Good evening State of Hockey legion, and welcome to the house of handlebar mustaches. That's right y'all, it's a special hairy upper lip edition of live in-game commentary from my perch in the Al Shaver Press Box. Despite sitting several hundred leagues above the Xcel Energy Center ice center, I can visibly see some prominent mustaches on top of red sweaters down there. If you haven't heard, the Wild players are growing out their mustaches in support of Movember, which raises awareness for men's health issues, including prostate cancer. The Wild players have entered the contest with the name "Minnesota Wild Mo-Bros." For those who wish to support their cause, you can follow this link, but I want you right back here
after you've shelled out some dough because you won't want to miss tonight's live in-game commentary.
Tonight's edition features YOUR Minne-ah-soh-taaaaahhh WHY-ellld, and the team you love to hate; the Vancouver Canucks. Perhaps I shouldn't use the word "hate" because here in the State of Hockey, we're Minnesota Nice, almost to a fault. But the Canucks have played some dirty pool against our boys for quite some time, and as a collective group, we can only take so much. Sometimes, we get angry, we get feisty and we grow intimidating mustaches just to drive our point home.
Not only does the 'Couve have to deal with a bunch of guys with scary facial hair, but they also have to deal with uber-goaltender, Niklas Backstrom
, who will get the starting nod and a pat on the back from his head coach, Todd Richards.
The only good news for the Canucks is that their agitator, Alexandre Burrows, won't be getting pummelled by our top enforcer, Pierre-Marc Bouchard
, who is out with a concussion. Kim Johnsson (upper body) and Benoit Pouliot (healthy scratch) will also not play.
As far a clothing goes, the Wild will sport the ever popular red home sweaters for tonight's match. The Canucks will go with the road whites, trimmed in blue and green with the angry orca on the chest.
Council General Martin Loken, from the great country of Canada, gets us going with the "Let's Play Hockey" declaration. Canada or not, I follow orders from anybody with General attached to their name. Bring on those baby-faced Nucks.Period 1
16:43 - The Wild gets the first power play, but the first scoring chance goes to Vancouver. Willie MItchell gets the puck at the point and sends a shot toward the goal. Burrows tips the puck down out of the air and Backstrom just does make a toe save on a bouncing puck. Dangerous.16:11 - MIN 0 - VAN 1 - Turnovers in your own zone will kill you, even if the puck is turned over to someone like Darcy Hordichuk, who had zero goals coming into tonight. But just inside the Wild blueline, James Sheppard can't get the puck over to his defenseman and Hordichuk steals it, takes a few strides and lays into a slap shot. Backstrom gets a piece of it, but not enough and it skips into the upper corner. Hordichuck gives an exaggerated fist pump, and then Derek Boogaard grazes him while skating past.
13:14 - This is the State of Hockey, but we've got love for the hoopsters here, as long as they know they play second fiddle to hockey when it comes to fan interest and Twin Cities media coverage. Apparently, Timberwolves forward Kevin Love is okay with that. He is sitting just over my left shoulder in one of the unused broadcast booths here in the Al Shaver Press Box. He's a good sized gentleman.
8:42 - On the Wild's second power play, Mikko Koivu
leads a rush into the Canuck zone, and threads a perfect pass to a cutting Mittens Miettinen. Miettinen is all alone, but he tries to go upstairs and misses high.
1:19 - On the Wild's third power play of the night, Petr Sykora makes a nice pass into the slot for Bella Belanger. The red hot center grabs the pass and quickly wrists a shot on goal, but Andrew Raycroft makes a pretty kick save with the left skate.
0:00 - Just as the horn sounds, Derek Boogaard and Mitchell come together at center ice. They aren't too fond of each other, Boogey crosschecks MItchell and the two exchange words. Boogaard will start the second period in the penalty box for four, count 'em, four minutes for crosschecking and unsportsmanlike conduct.Period 217:40 - MIN 0 - VAN 2 - At Minnesota Duluth, they teach you to shoot like this. Unfortunately, Bulldog alum Mason Raymond is firing these kinds of missiles for the Canucks. Raymond takes a cross-zone pass from Alexander Edler. Backstrom slides over, but Raymond picks his spot and hits it dead on upstairs for a two-goal Vancouver advantage. The goal is a power play marker against the League's top penalty killing unit.
15:32 - MIN 1 - VAN 2 - We have a #21 who can put the puck in the net as well, even though he didn't hone his skills at UMD. Off a Cal Clutterbuck shot from the right circle, Brodziak, who was taking endless ribbing for his mustache (or lack thereof) yesterday, pounces on the rebound and cuts the lead in half. That's two games in a row that Brodziak has lit the lamp, and this one is big in the sense of getting this crowd into a game that hasn't provided a lot of spark thus far.
12:00 - The Brodziak goal has indeed brought the crowd, and the team, to life. Starting with a great shift from Sheppard, Owen Nolan and Clutterbuck, the Wild is pinning the Canucks in their own zone for the past five minutes. The bodies are flying as well as Clutterbuck, Miettinen and Sheppard are landing aggressive checks.7:46 - MIN 1 - VAN 3 - Backstrom would like to have this one back. With the Wild on the power play, Henrik Sedin (not sure if he's Pinky or The Brain) skates into the zone and lets loose a low shot that Backstrom stops 99 times out of 100, but this one squeezes through his pads and the Nucks have a two-goal advantage.
7:13 - MIN 2 - VAN 3 - You cannot stop Kyle Brodziak, you can only hope to contain him. He refuses to let his teammates feel sorry for themselves. Off a shot from the point from Marek Zidlicky, Brodziak again crashes the net and chips home his second of the night.
5:08 - MIN 2 - VAN 4 - There haven't been too many nights over the last four years that we've seen Backstrom give up two softies, but there is a first time for everything. Matt Pettinger, who just recently signed a contract with Vancouver, gets the puck behind the goal line at the near boards. He just sends the puck toward the goal, and with Backstrom hugging the post, it hits off his left leg pad and goes in.
1:50 - Raycroft keeps the lead at two with an unfathomable save on Sykora. Havlat makes a beautiful feed to his countryman about 10 feet in front of the net. Sykora wrists a shot up high, but a scrambling Raycroft flips his stick in the air and knocks the puck out with the meaty part of the paddle.Period 3
20:00 - Welcome back, Josh Harding
! Backstrom gets the early hook for the first time since March 20 of last season, and Harding will make his first appearance at home this season.
15:39 - Clutter introduces himself to Edler by pasting him in front of the Wild bench, and nearly putting him all the way in.
15:07 - Now Boogey is on the loose and he tries to line up Mitchell behind the Canuck net. Mitchell knows what's coming and pulls back, just barely getting out of the way of a check that would have put him in another area code. The poor plexiglass.
13;47 - Roberto who? The Canucks seem to be doing just fine without their All World goaltender. Raycroft makes his second ridiculous save of the night by stoning Nolan with a pad save off a perfect centering feed from Havlat. Nolan hasn't missed from there many times in his lengthy career.
13:36 - The bad news, other than the current score, is that Eric Belanger is not on the bench and had to leave the game with an upper body injury. He is unlikely to return tonight.
6:04 - Raymond goes down in a heap as he takes a shot from his own teammate right in the face. He goes down, his helmet goes flying and he puts his hand to his face. Of course, he's a Bulldog, so he gets back up and appears to be okay. The crowd here gasps when they see the replay, but hopefully, as players often tell their moms, it looks worse than it is.
4:09 - Havlat is going to get some puck luck sooner or later, but it'd be nice if it was sooner. He puts a great tip on a Sherriff Shane Hnidy shot from the point, but Raycroft stays with it. Havlat has a crack at the rebound, but pushes it just wide.
1:57 - After a whistle in the Canuck zone, Ryan Kesler, who has been quiet tonight, delivers a two-hander to the waist of Sykora, and an official is standing but eight feet away, but there is no call to the dismay of Sykora.1:41 - MIN 2 - VAN 5 - Burrows seems just a bit too proud of himself for scoring an empty net goal. Nevertheless, it will count and will basically put this game to bed.
0:00 - The Wild's modest win streak is stopped at two games, and the club has lost four straight to the Nucks for just the second time in franchise history.