Good evening, State of Hockey legion, it's me, your long, lost live in-game commentary writer. After a year and a half hiatus, I am back in my heaven on earth -- my perch high above the ice surface at the Xcel Energy Center, the greatest arena in all the land in my humble opinion (or for you texters out there, IMHO).
Some of you may remember me from years past when I would provide updates and comments during all Wild home games. I can't tell you how happy I am to be back, and working for the Wild. I should warn you that my mood could quickly change, however, if Joe Nathan can't get out of this current jam he's in with runners on the corners...DOUBLE PLAY!!!! And I don't throw the ALL CAPS out there often, but it just had to happen.
Now then, onto hockey. It's Opening Night here at the Xcel Energy Center, and as I peer down a few stories, I can see the 2009-2010 version of the Minnesota Wild taking warmup shots at Wild starting goaltender Niklas Backstrom
. To my left, the Anaheim Ducks are milling about as well. I've never liked the Ducks.
One bit of news before we go any further. Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher was kind enough to address the media just minutes ago to inform them that Pierre-Marc Bouchard
will not be in the lineup tonight. As many of you know, Bouchard has been sidelined with a virus of some sort and has been complaining of headaches. Today, Bouchard informed the team that he didn't sleep well last night and is still not feeling well. Fletcher has no further information as far as how long he'll be out, but they will meet with doctors tomorrow to attempt to get things figured out.
So, long story longer, Bouchard will not play tonight, and neither will D Jamie Sifers.
As for attire, the Ducks are wearing the road whites, trimmed in black and gold with a tinge of orange. The Wild, as per usual, will wear the classic home reds. I apologize if tonight's intro lacked some of the frills from years past. I could use the excuse that I'm still rusty from a long hiatus, but I refuse. My excuse is I'm distracted by the fact that the Twins are now in the top of the 10th inning with Jesse Crain pitching. Needless to say, I've got one leg dangling over the edge of the Al Shaver Press Box. And just as I finish that sentence, he gives up a go-ahead double. Beautiful, Jesse.
The crowd that is not in the concourse watching the 11th inning of the Twins game gives a rousing ovation to the pregame video tease, which is always a spectacle on Opening Night. We'll see what we can do about getting that posted on the website sometime tonight or tomorrow.
Each member of the Wild is introduced tonight, with Mikko Koivu
, Brent Burns, Cal Clutterbuck
and Head Coach Todd Richards getting the loudest ovations. I have to say, I'm impressed that the seats are nearly completely full, despite the Twins game being tied in the top of the 11th with two outs, nobody on.
Our Let's Play Hockey announcement is in the books, and we are under way. Let's get win number one in 2009-2010, shall we?Period 1
18:59 - The Ducks carelessly turn the puck over right in front of their own net, and the puck lands on the stick of Mikko Koivu
, 15 feet in front of the net. He blisters a quick shot but misses the net just wide.
15:04 - Niklas Backstrom
is tested for the first time. A pinballing puck rolls out to the right point for James Wisniewski to tee off on. He aims for the far side, but Backstrom gets the right leg pillow down to make a big stop.
13:03 - I can't tell you how much I wished I could have done some in-game commentaries last year with Cal Clutterbuck
on the team. This guy is going to provide me with a wealth of material this year. Here, he crashes the net hard and immediately has two Ducks angrily pushing him away.
12:25 - Right after a draw outside the Anaheim zone, Kyle Brodziak
carries the puck in on a two-on-one. He opts to shoot it himself, and that might have a lot to do with Big John Scott being the man on his left. He tries to go upstairs but Jean-Sebastien Giguere, the all-time wins leader in Ducks history, gets a glove on it.
7:31 - Some "oohs" come up from the crowd as Bobby Ryan levels Andrew Brunette and sends him clear over the boards into the Wild bench. It's a clean hit, but it's not going to do much to intimidate Brunette. The guy played half the year with one leg for crying out in the night.
5:59 - Some cheers come up from the concourse as Bobby Keppel gets the Twins out of a bases loaded jam and sends the Twins to the bottom of the 12th inning. Unbelievable!
3:42 - Save of the year...so far! On the power play, the Ducks work a pretty three-way passing play with Andrew Ebbett getting a feed at the side of the goal mouth and a whole net to shoot at. Backstrom slides over to his left and absolutely robs him to keep the game scoreless.
2:25 - TWINS WIN! TWINS WIN! TWINS WIN! The crowd in Xcel is going crazy! Thank you Alexi Casilla! Unbelievable. Now, the fans are chanting, "Let's Go Wild! Let's Go Wild!" Vikes win...check. Twins win...check. Now, it's up to our boys in red.
0:45.8 - We're gonna win, Twins/We're gonna score
is now playing with the fans clapping in unison. I'm guessing former Twins employee Wayne Petersen has something to do with it.
0:00 - The horn sounds to end the first. I'm already gassed, but should be fine since we now can focus on hockey for the rest of the night. Period 2
18:34 - On a Wild power play, Koivu and Brunette nearly connect down low, but Brunette's point blank shot skips just wide.15:03 - The Ducks strike first. Ryan Whitney, who scored Anaheim's only goal in their first game, stops at the top of the left faceoff circle, and rips a slapper. Backstrom has trouble picking up the puck, and it appears that Joffrey Lupul is able to deflect it in clean out of fresh air. It's just Anaheim's ninth shot on goal, but it's good enough to give them the early advantage.
14:03 - A scary moment here as Antti Miettinen's snap shot from the slot travels about four feet before drilling Lupul square in the face as he goes down to block the shot. Lupul has to be helped off the ice, and the crowd winces in unison as the replay is shown on the Jumbotron.12:54 - The Ducks strike second as well. Backstrom can only wish he owned go-go gadget arms as Evgeny Artyukhin - guzzenheit! - raps home an easy shot off a perfect centering feed from Corey Perry. The Ducks have suddenly started buzzing all over the rink, and they are getting rewarded with a couple markers. I'm hoping I can avoid typing "Artyukhin" for the rest of night...nay...the rest of the season.
9:04 - Mayday! The Ducks are piling on, and it's Saku Koivu, or as he's known in Finland, Mikko's brother. James Wisniewski's shot from the left point is quickly deflected, but it sends the puck to the other side, right into the wheelhouse of Koivu, who smokes a shot to give Anaheim an ugly 3-0 lead.
3:15 - The frustration is mounting for the Wild players. Clutterbuck is having works with one of the officials after taking two hits behind the net from Ducks enforcer/Princeton grad/ugly mustache owner, George Parros. The puck is nowhere near the two of them, which is the reason for Clutterbuck's beef.Period 3
17:24 - Right off the draw in the neutral zone, Big John Scott injects some life into the crowd by dropping the gloves with Parros. Scott gets a left jab in right away, then after tussling for a bit, he lands a big right, sending Parros to the canvas in a heap and giving Scott a decisive victory. Scott trained with Derek Boogaard in the offseason, and it appears those sparring sessions are paying off.
14:06 - Nick Schultz, who is likely still getting used to power play time, steps into the play and is hit with a perfect pass in the slot, but his one-timer is snuffed out by Giguere.13:31 - That's what we needed! It's Koivu (the one we want to score) finally puts one past Giguere. With the man advantage, Martin Havlat gets the puck in the corner and taps a quick pass out front to Koivu, and he jams it past Giguere. Brunette will also get credit for an assist as that trio as all the Wild points so far this season. Still plenty of time to make a run here.
9:55 - In a 4-on-4 situation, James Sheppard shows his strength on the puck by carrying the puck into the Anaheim zone, and fighting off a checker as he skates all the way behind the Ducks' net. He finally gives the puck up to Miettinen in front, but his quick one-timer is swallowed up by the heavily padded Giguere. 7:20 - Is it possible that this Wild Minnesota sports weekend will feature a Wild comeback! It's very possible as Petr Sykora draws Minnesota to within a goal on a beautiful feed from Havlat. Sykora cuts to the slot and Havlat finds him from behind the net. He drills a shot just inside the far post. The red lamp stays dark, but the official is right there to vehemently signal a goal. Minnesota is down just 3-2 and looks like a completely different team since the start of the third. Side note: Havlat is now at 399 points...not this season, but in his career.
5:15 - One inch to the left, and we're tied up. Alas, Brent Burns' long shot from the point is deflected past Giguere, but hits the inside of the right post and skips away. Minnesota is heaping on the pressure and the crowd has come alive.
3:15 - Again, the Wild comes so close to getting the equalizer. Brunette grabs a loose puck right in front of the crease, and hands off to Clutterbuck, but his shot is blocked before a mass of bodies crashes into the net. The good news is Whitney is going off for holding and...Oh oh! Bon Jovi's "Right Now" has begun, and that can only mean two things: the crowd will cheer loudly, and the Wild will score.2:13 - There it is! This is Minnesota, world, and we just won't give up. Channeling their inner-Twins, the Wild have tied it up, and this crowd is beside itself. Skating down the left boards, Eric Belanger lets a slapper go from the left circle. It seems like a harmless shot, but it somehow squirts through Giguere's legs. Good gracious, what a period! And, guess who got his 400th career point with the first assist...if you guessed Martin Havlat, you've been paying attention to your live in-game commentary.
0:00 - On a night like this, you better believe we're playing some extra hockey. Why would we want it to end, anyway? We're heading to overtime.Overtime
3:16 - Not smart, James Wisniewski. Well after the whistle, Wisniewski punches Brodziak in the face right in front of the officials, who have no choice but to give the Wild a power play.1:12 - WILD WIN! WILD WIN! WILD WIN! What a comeback! What a finish! What a week! Andrew Brunette, who I interviewed earlier today, jams home a loose puck from the side of the net! The crowd is jumpin, jumpin! Ryan Getzlaf is circling the ice in anger and glaring at the celebrating Wild players, but it's not going to help him. This one is over, and Todd Richards has his first career victory, and the Wild remains unbeaten in home openers. Hot diggity!