Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Chad Rau scores winner in NHL debut; Powe sparks rally by fighting Ott

Posted by: Michael Russo under On the road, Wild game coverage Updated: January 23, 2012 - 6:42 AM

Monday morning update: I'll be on KFAN at 9:15 a.m. Kent is covering practice and will update the blog later today. Follow him on Twitter at @bloodstrib for live updates from practice. I'll talk to you Tuesday from Denver.

Happy Hockey Day, Minnesota!
A pretty awesome day of hockey was completed by an actual Wild victory, and a regulation one to boot, by an impressive 5-2 score when the Wild beat the team right behind em in the standings, the Dallas Stars.
The Wild remains one point behind Colorado in ninth, but because the Avs beat L.A., the Wild moves three points behind seventh.
In the celebratory postgame locker room, which included Chad Rau (“cake eater,” as birthday boy Dany Heatley calls him, even though he’s from Eden Prairie, not Edina), rubbing shaving gel out of his stinging left eye thanks to Cal Clutterbuck’s congrats for a game-winning goal in his NHL debut, the victory was being credited in large part to Darroll Powe and Steve Ott.
Ott for nearly sparking a riot when he slashed Jared Spurgeon, then tried to decapitate Clutterbuck in a scrum, Powe for being the “team guy” who stood up to him after.
Hey, Ott goes after guys like Spurgeon and Clutterbuck and sits on Josh Harding. He’s not going to fight Matt Kassian obviously, so Powe had to deal with it. Ott was pretty quiet anytime Clayton Stoner was on the ice, too.
First, Powe and his Princeton temper (or is that Brent Flahr? Kidding, kidding), tried to fight Ott and the two got roughings. Then 12 seconds after getting out of the box and 16 seconds after Philip Larsen gave Dallas a 2-1 lead, Ott and Powe “went” again, this time for real.
Ott, being he’s an honorable fighter, went for the takedown, then came down with Powe’s head on the ice, and popped him in the face. The Wild bench absolutely exploded, and soon, so did the Wild’s game. Read the gamer, but the Wild was ticked at Ott going against the code.
In 59 seconds, Clutterbuck, Rau and Kyle Brodziak scored for the fastest three goals in Wild history – the last of which coming 3:17 after Powe sparked the Wild. On the road, dead building, your team is up 2-1 playing the second of a back-to-back, and you fight Powe. Brilliant move by Mr. Ott.
The crowd was alive, and so was the Wild bench. And as Powe said, “boys responded.”
“The guys were pumped about what he was willing to do for them. … That’s a team guy,” coach Mike Yeo said. When you see that kind of selfless play or guy willing to sacrifice for a teammate, now you see guys block shots, sacrifice more … it spreads.”
Just a well played game by the Wild, especially after the first. The Wild actually played fairly well in the first and still was outscored 1-0 (Eric Nystrom) and outshot 11-5.
Nystrom said he felt “betrayed” by the Wild for trading him before the season. He displayed that feeling with a boisterous celebration after his perfect redirection of Stephane Robidas’ shot.
The tally came instants after it appeared the officials missed Dallas playing with six skaters, by the way.
For Nystrom, it was his 14th goal after finding it difficult to even score into an empty net last season.
Seriously. Nystrom’s first goal as a Wild hit the post and rattled into an empty net and he didn’t score his first goal with a goalie in net until the 58th game Feb. 18.
He scored one goal at Xcel Energy Center in 41 games as a Wild and has two in his last two as a visitor.
But he’s in the midst of a great bounceback year.
Devin Setoguchi scored a power-play goal to tie it, then Philip Larsen made it 2-1 before the Ott-Powe stuff.
Nystrom’s turnover actually started the play before Clutterbuck’s tying goal, but it came after Sheldon Souray went for a big run at Setoguchi and got caught. Then, the winner came on just your everyday Chad Rau from Carson McMillan and Jed Ortmeyer goal (EVERYDAY IF YOU LIVE IN HOUSTON!)
Then Kyle Brodziak, then Dany Heatley.
Heatley, on his 31st b-day, had a goal and two assists for his first 3-point game as a Wild. Setoguchi was good, and Yeo said they vowed to have great games and received increased ice time.
The Wild reestablished a lot of that identity that has been missing: a good-defending, hard-working, aggressive team. It created and then pounced on turnovers and flew north on transition, its puck support was strong, its wall play outstanding. It stood up for each other.
Now if it can only bottle all this stuff up for a big game in Denver on Tuesday before the All-Star break.
Hey, it’s only one game, and when you’ve been playing as crummy as the Wild, it really is only one game. Let’s see if they do it again in an arena (Pepsi Center) they’ve had a lot of success in the past few years.
But what a real good start.
“Top to bottom, good game,” Yeo said. “Everybody in the lineup contributed. That’s a feeling we want to get back in. When you’re out on the ice, you see what everybody else is doing for you and you’re almost afraid to let them down. It was a lively bench. Everybody was engaged in that game.”

Tidbits:

--Wild scored 5 tonight. Just scored six on an 0-3-1 road trip and has 11 in its past 11 road games.
--23 saves from Josh Harding, so despite Nik Backstrom’s success vs. the Avs, would surprise me if Harding doesn’t start. Why change anything? Similarly, I’d think no Marek Zidlicky, Mike Lundin or Brad Staubitz in Colorado. Same rationale.
--Heatley’s 3-point game was his first since Nov. 27, 2010. He’s now tied for the team scoring lead with 33 points.
--Heatley’s power-play assist was his second power-play point (both assists) in the last 17 games overall. Wild is now 2-for-21 on PP in the last 10 home games, 3-for-44 in the last 17 games overall.
--Rau was the 13th Minnesotan to play for the Wild, sixth this season. Sixth Wild player to make his NHL debut this year, 37th player to play this season for the Wild. Don’t know the guy well, but tough not to like his attitude. Works hard, smart, always smiling.
--Brodziak’s goal was his second in 16 games and puts him three off his career-high.
--Jed Ortmeyer got his first point (an assist on Rau’s goal) as a Wild.
--Matt Cullen had an assist in the game he was honored for his 1,000th game.
--Wild, which entered with the second-fewest goals in the NHL, had five in regulation for the third time this season and first at home since Nov. 3.
--The Wild’s four goals in the second was the first four-goal period by the Wild since Jan. 9, 2010, against Chicago (the BIG COMEBACK).
--Wild is 4-1-1 on Hockey Day Minnesota. As part, the telethon raised more than $120,000 for the Jack Jablonski Trust Fund. The Wild donated $10,000, Craig Leipold $10,000 in matches of up to $20,000.
--Remember, weather permitting, the Wild practices at noon Sunday outdoors at the Oval in Roseville. Public welcome, and Kent Youngblood will be there signing autographs.

Lastly, funny Matt Kassian quote from this morning on his callup (which I assume the Wild got a group rate for Kassian, Rau, Ortmeyer and Nate Prosser): "The plane was packed, it was really, really small and I was sitting in front of the bathroom. I still haven't recovered, but trust me, I'm not complaining.”

 

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