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Mike Doyle's In-Game Commentary at Toronto

by Mike Doyle / Minnesota Wild

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Hey there State of Hockey legion, glad to have you for another In-Game Commentary presented by Sun Country Airlines. Typically, peanuts are the salty snack served on airplanes, but I’m going to make a case for you to enjoy some popcorn while reading tonight’s commentary, after all, it’s National Popcorn Day.

Whether you enjoy your popcorn drenched in butter, caramelized or James Brown-ized “Mother Popcorn,” fire up the popper and get comfortable because tonight the Wild is in Toronto to play the Maple Leafs. And, I have a feeling the Wild is going to pop off its current road skid.

Minnesota is going to get a boost in net from Niklas Backstrom, who is healthy and returns from an illness that has kept him out of the net for four-straight games. He is 2-1-0 with a 2.00 goals against average and a .929 save percentage against the Leafs. He’s as excited as Orville Redenbacher was at the sound of popping corn.

The Wild will be without Mikko Koivu, who is out with an upper body injury. Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Guillaume Latendresse and Jarod Palmer are all out with concussions. Justin Falk is the lone healthy scratch.

If you’re into fashion, the Wild will wear its road whites while the Leafs will wear its iconic blue sweaters with the Canadian symbol Maple Leaf crest.

Let’s get to it! 

Period 1

19:10 - MIN 0 - TOR 1 - Before my popcorn is done in the microwave, Toronto is on the board. Not the way we wanted to start tonight. Joffrey Lupul has some fancy handles in the O-zone and dumps it in front. Backstrom has trouble with the puck and Nazem Kadri bangs home a backhander. 

16:11 - First chance for the Wild from a nice entry play by Cal Clutterbuck. Casey Wellman makes a pass through the neutral zon and Clutterbuck reaches back and one-touches the puck to Jared Spurgeon who joins the play on the left side. Spurgeon crosses the blue line and fires a puck on Gustavson, but he makes the save.

14:49 - MIN 0 - TOR 2 - This one is under review but it will stand. Anchorage's own Joey Crabb with a great individual effort extends the Leafs' lead. He turns the corner on Spurgeon and cuts around Backstrom on the forehand and jams it home. The puck slides under the goal because Spurgeon knocked the net off, but this one holds up.

9:45 - Wild needs more plays like the point shot from Mike Lundin. The D-man fires a wrister in on Gustavsson from the point, a perfect shot from the blue line, but no one is there to put home the rebound and the Leafs' netminder turns the puck aside.

5:29 - Nick Johnson is solid as a rock. First he runs over Dion Phaneuf, and gets the puck in the zone, then his line goes to work. After a solid forecheck, Kyle Brodziak tries a wrap around, which is turned aside. He keeps the play alive and exchanges a give and go with Spurgeon. Brodziak fires the puck and Johnson fights off a Leafs D-man to get a good backhand chance.

4:50 - After a TV timeout, the aforementioned line stays on the ice. After a face-off win, they keep the puck pinned in Toronto's zone. Mikhail Brabovski turns the puck over right on the stick of Brodziak, who fires a shot, but Gustavsson has to make a big save. This line is back together and looking good so far.

0:52 - 0:44 - Great shift by Devin Setoguchi. He takes a wrist shot on goal, fairly harmless, but Heatley and Peters are crashing the net. Peters gains control at the left side of the and gets it back to Setoguchi. With the puck on the left boards, he pulls an in-side-out move on David Steckel, who is left eating Seto's ice chips. Setoguchi drives the net and tries to chip the puck over Gustavsson, but the shot is turned away. Great effort from Seto.

0:00 - Despite trailing by two, the Wild had several chances in the second half of that period. I have a good feeling about this one, and i'm not just saying that to keep you at the commentary. Get a refill on your popcorn and get back here. If you don't, i have a feeling you'll regret it.

Period 2

18:36 - Phil Kessel shows off why he's an All Star this season. The former University of Minnesota stand out turns on the jets and goes wide on Clayton Stoner. He tries to go back door to Matthew Lombardi, but Spurgeon just breaks up the play. Good play by Spurgeon to keep this at two.

16:37 - Warren Peters takes a hooking penalty, the first of the game. Can't say i agree with the call as it looks like Peters has the puck, but what do i know? I have red and green tinted glasses on.

14:37 - Good kill from the Wild as it shuts down the number four PP in the NHL. Lot's of booked shots and a typical Minnesota kill.

12:26 - With the Wild down a man, Brodziak gets a couple of chances. First he takes the puck in the neutral zone and goes east to west on the Leafs defender and shoots a sharp angle shot. No go. Seconds later, he finds the puck at the goal line and makes a move in on Gustavsson, but the puck bounces all over the place and is unable to register a second shorthanded shot.

10:26 - Peters draws a penalty on the Leafs in the O-zone. He keeps his feet moving off the wall and Steckel takes a hooking minor. This might be what the doctor ordered to get the Wild's offense going.

9:11 - With the Wild on the PP, Dany Heatley tries to pull the Wild within one. He takes a pass from Zidlicky at the top of the right circle and one-times it on Gustavsson. The puck is rolling a bit and Heatley doesn't get all of it and Gustavsson makes a nice glove save.

5:35 - The Wild penalty killers are getting a workout in this period and will have more work to do. Cal Clutterbuck takes a slash and the Leafs will have a two-man advantage for more than a minute.

5:06 - Phill Kessel rockets a one-timer from Phaneuf, but Backstrom makes a big save. Greg Zanon makes a heads up play with the wide open net and puck sitting behind Backs. He pokes the puck back under the netminder who snow angels and freezes the puck. 

4:12 -  MIN 0 - TOR 3 - Nooooo! Wild's penalty killers finally break. It looks like Kessel bangs this in with four Leafs in the box. A broken power play, but it doesn't matter because there are more Leaf players than Wild players out there and the extra Leaf, Kessel, puts it home.

0:00 - The Wild was shorthanded a lot that period, but now 4-on-4 things are going to turn around. The boys are going to regroup and stay out of the box, and comeback with a big third period. Mark my words.

Period 3

19:13 - MIN 0 - TOR 4 - This isn't soccer! Grabovski pulls a Pele-like move as he redirects the puck with his skate past Backstrom to give the Leafs a four goal lead. On a 2-on-2, Gardiner feeds Grabovski in the middle of the ice. Spurgeon has perfect position and lifts his stick, but Grabovski turns his skate in and redirects the puck in the net.

17:27 - Nothing going right for the Wild as Peters picks off a Gustavsson clearing attempt, but can't capitalize. He gloves the puck to himself but with the net wide open, Peters shoots the puck off the side of the goal. Oye!

14:25 - Backstrom keeps the Leafs from getting another bank-shot goal. Kadri tries to find Steckel on the back door, but it goes off a Wild player and in on Backs, who stays with it the entire way and keeps the puck out of the net.

11:41 - Cullen now playing with Setoguchi and Heatley and they put together a nice shift. After sustaining pressure for half a minute, the puck finds its way to Seto in the high slot, but he fires the puck high and wide. Down by four, the Wild is still trying to muster a comeback.

9:50 - Another opportunity for the Wild, this time off the sick of Cal Clutterbuck. Casey Wellman and Peters cycle the puck in the offensive zone. Peters one-touches a pass to a streaking Clutterbuck, who fires a hard one timer on Gustavsson, who keeps the shutout alive. That's right I said shutout. I don't care. I'm not working for the Leafs and a little goalie jinx might work to get the Wild going.

8:49 - The Wild with possibly its best two chances back-to-back. Cullen takes the puck in on the left side and shoots a harmless shot on net. He picks up his own rebound and finds Zidlicky for a one timer in the slot. The puck bounces right to Heatley, but the Wild's leading scorer puts it just off the side of the net. Gustavsson keeps it scoreless (going for a reverse jinx now).

2:27 - MIN 1 - TOR 4 - Nick Johnson puts the Wild on the board as he goes Fast Eddie Felson and banks a billiard shot on Gustavsson. He fights off a hit, keeps his balance and squeezes one between the goaltender's pad and post.

0:00 - Tough night for the Wild as the team is done in by a sluggish start and a penalty-filled second period. We'll see you back here on Saturday for Hockey Day Minnesota when the Wild hosts the Dallas Stars.

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