Wild's power play has been its downfall tonight. It seems any momentum the team builds is lost whenever Anaheim takes a penalty. Here, Minnesota turns it over at the Ducks blueline, and Getzlaf leads a two-on-one the other way. He makes a nice move to avoid a diving Kim Johnsson, but he can't get a clean shot off and Backstrom sticks it away.
5:30 - With his brother in the sin bin, Saku Koivu bats a puck out of midair in the slot, and Backstrom has to come up with another big save to keep this one close.
4:37 - A pretty offensive rush by Burns leads to a golden chance for Brunette in front of the net, but he puts his one-time attempt just wide of the cage.
3:58 - Ryan Stanzel, often the bearer of bad news, informs us of this doozy: Martin Havlat is out of the game due to injury. There are no other specifics but we hope to have more after the game.0:09.1 - The lead is cut to one by Andrew Brunette, who stuffs home an easy one off a turnover at the Anaheim net. Unfortunately, in the words of pop sensation, JoJo, "it's just a little too late."
0:00 - The road woes continue, as the Wild falls to the Ducks. It's time to get out of California. We'll try again on Friday from north of the border.