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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Does the Wild need a No. 1 goalie? Darcy Kuemper doing his best to say no

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: March 1, 2014 - 10:13 AM

The Wild will sleep tight tonight on its four-hour charter back to Minnesota, one that’s supposed to land close to 5 a.m.

In a taxing, taxing game, its second in 24 hours, the Wild hung on for a 2-1 shootout win over the Vancouver Canucks tonight to gain a seven-point edge on a playoff spot.

Zach Parise scored the lone goal (his 20th through Dany Heatley’s screen, and 11th on the power play, which is tied for third in the NHL) in regulation – lone goal because referee Brad Meier thought he saw something that didn’t occur and wiped out a Keith Ballard equalizer earlier. And Darcy Kuemper, playing for the second time in two nights after shutting out Edmonton, made 30 saves and wasn’t beaten by one Canucks shooter in a seven-round shootout.

Justin Fontaine, in the seventh round and on his first NHL shootout attempt, beat Eddie Lack for the shootout winner.

Kuemper, who has started 14 in a row, is now 10-2-2 in his past 15 starts with a 1.94 goals-against average and .935 save percentage in that stretch. He’s showing zero signs of cracking and tonight won the Wild a game. The Wild battled hard and deserved what it got, but Kuemper was playing behind a very tired team the last half of the game and stole one, maybe two points.

So if you’re Chuck Fletcher, what do you do? If it were me, I’d ride out Kuemper but go out and get some insurance because of Josh Harding’s absence and Niklas Backstrom’s abdominal issue.

Lots of rumors out there tonight that Buffalo will try to flip Jaroslav Halak, whom it acquired from St. Louis today in a package for Ryan Miller, to Minnesota. There’s no doubt Fletcher’s good buddy Tim Murray will try. The impression I got internally though today from the organization is it has little interest in Halak.

We’ll see.

The Wild has inquired about Cam Ward and Martin Brodeur and has had Ilya Bryzgalov offered to them. There’s also Tim Thomas.

It’ll be interesting to see how Fletcher proceeds because while the Wild needs another goalie as insurance, but how do you not continue to go with Kuemper as the No. 1?

Huge PK by the Wild, which hasn’t allowed a power-play goal in six consecutive games, in overtime. Kyle Brodziak, Nate Prosser and Matt Cooke were the men on the ice. The three gents did a terrific job keeping Vancouver to the outside and staying in lanes. Cooke and Prosser blocked shots and Kuemper made one save. That also helped get the Wild the extra point.

The big controversy of the game came in the first when Meier, despite staring at the crease from 15 feet away, somehow thought Erik Haula made incidental contact with Eddie Lack. He waved off Keith Ballard’s goal. Replays showed there was zero contact, and ref supervisor Mick McGeough, in attendance, told me during the first intermission, “In my estimation, I think the goal should have counted. It was a good screen by [Haula]. He wasn’t in the blue when the puck entered the net, so it met the criteria for a good goal.”

Haula said, “I think [Meier] made a mistake and he was confident he made the right call. All the coaches said it wasn’t even close. I never touched the goalie. All that matters is we got two points though.”

Gutsy effort by the Wild to hang on tonight. Yeo loved the work ethic and the mental toughness to overcome a shortie and disallowed goal. Everybody worked their butt off.

That’s it for me. I'll be on KFAN at 10:20 a.m. Saturday.

The Wild has the day off Saturday. Barring news, talk Sunday.

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