Ahoy State of Hockey legion! Welcome to a late night edition of live in-game commentary. I am coming to you live from the Bob Miller Press Box overlooking the ice level at beautiful STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. I am currently bobbing my head as the organ player here at STAPLES Center is playing a rousing rendition of Seal's "Crazy."
Tonight, your Minnesota Wild are looking to crack the .500 mark as they open up a five-game road trip with the Los Angeles Kings, who are currently tied with the Wild for 7th place in the Western Conference with two points. I'm telling you, this playoff race could not be closer. I don't want to say we've got a must-win game in front of us, but I think we should. After all, it appears the Minnesota Twins win every time they have a "must win" game in front of them, so why not start early with the Wild.
And speaking of starts (seamless transition), let's talk about Josh Harding
, the southpaw goaltender who will get the start between the pipes for the Wild tonight. As I peer below me, he is facing some warmup shots from his teammates, and I have yet to see him let one go by him. This can only bode well for our boys in white. Here's something else that bodes well: as a starter, Harding is 2-0-0 with a 1.00 goals against average and a .971 save percentage. Those stats are eye-popping!
Harding will be facing Jonathan Quick, and I'm going to have to check if that's his real name, or if he changed it because it's the perfect name for a goaltender. You know how radio guys change their names like "Rob Danger" or something like that?
The Wild will only have one healthy scratch tonight, and that will be D Jaime Sifers, who has yet to see action in the regular season thus far. Derek Boogaard and Pierre-Marc Bouchard
are still out with head injuries.
As for attire, the Wild will go with the snappy road whites, and will start the first period skating from left to right across your computer screen. The Kings are wearing their home blacks trimmed in purple, silver and white with the the Burger King's crown on the chest. I actually really like the Kings' uni's. I refuse to be judged for admitting that, but I do think they should bring back the old school yellow sweaters trimmed in purple. Those are classics.
Since I have some down time before puck drop, I'll tell you that the only celebrity I've seen thus far since arriving yesterday is Tommy Lasorda, who PR guru Ryan Stanzel and I saw last night when we attended the Dodgers-Cardinals game. No offense to Tommy, who seems like a great guy, but I need to see some real
celbrities. I can only hope that Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag are big L.A. Kings fans. They are so talented.
Props to the Kings game night crew on a spectacular opening video. I just feel bad that it was viewed by about two dozen fans in the arena right now. Interesting note: they did not sing the National Anthem before tonight's game, but "God Bless America" instead.
All right folks, I know it's late back home in Minny, so I can only recommend the usual concoction: two cans of Coke, four No-Doze pills and four cans of Jolt Cola, to be chased by a two-liter of Surge.
Now, let's do the darn thing.Period 1 18:53 - Not exactly the start we were looking for. The Kings bring the crowd of roughly 100 to its feet as Jack Johnson lets a long shot go from the point. Ryan Smyth, he of the famous mullet, gets a stick on the high shot and deflects it past Harding. 16:42 - Ouch! Generally you don't want to start out a game in this fashion, but let's hope this is all part of Todd Richards' plan. The Kings build a 2-0 lead as another long shot - this one from Drew Doughty - gets tipped out of midair...again. This time it's Justin Williams who will get credit. Three shots and two goals for the Kings.
12:30 - The Kings look like they're playing Keep Away from the Wild right now, as the boys in white just seem discombobulated. They shouldn't have any trouble communicating, as I am way up in the sky here at the arena, and I can hear everything they are saying out there.9:29 - I'm getting really sick of hearing this "I Love L.A." song, and at this pace, I'm going to be hearing it a lot. Kings are now up 3-0, and this one didn't require a tip-in, just a beautiful rush by Williams to Smyth, who slides a perfect pass over to a streaking Anze Kopitar, who buries it past a sliding Harding. It's about time for John "Hey You" Scott to fight someone and turn this thing around.
7:16 - The Bob Miller Press Box is literally located five feet above the upper level crowd. I could easily reach down and slap someone upside the head, and the early candidate is the guy who just tried to start a "Let's Go Dodgers" chant.
2:37 - Smyth is a man possessed tonight. It takes another great stop for Harding to stone him right up against the near post. Smyth has a couple whacks at the bouncing puck, but Harding stands his ground to keep this deficit at a mere three goals.
0:39.1 - Good gracious. On a Kings power play, Michal Handzus is set up perfectly for a one-timer from 10 feet in front of the net. His shot squeezes through Harding and settles inches from the goal line before Brent Burns can sweep it away.
0:00 - Let's turn the page on these past 20 minutes and never speak of them again. What the boys need is time to rest and replenish their fluids.Period 2
20:00 - Looks like Richards is changing up his lines to start the second. James Sheppard is now centering Petr Sykora and Owen Nolan.
13:54 - Normally the guy dishing out the hits, Cal Clutterbuck
gets owned right in front of his own bench. The heavy hitter? Linesman Jonny Murray.13:30 - Just what we're looking for. It just takes one momentum shift and that comes in the form of a power play. Martin Havlat, who was on the ice for all three L.A. goals, redeems himself with the help of his power play partners in crime, Andrew Brunette and Mikko Koivu. Brunette gets the puck in his office behind the L.A. net. He feeds Havlat in front and he rings a shot off the post and in. The Kings lead is now 3-1. Dare we start thinking about what happened last time the Wild was down 3-0?
12:03 - The Wild has some life and the skates are moving. Sheppard has some space along the left side and gets a clean shot off, but Quick is able to snare it with his mitt for his best save of the evening thus far.8:58 - Well that momentum swing was short lived. The Kings regain their three-goal advantage. Handzus gets the puck in the slot, and with Benoit Pouliot on top of him, he musters a shot on goal that gets past Harding. That's one he'd like to have back.
4:55 - The power play is where the Wild does it's thing! Minnesota is now 2-for-2 with the man-advantage, and it's Nick Schultz of all people who pinches low to backhand a rebound past Quick. Wild PR guru Ryan Stanzel informs me that the last time Schultz netted a power play goal was January 17, 2004 at St. Louis. He and his wife have had two kids since then!Period 3
19:26 - The Wild power play nearly strikes again as Havlat fires a pass to the slot that's redirected by Brunette. Quick is sliding the opposite way, but he keeps his left leg pillow down on the ice for a big save.
14:59 - Wild are again buzzing in the third period. After cycling the puck down low, Brunette has a chance from in tight. He almost puts one in off the skate of an L.A. defender, and then he has a whack at a rebound, but Quick holds his ground.13:36 - Now we've got something cooking! The Wild trims the lead to 4-3 as Kim Johnsson pulls a Nick Schultz and pinches in low to slam home a rebound off a "Mittens" Miettinen shot from the right side. Johnsson has the whole net, and he does not miss when he has the whole net. Best part about this is Star Tribune beat writer Mike Russo is going to start losing his mind soon because he'll have to re-write his game story.
10:28 - The domination by Minnesota continues. Burns does a beautiful job of circling the zone with the puck with a King draped all over him. He feeds Nolan in front, and his tip is snuffed out by Quick.9:34 - You could see this coming. With the Wild pressing, the Kings break out on a 2-on-1. Jarret Stoll streaks down the right side and threads a pass that avoids Kim Johnsson and skips right to Teddy Purcell for a lay up. That's a killer. It's now 5-3 Kings.
8:58 - Just like that the deficit builds to three goals, and I am officially not looking forward to tonight's flight to San Jose. On an L.A. power play, Kopitar skates down the left side and gets Harding to commit to his knees. He then slides a pass across to Smyth for his second of the night.
5:01 - Marek Zidlicky steps up in the neutral zone and absolutely unloads on Peter Harrold, putting him on the ice and sending his bucket flying through the air.
0:00 - Time is up in this one, as the Wild drops to 0-2 on the road this season. They'll get another crack on Saturday in San Jose.
First Intermission - I don't think I will ever see this again, but during an intermission activity where two guys sumo wrestled, one guy fell backwards and was down without moving for about five minutes. The paramedics had to come out and everything. Finally, the guy got up and walked out under his own power, and now I feel like it's okay to laugh. It would have been hard to see a guy get wheeled off on a stretcher in a sumo outfit. I know that is cruel to say.