DENVER - Mark Kiszla is a sports columnist for the Denver Post. In this age of electronic journalism, he has perfected the routine of agitating the fans of another team that happens to be playing a Denver outfit in an important game or playoff series.
Broncos, Nuggets, Avalanche, Rockies ... Kiszla doesn't care. He writes something outrageous about an opposing team or city, knowing that sports fans are the world's greatest suckers, and they assault him with e-mails.
He also will receive calls from moronic hosts of sports talk shows in the offended city, further allowing him to snicker loudly at "those saps'' in places such as Minneapolis-St. Paul.
The Minnesota Wild has such an exuberant and blindly loyal following that its fans made perfect stooges for Kiszla. So, he wrote a column for Tuesday's Post in which he made a few jokes about Minnesota and accused the Wild of taking a 2-1 lead in this series by resorting to goonery, rather than by playing hockey.
Apparently, you took the bait, all the way down to the gullet. The suckers included worker bees right here at startribune.com, where Kiszla's column received a big ride throughout Tuesday.
The way I figured it, this was a great victory for contrivance over reporting or reasonable opinion.
And then the Wild and the Avalanche took the ice for Tuesday night's Game 4, and guess what?
Turned out Kiszla wasn't agitating as much as he was forecasting.
The Wild came out with an abysmal effort -- particularly from its collection of weary and/or ragged defenseman -- and fell behind 3-0 in the game's opening 11:08.
The Avalanche then made it 4-0 on Ruslan Salei's power-play goal at 7:42 of the second period, and that's when coach Jacques Lemaire's troops gave up all pretense of playing hockey.
Forty-two seconds after that goal, Stephane Veilleux was called for hooking. It was the first two minutes in which he would finish with eight penalties for 35 minutes. Included was a five-minute fighting major and two 10-minute misconducts the final 11 1/2 minutes, which is a mathematical formula that Mr. Albert Einstein could not have figured out.
Derek Boogaard was upset at the initial call against Veilleux, so he fired the puck the length of the ice. Then, he turned and threw an elbow at the first Colorado player in his line of sight, who turned out to be David Jones.
Boogaard was given a 10-minute misconduct. Earlier he had a roughing penalty. Then, in the third period, he would add another roughing and another 10-minute misconduct, in a simultaneous act of belligerence.
So, the Boogey Man saw a total of 2:03 in ice time, and tallied 24 minutes in penalties.
Before the night was over, the Wild put the Avalanche on 13 power plays, and they drew 26 penalties for 111 minutes.
Hate to say this, but after Minnesota's long day of exchanging insults with a Denver Post columnist, Kiszla has been justified.
The Wild players wouldn't admit it, but they must have been feeling a bit sheepish about their ridiculous conduct in the 5-1 loss. The media were allowed in the visitors locker room after a few minutes, and most of the players -- along with their civilian clothes -- were hiding behind the curtain that makes the back of the locker room off-limits.
Goalie Niklas Backstrom was mercifully pulled after two periods of facing the shooting gallery created for him by his teammates -- first because of undisciplined defense, then because of all those power plays.
Backstrom was available for 15 minutes of questions after Monday's 3-2 victory. This time, he answered one question and took off.
Mikko Koivu took a couple of questions. When asked by a TV reporter if his team had lost its composure, he said, "We have to forget that, forget tonight, and go get the next one.''
We might as well take a Kiszlaesque shot here and point out what a classy guy the Avalanche has in LaPerriere. There were a couple of fighters on the ice -- normal-sized fellows -- but LaPerriere decided the guy to drop gloves with was Veilleux, the smallest guy on the ice at the time.
After his historic night of piling up penalties, Veilleux said it wasn't a case of the Wild being down big and trying to intimidate.
"It's just the playoffs,'' he said. "There's more of an edge to these games.''
This was more the edge of insanity, but here's the shock of shocks: None of those 111 penalty minutes came from Chris Simon, the man who has terrified arenas full of opponents and fans with previous outbursts.
Patrick Reusse can be heard weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP at 6:45 and 7:45 a.m. and 4:40 p.m. • firstname.lastname@example.org