I hate day games. It's 7:30 p.m. and I'm sitting alone in an eerily vacant press box. I'm scared.
Give me a deadline any day of the week over a matinee. Everything takes twice as long because you don't spend the game writing "running," as we sportswriters say. You're writing a live notebook off the game, as opposed to before, and you have the time to fiddle with every sentence.
I'm a ray of sunshine, eh?
Oops, "eh?" I told you I was turning Canadian after my month in Western Canada. I was there so long, I actually got angered when I opened the front door this morning and didn't find a Globe & Mail sitting on the doormat.
Then I realized I wasn't in a hotel. Or in Canada.
Speaking of Canada, it's obvious by now Jarome Iginla plainly hates America. Last Sunday "Iggy" ruins the day of American hockey fans everywhere by making the play to set up Sidney Crosby's winner and spoil the U.S. parade, and today the all-time leading scoring opponent in Wild history reverts back to his norm and scorches the Wild like a marshmallow in a fire circle.
Nice guy. Actually, he is. He hates America, but he's a nice guy.
The question is, if the Wild's season wasn't over already, is it over now? Detroit won. Calgary won. The Wild's now seven back of Detroit with five teams to climb with 18 games left.
Detroit's on pace for 94.6 points. The Wild's got 67. The most it can get is 103.
To get to 95, the Wild needs 28 out of a possible 36. The Wild would have to go 14-4.
Can they do it?
The Wild's got nine road games left, so unless it suddenly discovers how to win on the road, the answer would be no. Heck, the Wild's lost three of its last four at home, so it would seem I have a better chance of selling Crosby's gold-medal stick on eBay and getting away with it (shhhh, keep that between you and me).
As for tonight's game, I was surprised more people didn't find the humor in this as much as I did, but the Wild's marketing geniuses built this 400th home game up to be the biggest milestone event in Wild history since beating Vancouver in Game 7 of the '03 playoffs.
And then Rene Bourque walks in and scores the fastest goal by an opponent in Xcel Energy Center history? Come on, give it to me, that's pretty hysterical. Actually, in all honesty, I was surprised how fast the ensuing puck drop happened because the puck deflected in off Bourque's toe.
Richards was so curious to this, he came out to the ice with about three minutes left in the intermission and waited for the refs. He was told every goal is reviewed by Toronto and they received the thumbs up to drop the puck from the scorer's table.
The Wild battled its way back, of course, on two goals by Guillaume Latendresse, but then ref Chris Ciamaga, who had officiated 16 NHL games before this season, whistled Mikko Koivu for goalie interference in a 1-goal game with 8 minutes left?
It'd be one thing if it was blatant, but Koivu fired a shot wide and barely grazed Vesa Toskala, his Finnish countryman. What was most frustrating for the Wild was referee Kelly Sutherland, yes the same that I lambasted in Edmonton, didn't call Eric Nystrom for falling over Niklas Backstrom a period earlier.
Anywhooooo, the Wild kills 1:53 of the minor penalty (and overcame an evident and ignored Greg Zanon trip on the PK), but then Owen Nolan, upset Niklas Hagman interfered with him, retaliated and took the world's most obvious interference penalty right in front of Sutherland at center-ice. I understand Nolan was ticked, but he's got to be more composed in that situation.
That gave Calgary a 7-second 5-on-3, and because Iginla's superhuman, he scored in four seconds for the back-breaker. This came after he scored the game-winning power-play goal in the second period.
The Wild was good in its own zone tonight at 5-on-5, but it gave up way too much on the rush. Niklas Backstrom made about five superb saves in the game and it still wasn't enough.
To make matters worse for the Wild, Cal Clutterbuck was injured in the first period. Nystrom went in to check Koivu and missed, and his skate accidentally nailed Clutterbuck around his right thigh/hip/upper leg. Initial report from coach Todd Richards was it's a charleyhorse, so they'll be an update on him Monday.
Clutterbuck tried to come back to the game, but he eventually couldn't do it.
--Robbie Earl played for suspended Derek Boogaard. John Scott was scratched.
--Iginla, the all-time leading scorer vs. Minnesota, now has 30 goals and 53 points in 53 meetings. He's got three hat tricks. No other Wild opponent has more than one. He's got 6 multi-goal games, 8 winning goals (passes Joe Sakic for first) and 10 power-play goals (tied Milan Hejduk for first). 18-2-1 is Calgary's record vs. Minnesota when he scores.
--Latendresse now has 23 goals, 21 with the Wild. Fourteen have come at home. Only four other Wild players have scored more home goals in a season.
--Andrew Ebbett skated a career-high 19:56 between mostly Latendresse and Martin Havlat, who had a great assist on Latendresse's first goal and drew a penalty. Back to Ebbett, he also won a career-high 15 faceoffs (15 for 23).
-- Rene Bourque's fastest goal by an opponent at the X broke Andrew Brunette's record of 26 seconds when he played for Colorado (Dec. 23, 2005).
--Vesa Toskala became the first Flames goalie other than Miikka Kiprusoff to start for Calgary against Minnesota (37 straight starts) since Jamie McLennan, the former Wild goalie and current Flames goalie coach, on Nov. 7, 2003. Toskala made 27 saves to improve to 4-0-1 against the Wild. Toskala can't play anywhere else, but he annihilates the Wild. Go figure.
--The Wild lost in regulation for the first time in nine games vs. the Northwest Division (7-1-1).
OK, Olympics writer extraordinaire Rachel Blount's covering Monday practice as I spend the day preparing for a visit from America's team, the Florida Panthers. I'm so excited, I think I'll leave now.