What up State of Hockey legion? Welcome to a special live in-game commentary coming to you directly from our nation's capital, the District of Columbia. It's the home of our President, our Congress, the Unknown Soldier and the Washington Capitals. It's also the temporary home of 50 Wild season ticket holders who made the trek as part of a Wild road trip package. It is certainly nice to have the aura of Minnesota Nice in this building, although everyone here in Washington D.C. has been very nice in the short time that I've been here. Good people.
Tonight, your favorite hockey team of all times is going to square off against the Caps, who will be without Alexander Ovechkin, who is not quite ready to return from injury. Ovechkin says he wants to get back in there tonight, but it's probably better for him if he doesn't.
After missing four games, Ovechkin's confidence might not be where it needs to be to face a goaltender like Josh Harding
. Don't let the early stats fool you. I am watching Mr. Harding take warmup shots right now, and I have yet to see him give up a goal. That's good news for the State of Hockey and the Wild fans here, but no so good for the politicians here in the District.
Tonight is also special because it marks the debut of Robbie Earl in a Wild uni. Now, Robbie is a former Badger, but we are not going to hold that against him. He has now been welcomed with open arms into our great state, and I think he'll show his appreciation by scoring five goals tonight. Earl will get the start because Chuck Kobasew suffered an upper body injury last night and will be out of this one. Shane Hnidy was also injured last night, so John Scott will take his spot on the blue line.
For the third night in a row, the Wild will sport the road whites for tonight's game. The Caps are going with the home reds trimmed in white and blue with the old school "Capitals" across the chest.
Oh, and one more housecleaning item, many of you have been emailing and asking how you can support the Minnesota Mo-Bros in their mustache-growing quest to raise money for prostate cancer awareness. You can donate by clicking here
Now let's do the dang thang!Period 1
18:15 - After a big night last night, Benoit Pouliot is up on a line with Kyle Brodziak
. Benny tries to stuff one in on a wraparound, and Semyon Varlamov has his stick there. The puck pops up in the air and down on Varlamov's back, but it rolls onto the top of the net, instead of under the cross bar where we all want it.
14:59 - Fighting for a loose puck, Brent Burns buries Mathieu Perreault with a high hit behind the Wild net. The fans here are looking for a call, but this one is as clean as sanitizer.
12:32 - Nick Schultz and Andrew Brunette aren't your usual candidates to lead a two-on-one, but that's what we get here. Schultz carries it in on the right and slides a nice pass over to Brunette, but he can't hang on and the puck slides to the side of the goal mouth.
10:35 - So far, the Wild isn't showing anything near jet lag as they are controlling play out there and leding in shots, 7-1. Obviously, it's early, and it's the third period when the legs might start getting a little heavy.
7:54 - Harding gets tested for the first time, making a nice kick save off a slap shot from Nicklas Backstrom.
5:39 - Schultz catches Alexander Semin with a knee as the prized forward tries to stickhandle around him. This is just the third penalty that Schultz has taken all season.
4:51 - As Harding dives to cover up a puck outside his crease, Mike Knuble is crashing the crease and trips over Harding's hands. He goes headlong into the net and knocks it off the pegs.
3:35 - The power play is finally bringing the Capitals to life in this period, but they are being shut down by Harding. He makes a flurry of pad saves on Chris Clark, who has several whacks at it all alone in front until Harding is able to cover up. Suddenly the Caps now hold a 14-8 shots advantage.
2:06 - I still don't get why so many professional hockey players take such exception to getting hit cleanly. Cal Clutterbuck
lowers a shoulder into Backstrom in front of the Capitals bench, and both players go down. As Backstrom gets up, he gets caught crosschecking Clutter in the back, and it will result in a Wild power play.
0:01.0 - My word! Had this one gone in, we'd be talking about it for years. Mikko Koivu
gets the puck behind the Washington net and does a 720 before trying to wrap it around. He has a whack at the rebound, but...
0:00 - That's going to do it for the first 20. Not a ton of action to speak of, but a pretty good road period for the good guys.Period 2
18:36 - Owen Nolan gets tripped up by Backstrom in the offensive zone, and Cowboy is slow to get up. It looks like he caught an edge after getting a stick on the back of his leg. We'll monitor that situation.18:29 - MIN 1 - WSH 0 - Behold the power of the 'stache! Clutterbuck and his hairy upper lip get the board working in the Wild's favor early here in the second. Burns hits Clutter with a long pass from his own zone. Number 22 catches it at the Washington blue line and skates it in to the right circle where he lets a wrister go that beats Varlamov on the blocker side. Does anybody in there right mind miss the two-line pass rule? How did that rule not get eliminated sooner.
17:02 - The Caps come storming back, looking for an answer, but there is none for Harding right now. He snares a point blank shot from 10 feet out of the stick of former Michigan Wolverine, Brendan Morrison. Morrison skates away and shakes his head. Hopefully Harding sees that because nothing builds a goaltender's confidence like seeing an opposing player shake his head in disbelief. 14:21 - MIN 1 - WSH 1 - Not much Harding can do on this one. On a Caps power play, Backstrom skates it in on the right side and hits one of the best offensive defensemen in the game, Mike Green, right in the slot. Green one-times a low screamer through the legs of Kim Johnsson and Harding. The sea of red in this building finally has a reason to explode.
11:25 - Kah-BOOM! Clutter absolutely lines up Green just as the puck gets to him behind the Caps net. Green is a solidly built individual, and despite getting lit up in the corner, he somehow manages to avoid going down to the ice.
6:41 - Nolan has been playing out there during a Wild power play, so it appears he is okay.
3:43 - Schultz scrambles out of the box after serving his second penalty of the night. It couldn't come at a better time as the Caps power play appears to be clicking as they bombard Harding with shots from the point.Period 3
18:00 - MIN 1 - WSH 2 - This one hurts. The Wild needed to come out strong in the early stages of the third, but it's the Caps who capitalize on a turnover and grab the lead. Perreault leads a rush into the Wild zone and he then slides a pass over to Brian Pothier, who absolutely snipes it past Harding.
15:26 - The Wild is back on the offensive in an effort to get this thing knotted up. Pouliot gets the puck behind the Caps net and feeds one to a pinching Burns. He rifles a shot that's headed for the upper corner, but appears to hit the handle of Varlamov's stick and deflects into the crowd.
11:52 - Holy Hannah! Koivu very nearly puts the puck in his own net. Trying to break up a cross rink pass, he throws his stick out to deflect it and misses the post to Harding's right by an inch.
9:34 - Harding is having himself a huge night. He deserves more than he's getting right now. The Caps throw about five shots toward the goal, and with traffic everywhere, he's coming up with save after save.
8:50 - Varlamov loses his stick, and the line of Sheppard, Havlat and Nolan tries to take advantage, but Varlamov is able to stay low and stop a flurry led by Nolan and Marek Zidlicky.
7:55 - Have to mention that I am thoroughly impressed by the crowd here at Verizon Center. First there are very few empty seats, and almost everybody is wearing a red jersey or shirt. They are also loud throughout the game. I did not expect a great atmosphere here but I got it.
6:37 - How does this one stay out? Havlat makes a great move to get into the Washington zone, and he throws the puck in front where a sliding Caps defender nearly knocks it in as he's sliding on the ice. The puck lays in the crease and Brodziak, Sheppard and Havlat all take swings but can't force it in.
5:37 - Harding comes up huge again, stonewalling Alexander Semin who is all alone in front and makes a move to the backhand, but Hards stays right with him and makes a spectacular stop.
1:03 - Harding heads off for the extra attacker.0:36.3 - MIN 1 - WSH 3 - Brooks Laich puts this one away, by burying it into the empty net.
0:00 - That will do it. The Wild doesn't have enough in the tank to mount a comeback, but it will look to secure a winning road trip on Sunday in North Carolina.