Boo, y'all! Happy Halloween State of Hockey ghouls and goblins and Brett Favre's. I'll take my mask off so you recognize me...there, that's better. It's just me, your friendly in-game commentary writer, but my costume is that of a blogger. Welcome to this special Halloween edition of live in-game commentary here on Wild.com. Tonight, I'll be coming to you live from my living room in my Como Park estate, where I am joined by Ivy, my yellow lab (who is dressed as Marley from Marley & Me because the bumble bee outfit I bought her doesn't fit), I'll also likely be visited by several hundred trick-or-treaters who will be begging me for candy, but they are going to have to settle for toothbrushes and pamphlets on the dangers of sugar.
In between doorbell rings from the little hoodlums, I'll be watching the Minnesota Wild pull out their first road win of the 2009-2010 season over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Sure, the Penguins won last year's Stanley Cup, but I say to them what I say to the kids who ask for candy instead of toothbrushes, "what have you done for me lately?" And you might say, they've won 11 of their 13 games this season. But, I'll fire back with, "Have they faced Niklas Backstrom
yet this season?" And then you'll just smile and say, "Touche."
That's right, Niklas Backstrom
will get the start in goal for the Wild despite playing in the second of back-to-backs. He's got a few days off coming to him after tonight, so I only expect another 'A' effort from him again tonight.
Of course, Pierre-Marc Bouchard
(concussion), Kim Johnsson (upper body) and Josh Harding
(lower body soreness), will not be playing because of injuries. Benoit Pouliot will sit this one out as the Wild's lone healthy scratch.
As for attire, the Wild will finally go back to their road whites for the first time since the lost to Vancouver, 2-1, back on October 17. The Penguins will go with the home blacks, trimmed in gold and white with the flightless bird on the chest.
Tonight is actually the first time this season I'll be able to watch a Wild game accompanied by the smooth sounds of Dan Terhaar and Mike Greenlay. I will consider them my co-pilots on this journey. Let's do this.Period 1
17:35 - Is it odd that I miss Matt Cooke in a way? Now that he's in the Eastern Conference, I rarely get to write about how angry he makes me. Let's say I'm just a little excited about the possibility of Cal Clutterbuck
lining him up tonight.
16:12 - Terhaar and Greenlay are discussing Petr Sykora's new Stanley Cup ring, that was given to him tonight for his efforts with the Pens last season. Courtesy of Ryan Stanzel, we have a photo of Sykora's rock right here. To borrow a most irritating phrase from eight years ago, Bling Bling!
13:31 - This Sidney Crosby of the Penguins certainly has some skills when he gets the puck on his stick. With the puck bouncing all over, he somehow settles it while keeping his feet moving and he gets a shot off all in one motion. Backstrom has to be quick to get his glove up and make the save.
9:26 - Greenlay points out that Mellon Arena is the oldest arena in the League. I would have guessed Joe Louis Arena, and that, among many other things, is why I'm not on TV. 7:49 - MIN 1 - PIT 0 - At last, the shoe is on the other foot. So many times this season, the Wild has dominated for large segments, then had the other team come down and score a goal. Tonight, after the Penguins throw shot after shot at Backstrom, the Wild finally gets the puck in the Pittsburgh zone. Brent Burns fires a long shot on goal that Marc-Andre Fleury stops, but Kyle Brodziak is right there to bang home the rebound.
5:12 - MIN 1 - PIT 1 - Pascal Dupuis scoring used to be a good thing, and so was Martin Skoula getting an assist. Not so, here, as Skoula steps up to hold the zone, and fire a pass over to Dupuis in the slot. Always possessing a wicked shot, Dupuis rips a one-timer past Backstrom, who doesn't even have time to move. Backstrom is animatedly yelling, but it's unclear if it's at himself, or one of his teammates, who left Dupuis alone in the slot.
2:38 - Chris Conner, a former star at Michigan Tech, shows his craftiness by emerging from behind the net, and then spinning with a shot a la Patrick Kane in Chicago earlier this week. This time, Backstrom is all over it to make a tough save. With Conner and John Scott, we've got two former Michigan Tech Huskies. Where are all the UMD Bulldogs?0:00.6 - MIN 2 - PIT 1 - How do you like this? Without a second to spare, literally, Eric Belanger gives the Wild a one-goal lead going into the second. Belanger gets a pass at the right faceoff circle from Marty Havlat, and he flicks a shot to the upper corner that beats Fleury on the blocker side
0:00 - After playing a home game last night, the Wild weathers an early storm and emerges from the first period with a 2-1 lead. Despite being outshot 16-4, the Wild will take that any day of the week, but especially on Halloween.Period 2
12:55 - Backstrom continues to preserve the lead by making big stops, including this one on Bill Guerin, who is open down the left side and quickly one-times a pass that Backstrom slides over and deflects away with the blocker.
12:34 - Jay McKee takes the next attempt, one-timing a shot from the top of the circle, and Backstrom calmly gloves that one.
11:00 - For the second straight night, we are seeing a very clean game, with few penalties, and not many shenanigans after the whistle.
10:25 - A long Pittsburgh shot hits traffic in front, and deflects just wide. Then, the puck is thrown right back to the crease with Backstrom unaware of where it is, but nobody else can find it either, and it eventually is kicked away.
9:06 - Another Penguins flurry starts with former BU Terrier, Chris Bourque backhanding a shot on goal. The rebound is loose in front, and Mike Rupp tries to push it, and Backstrom into the net unsuccessfully. Predictably, Backstrom has some words for the zebras about being interfered with.
7:07 - The Koivu line keeps buzzing. The Wild captain gets loose in the slot, and sends one toward the goal, where Andrew Brunette tips one right on, but Fleury snuffs it out.
4:03 - Skoula is a beast tonight. Already with an assist, he moves in down low and puts a shot on goal that Backstrom has difficulty with. Jordan Staal, the third Staal brother the Wild has seen in the past seven days, has a clear rebound, but he misses wide.
3:22 - Is this the 2009 version of Gretzky vs. Broten? Two non-fighters in Crosby and Marek Zidlicky are going at it. After Crosby crosschecks Zidlicky behind the Wild net, Zidlicky gets right back up and shadows Crosby some more. Crosby reacts by slashing Zidlicky, who gives a quick hack right back. And the gloves are down. The two scrap, with neither really landing much of a punch, but it is entertaining nonetheless. As Terhaar and Greenlay point out, getting Crosby off the ice for five minutes is not exaclty a bad thing for the Wild at this point in the game.
1:11 - Backstrom is a gamer. Despite logging a lot of ice time this week, and facing a lot of rubber tonight, he has been exceptional. On a Pitt power play, he makes a beauty of a pad save off a one-timer from Kris Letang. Period 3
17:40 - For the second night in a row, Todd Richards is using his fourth line a lot, including here in the third period. The trio of Derek Boogaard, Owen Nolan and James Sheppard nearly add an insurance marker as Nolan puts a shallow angle shot on, and the rebound pops right to Sheppard, whose putback floats just wide.
15:18 - The Wild catches a break as Pittsburgh already has a man advantage. As Burns and Crosby chase a puck, Burns chops Crosby's stick and breaks it. Crosby was called for that earlier in the game, and Crosby throws both arms up in the air in protest.
11:10 - We're at 4-on-4, which means Crosby has some room to maneuver. But here, he can't get around Greg Zanon despite a pretty effort in putting the puck behind Zanon and trying to catch it on the other side, but Zanon is able to sweep it away just in time.
9:32 - Bodies and pucks are flying everywhere, and the bad news is it's mostly Wild bodies and the pucks are mostly Penguin shots from in tight. Somehow, Backstrom is making huge saves despite having trouble locating the puck. The Wild looks like it is hanging on to dear life right now, and hoping Backstrom can hold them off just a little longer.
7:35 - Backstrom might need to forget about the flight home to Minny tonight, and just book a flight to the Caribbean after this one. He hasn't been able to get a swig of water. On another 4-on-4, Kris Letang barrels in on the right side and tries to sneak one in the short side. Backs is there again, getting low and not letting up any rebounds.
3:01 - The Wild is playing rope-a-dope here, content to clear the zone, and get it down deep into the Penguins' end.
1:49 - My goodness! The Penguins come in waves as Craig Adams gets in alone and makes a move, but pushes it wide. Then, the puck is loose in front, and there are four Penguins there to whack away, but amazingly, the puck stays out.
1:30 - Fleury heads to the bench for an extra man.
0:00 - Go crazy State of Hockey legion! The Wild holds off a furious charge and has its first road win of the season, and it comes against the Stanley Cup champs. This should make your Halloween extra happy. Now reward yourselves and gorge on candy!