Ending drought is relief, but Cullen wants more

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 21, 2012 - 12:12 PM

There are times lately you watch Matt Cullen, and he looks like a man who has the weight of the "State of Hockey" on his shoulders.

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The Wild's Matt Cullen (7) scored on Boston goalie Tim Thomas (30) as the Bruins' Dennis Seidenberg (44) defended.

Photo: Genevieve Ross, Associated Press

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There are times lately you watch Matt Cullen and he looks like a man who has the weight of the "State of Hockey" on his shoulders.

The veteran center has dried up offensively the past two months. That has paralleled the Wild's downward slide in the standings.

"It's been a really tough stretch," said Cullen, who has scored four goals and had nine assists in 28 games since Dec. 14. "You want to win really bad, and you know you're supposed to provide some offense. It definitely wears on you."

It's worn on Cullen so much that coach Mike Yeo thinks he has been overcompensating and trying to do too much in games.

"If anyone who knows Matt Cullen ... he wants nothing more other than to help this team win to the point where he almost hurts himself sometimes," Yeo said. "It's unfair that all the burden is on him to score all these goals.

"When we were winning a lot of games, I don't know how many goals he had at that time, but he wasn't scoring a goal every time we won a game. But what he was doing was going out and playing really well."

Cullen scored his first goal since Jan. 10 during Sunday's 2-0 victory over the Boston Bruins. Maybe that'll relieve some of the pressure he has been feeling.

"It's nice to get one," Cullen said. "It's important to keep going and continue to try to do more."

Most important is that the Wild keeps racking up victories. One win over an inconsistent Bruins team won't catapult the Wild back into the playoff picture.

The team took Monday off and will practice the next two days before a tough back-to-back stretch at Florida and Dallas. The Wild is 2-11-3 in its past 16 road games with 17 goals scored.

"It's important that we don't sit here and pat ourselves on the back too much," Cullen said. "We're happy and proud of the way we played, but we have to continue to build here. We have an uphill climb ahead of us."

No fan of the Wild

Retired NHLer Scott Mellanby, an assistant with the St. Louis Blues, wasn't happy with the Wild's extracurricular activities during its 4-0 loss at St. Louis on Saturday.

In the game, Warren Peters crosschecked David Backes in the head to draw a one-game suspension, and Cal Clutterbuck nailed Alex Pietrangelo in the head. He avoided a suspension because the NHL felt he didn't launch himself "up" into the player.

"I don't like the way they played," Mellanby told former NHLer Kelly Chase on KMOX. "There's not a lot of courage in leaving your feet and hitting guys. Some guys need to realize the amount of money they make is because of the star players in the game and respect it a little.

"You've got fourth-line players crosschecking guys in the face, guys leaving their feet to take out guys, it's not tough hockey."

Yeo said he wasn't happy with the Wild's "frustration level, but I also don't want a team that just says, 'OK, go ahead, you guys can beat up on us.' So we have to do it the right way, and the right way is not to be sitting in the box the whole night. But at the same time, we should be a little bit angry when things aren't going the right way."

Going the distance

Matt Kassian said he never had a longer fight than his 1 minute, 25 second bout with Boston's Shawn Thornton.

"It just kept going and going," Kassian said. "He's in extremely good shape. Not that I don't think I'm in good shape, but he, whoa, he just wanted that to keep going and going.

"It gets tiring. That's when you take your five minutes in the box and breathe deep."

A lot of coaches would not want one of his players obliging another fighter two minutes into the third period with a 2-0 lead, but Yeo said, "That's his job. We're a team that plays better when we have emotion. So I was OK with it."

Etc.

• Niklas Backstrom's 48 saves were not only the most ever in a Wild shutout, it was the most shots the Bruins, an Original Six franchise, have ever taken in a shutout loss.

• Forward Jeff Taffe was sent back to Houston of the AHL on Monday.

  • WILD NOTES

    Up next: 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Florida • TV: FSN (100.3-FM)

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