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Happy United Nations Day State of Hockey legion! As you well know, today is the anniversary of the entry into force of the United Nations Charter in 1945. My gift to you on this special day is a little live in-game commentary. Sorry it's not wrapped. Tonight, I am coming to you live from my perch in the Al Shaver Press Box, a few stories above the frozen water at Xcel Energy Center, where we've got a little Pearl Jam rocking through the loudspeakers.
Tonight, YOUR Minnesota Wild will entertain the Carolina Hurricanes, and by entertain, I mean pound into submission the way my older sister did to me back in the day. There are a fair amount of Hurricanes sweaters in the crowd tonight, and I'm sure most of those people are related to Eric Staal, who is from just north of the State of Hockey in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. He also has roughly 14 brothers who play in the NHL.
Unfortunately for Eric and his teammates, they'll be forced to try and score on Niklas Backstrom
, who is starting in goal for the Wild. "What?" you say. "Didn't he just play last
night?" Yes, he did, but the extra workload is having little effect on his pregame warmup, and thus, he will carry his stellar play into tonight's game. That is a guarantee from yours truly.
Backstrom will not be joined on the ice tonight by Kim Johnsson, who will miss a couple weeks with an upper body injury. Derek Boogaard is also out tonight with an illness, as is Pierre-Marc Bouchard
(concussion). Cal Clutterbuck
is out there for pregame warmups, as is Andy Hilbert. If Clutterbuck thinks he can go, he'll be in there just two weeks after suffering a high ankle sprain. If he doesn't feel good enough, Andy Hilbert will get the start. Stay tuned.
As for the sweater choices, the Wild will once again don their new green sweaters for tonight's game. The Hurricanes will go with the road whites trimmed in black and red with the space ship on the chest.And I stand corrected. Both Andy Hilbet and Cal Clutterbuck will be in the lineup tonight. James Sheppard and Benoit Pouliot are the scratches tonight.
Moon and Staci, from the KS95 afternoon program get us going with the "Let's Play Hockey" declaration, and if I've made a habit of anything, it's doing what radio DJ's tell me to do. Let's do this thing.Period 1
15:05 - The Wild has the first power play of the game, but it's the Canes who get the first scoring chance, as former Spud Matt Cullen
skates the other way on a one-on-one. He lets a hard, low shot go but Backstrom makes a solid butterfly save.
13:17 - You have to love the energy that Chucky Kobasew brings to this club. He's always around the puck, or as Will Ferrel's Harry Caray character might say, "runnin' around!" He intercepts an attempted pass from Canes keeper Cam Ward and punches the puck toward the net. Ward is just able to scramble back and knock it down with his mitt.
11:14 - Marty Havlat blasts a shot from the near circle that is nearly too hot to handle for Ward. He just barely gets his glove on the shot as it is pegged for the upper corner.
10:27 - The Wild catches a break on Carolina's first power play. 65-year old center Rod Brind'Amour gets the puck all alone in the slot and he beats Backstrom cleanly, but rings it off the post.9:28 - MIN 0 - CAR 1 - Well, we're no strangers to this. The Wild has trailed at some point in every game this season, and tonight is no different. The Canes do connect with the man advantage. They play keep-away with the puck until Ray Whitney gets the puck at the side of the net and quickly zips a pass to the top of the crease for Sergei Samsonov. Samsonov has an easy tip as Backstrom has to repeatedly move from side to side.
8:28 - After Ward makes an easy glove save and holds on for a rebound, Clutterbuck skates nearby the crease and behind the net. Two Canes skate over like a couple of bouncers. Former Benilde St. Margaret Scarlet Knight Andrew Alberts gives him a shove in the chest. Rosemount's Tim Conboy then skates in and throws a glove-covered punch in Clutterbuck's face. Clutterbuck just skates away, but John "Hey You" Scott jumps in there and wants a piece of Conboy. Scott drops the gloves, but Conboy doesn't. They'll both get two minutes.7:08 - MIN 1 - CAR 1 - This is an Andrew Brunette goal right here. Bruno camps out in front of Ward on a four-on-three power play. Sheriff Shane Hnidy fires a shot from the point that Ward is able to stop. The puck goes behind the net and off the back boards, but Brunette cleans up the garbage, firing it at Ward from an impossible ankle and putting it off his back and just over the goal line. Nobody makes ugly goals look as pretty as Bruno. Number 15 is now tied for third on the all-time Wild goal scoring list at 82. Sitting at number three with him is the beloved Wes Walz. I wonder if Walz will follow Bruno around until his mark is broken? Doubtful, but you never know.
6:24 - This time, "Hey You" Scott gets his wish. At center ice, he and Conboy both drop the gloves this time. Conboy is giving up six inches and 48 pounds, but he won't give up in the fight. Scott lands haymaker after haymaker and Conboy is mostly swatting at flies, but credit him for refusing to go down. The refs finally step in after a long tussle and the decision easily goes to the Wild's big man. He's 2-0 this year!
0:00 - That will do it for the first 20. The first 10 weren't so good. The second 10 were much better. A little Powerade break is in the immediate future for our guys, and then a full 20 minute effort in the second.Period 2
18:09 - MIN 2 - CAR 1 - How about Kyle Brodziak? The gritty winger gets his first goal in a Wild sweater, and it's a pretty one. Owen Nolan sends a pass across the Carolina zone and Brodziak catches it behind everybody and is in alone on Ward. He has to deal with a rolling puck, but he does a great job of waiting out Ward before going to the backhand and tucking it in. Nice to see a five-on-five goal too!
13:44 - Brind'Amour has found the Fountain of Youth, apparently. Looking like a spry 20-year-old, he flies ahead of everbody on a breakaway, but Backstrom stands tall and makes a gorgeous pad save.
12:25 - MIN 2 - CAR 2 - We're tied up. The Canes cause a turnover at their own blueline and Joni Pitkanen leads a two-on-one the other way. He dishes off to Whitney who gives it right back to Pitkanen. He has an easy tap in goal past a helpless Backstrom. Backstrom has given up just two goals in his last three appearances, so he's at his limit for the night.
10:24 - One thing about Backstrom is he doesn't get rattled by a goal against. With Carolina upping the pressure, he goes right back to making huge saves. He comes up big here off a missile of a one-timer from Eric Stall about 15 feet away. Backstrom has to react in a millisecond and he gets the big waffle out there to make a stop.
9:19 - Someone is asleep at the switch as the red light behind Backstrom is on for a good 50 seconds while play is going on. The goal judge finally gets it turned off.
4:38 - Phew! Cory Larose lets a shot go from a shallow angle and it somehow gets behind Backstrom. Fortunately, Greg Zanon is alert and sweeps the puck away inches from the goal line.
3:59 - Tit for tat. Just seconds later, a blocked shot at the other end pops right to Koivu who rifles a shot from the left circle and hits the post.
1;35 - Backstrom is in the zone, there's just no way around it. After Scott has his slapper from the point blocked, Scott Walker races the other way on a partial break. From about 15 feet out, he pulls a Brian Rolston and unleashes a howitzer, but Backs calmly snares it with the glove and draws a round of applause.
0:44.1 - Look at Brent Burns go! Already with two assists, the big man carries the puck on a delayed penalty and he walks right through three Hurricane defenders at the blue line and gets in on Ward. He tries to lift a backhand up top, but Ward just gets a piece of it and deflects it away.Period 3
18:51 - The Wild gets a great chance on the power play. From behind the net, Nolan spots Nick Schultz pinching in perfectly and hits him with a pass. Schultz gets good wood on the one-timer, but Ward is quick to slide over and make a save with the leg pillow.
12:41 - Win or lose, the star of this game has to go to Backstrom. Somehow, the shot count says the Hurricanes only have 15 shots on goal, but the stats crew here doles out saves like C. Montgomery Burns doles out money to the poor. At least half of those 15 shots have been great scoring chances, including here as Staal takes a pretty feed at the bottom of the right circle, but Backstrom decks the pads and swallows up the shots in his midsection.
8:36 - Schultz has had himself a solid game tonight. With an odd man rush developing and a man open on the other side of Backstrom, Schultz goes down to take away centering pass and thwart a Carolina scoring chance.
6:02 - This is the kind of hockey Todd Richards has been looking for from his squad. For the last three minutes, the Wild has completely pinned the Canes in their own zone. The guys down low are sending centering pass after centering pass in front. Each time, either Ward makes the stop, or the puck hits a skate in front. And each time the crowd shrieks and then sighs in disappointment.
3:00 - Cue EMF's "Unbelievable." Backstrom makes yet another spectacular glove save, absolutely robbing Cullen's on a partial breakaway. I wish Backstrom was more of a show off because this is the perfect save to hold the arm up in the air and strike a pose. Alas, he doesn't, and the game ops crew doesn't go with EMF, but instead opts for "If the house is a'rockin'/don't come a'knockin'." What do I know. I'm no DJ.
1:39 - Clutterbuck hasn't scored tonight, but he draws a huge penalty here on Jokinen as he skates the puck in front of the Wild bench. Jokinen gets the elbow into Clutter's face, and then pushes his head back a little further than he needs to. Big chance for the Wild to close this thing out in regulation.
0:45.8 - Good gracious! It's Backstrom AGAIN coming up huge, this time on a shorthanded breakaway on Staal. The Canes All-Star gets behind everybody and fires a shot before a hard charging Burns can catch up to him. Backstrom is there though, and he somehow gets a blocker on the shot.
0:00 - Three home games, three overtimes. Hey, times are tough. We're just trying to give fans their money's worthOvertime
4:32 - Marek Zidlicky carries the puck all the way around the Carolina zone and behind the net before flinging a pass in front that hits a skate and bounces right on goal. Ward flicks his leg out there for his biggest save of the night.
3:30 - Antti "Mittens" Miettinen might be staying away from the front of the net for awhile. On one shift, he takes two different shots to his upper body from his own teammates.3:05 - MIN 3 - CAR 2 - What a return for Clutter! The guy who was supposed to miss at least two more weeks wins it again for the good guys! This one is unbelievable too! Wait til you see the replays right here on Wild.com. A bouncing puck comes to Zanon, who puts a shot right off the post. The puck hits Carolina's Niclas Wallin, who is holding onto Clutterbuck. It pops up in the air and lands in the slot. Clutter dives for it and swipes it into the net just before Ward can dive back. We've got pandemonium at the Xcel Energy Center as the Wild stays undefeated at home.