Hey State of Hockey dudes and dudettes! Welcome to another late night edition of live in-game commentary here on Wild.com, the website that never sleeps. I am coming to you live from the HP Pavilion press box in San Jose, California, where the weather was a beautiful 74 degrees and sunny today. Trust me, walking around in short sleeves today was not as glamorous as it sounds. There's a good chance I was exposed to some harmful UV rays.
Tonight, the Wild begin phase II of this five-game trek across Western North America with a tussle against the San Jose Sharks. Both of these teams are skating and shooting below me as part of pregame warmups. I'll be honest, it will be difficult to watch the action on the ice tonight, because my eyes are constantly being averted to the enormous high-definition Jumbotwon here at the Pav. It is absolutely gorgeous.
And speaking of gorgeous, that is how I would describe some of the saves that Niklas Backstrom
is making right now while getting warmed up by his teammates. If you're a San Jose fan, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Backstrom is in the zone tonight. You're just going to have to square with that. Brief side note: but am I the first to notice that Backstrom is a dead ringer for Eric Bana, the star of the excellent picture, Munich? Do a google search and then try and tell me I'm wrong.
Backstrom will be facing Evgeni Nabokov tonight, who I believe is in his 43rd year with the Sharks.
As for scratches, we've only got one of the healthy variety. Jaime (not Jamie) Sifers will still have to wait patiently for his season debut. He'll be in his dapper suit tonight. Derek Boogaard (concussion) and Pierre-Marc Bouchard
(headaches) will be watching from remote locations I would imagine, or better yet, following along on in-game commentary, right here on Wild.com. Hi guys!
The Wild will be sporting the road whites as is customary away from home. The Sharks are going with the home teals, trimmed in black, white and orange with the stick-eating fish on the chest.
I know it's Saturday night, but really, Saturday is the new Sunday. There's no sense in going out and getting all crazy. I'm thinking a nice night by the fireplace, a cup of hot cocoa and a computer nestled in your lap is the real way to spend your night.
A very cool Matrix-live opening video tease is followed by the Sharks players emerging from the mouth of a huge shark head (don't worry, it's fake). It makes for quite an atmosphere, especially since the large crowd here is already very loud and boisterous. It is nice to see after being able to hear Wild PR guru Ryan Stanzel think in Los Angeles on Thursday night.
The Wild will be skating from right to left across your computer screen. In the words of Tommy Callahan III when he saw Mr. Zalinsky, "let's do it. It's go time!"Period 1
19:03 - Backstrom comes up big early on, as he stops a shot from the point, then holds off a flurry of rebounds from Joe Thornton and Devin Setoguchi
who are whacking away like lumberjacks until the puck finally squirts free.
14:59 - After a long stretch of Minnesota controlling play in the San Jose end, the Sharks skate down the other way on an odd man rush. The puck slides across to Frazer McLaren who thinks he has a sure goal, raising his arms, but not realizing that Backstrom has no time for his silly games. He makes a stellar stop.
13:16 - It's been four years since I've been in this building. It's a solid arena, but it has one quirk that I forgot about. The player benches are so small that there is no room for Josh Harding
to sit. He is on the opposite end of the rink, behind the glass and within an arms reach of many in the crowd. That has to make for some interesting conversations.13:01 - Now this is the start we've been looking for! Shane "The Sherrif" Hnidy scores his first goal in a Wild uni by blasting a loose puck at the point past a screened Nabokov. This comes just minutes after Stanzel said to me that it's still hard to see #34 and not picture Aaron Voros. This is the first time the Wild has had a lead in regulation. It feels pretty nice, I won't lie.
10:59 - Hey you, look out! John "Hey You" Scott takes a shot in the leg off a Wild shot from the point. He goes down, and Donny Fuller rushes out to check on him. After about a minute on the ice, he's able to get up and skate back to the bench.
8:35 - "Bella" Belanger nearly gives the Wild a two-goal cushion. From a sharp angle below the left faceoff circle, he fires a wrist shot to the far side and clanks it off the post.
7:06 - Cal Clutterbuck
is being helped off the rink by Fuller and a couple teammates. Nobody up here saw what happened, and we're not seeing anything on the TV's up here either. You can bet that Stanzel will be all over it to find out for Wild.com nation.
6:51 - This has been a great period for the Wild thus far. The boys nearly score again as Kyle Brodziak
feeds Petr Sykora right in front. His redirection is stopped just short of the goal line by Nabokov, who then has to dive head first across the crease to deny former Shark, Owen Nolan.
0:00 - The horn sounds to end a great first period by the Wild. This very easily could be a 3-0 game at this point. Now, let's hope none of the intermission contest participants get knocked out tonight.Period 2
20:00 - Couple news items courtesy of Stanzel. Both Clutterbuck and Sykora are not on the bench as each is dealing with a "lower body injury" and both are doubtful to return. Also, the Wild's goal is being credited to Andrew Brunette, who got a stick on Hnidy's shot from the point.
16:57 - Big chance for the Wild here as Dany Heatley
and Jason Demers take penalties on the same play, giving the Wild a full two minutes of a 5-on-3 advantage.
16:04 - Several great chances in the first minute of the power play, but Nabokov comes up big every time, and the Sharks are able to clear. And now, the 5-on-3 is kaput as Marek Zidlicky takes a hooking call. Still, a 4-on-3 is nothing to sneeze at.
15:08 - This energetic crowd is coming to life as the Sharks are doing a great job of killing this power play. The Sharks cause a turnover and have an odd man rush going the other way. Dan Boyle fires a slap shot that Backstrom gloves, and the crowd rises in recognition of the effort.
12:00 - Another Wild power play, and the unit has looked very good, but unlike previous games, has not been able to convert. On this power play, Marty Havlat holds the puck along the side boards and zips a quick pass to the front and it's deflected right on by Koivu, but Nabokov makes a huge save.
11:40 - Nabokov comes up even huger. Havlat finds Kim Johnsson all alone in the right circle and he crushes a one-timer, but Nabokov slides all the way over and stacks the leg pillows for an amazing save. 10:57 - Not this time Evegeni. The Wild may have to resort to lobbing the puck on net. Owen Nolan finally notches one on the power play against his former team. Standing in the left circle, he fires a wrist shot that hits traffic that pops up and over Nabokov. Belanger actually takes a swipe at it, but it's a good thing he misses as he would have been called for a high stick. The play is reviewed, but replays show he clearly did not touch it. We've got ourselves a 2-0 lead.
8:45 - The Sharks get right back in it. Jed Ortmeyer, the former Michigan Wolverine, parks himself in the slot and one-times a pass from behind the net by Demers. Backstrom has no chance on this one, and the score is now 2-1.6:04 - We've got oursevles a new game, and you just new this dangerous Sharks team would mount a comeback. Patrick Marleau unleashes a high shot from the left boards that Backstrom has to play defense on and knock down with his shoulder. Backstrom then is down on the ice, but Marleau follows up his shot, pops it in the air over the Wild neminder and it just lands inside the post. This crowd has come alive.
2:41 - James Sheppard makes an outstanding defensive play as the Sharks rush into the Wild zone on what looks like a 3-on-2. Frazer McLaren is the Shark trailing the play, and he takes the pass, but Shep comes from behind and sweepsl the puck away and McLaren collides with Backstrom. Sheppard then pushes McLaren about eight feet due to his sloth-like effort to get out of the crease.1:16 - It's not easy to keep these Sharks down for long, and they are looking unstoppable right now. They get their first lead on the power play as Heatley uncorks a one-timer from the slot that beats Backstrom low on the glove side. The Sharks are everywhere, but the fact that the Wild has lost two players already is not helping matters.Period 3
20:00 – The wireless internet here in the San Jose press box has petered out, the third period in-game commentary won’t be live. It will be on a delay. We’ll be using the trusty word document for the time being, and then executing a copy and paste maneuver is a signal is ever restored.19:51 – The third period starts where the second period ended. The Sharks pad their lead and now lead 4-2 as Marleau streaks past Johnsson, gets in alone on Backstrom and picks his spot. He does not miss in burying one inside the pipe. That ties a Sharks record for fastest goal to start a third period.
16:06 – The Wild are able to sustain some pressure and have a great opportunity off a turnover in the Sharks zone. The puck ends up on Koivu’s stick alone in the slot. He wheels and fires a shot that’s stopped by Nabokov. Burns is following up the play down low and he puts the rebound right on, but the Sharks netminder is again up to making a superb save.
14:56 – If you’ll allow me to vent a bit, I realize that wireless connections can be spotty in places, but we’re darn near in the technology capital of the world. I would think I could get a signal here without even turning my computer on.
9:44 – The Wild has a golden chance on a 2-o-1 as Nolan and Brodziak lead the charge. Nolan feeds Brodziak, who fans on his shot, but he is able to push the puck back over to Nolan with Nabokov completely out of position. But Nolan’s shot is stopped in the crease by Ryan Clowe and Marc-Edouard “Pickles” Vlasic who slide on the ice and deflect it away.
6:39 – Jamie McGinn absolutely unloads on Greg Zanon as he tries to come out from behind his own net with the puck. He does get right back up. The guy’s got a big red beard. It’s going to take a lot more than that to keep him down.
2:29 – Not only is the outlook not good, but neither is what’s happening to the Wild bodies. Havlat goes for a puck at the Wild blue line, and it’s deflected straight up into his face. He goes directly to the bench with his hand over his face. And as I finish typing that, he’s back out there for his next shift.
1:21 – Backstrom heads off for an extra attacker, which is Brodziak.
0:00 – That will do it. A good start turns bad as the shorthanded Wild drop their second straight and fall to 1-3-0.