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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Parise-Koivu-Heatley team for 2 power-play goals, Granlund scores in debut to lift Wild

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: January 20, 2013 - 12:16 AM
Dany Heatley scored two power-play goals, Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu assisted on both of them, Mikael Granlund became the first Wild rookie to score in a season opener since Marian Gaborik in 2000, Pierre-Marc Bouchard scored in his first game in more than a year and Niklas Backstrom made 25 saves in a 4-2 season-opening win over Colorado.
 
Oh, and Zenon Konopka fought 2 ½ minutes into the game and got clipped by a Jan Hejda high-stick for 30 stitches across the bridge of his oft-broken nose. Want to see a pic? Check out the photo he tweeted at www.twitter.com/zenonkonopka. He’s the guy holding a rabbit named Hoppy.
 
Big win after a very slow start, one that Wes Walz all but predicted to me before the game. Walz is usually bang-on on everything he predicts, and he called this one: Nerves and excitement for the opener seemed to cause havoc, flat legs and lots of defensive zone scrambles.
 
“We still had a little bit of summer hockey left in us,” Parise said of numerous cross-ice passes that resulted in turnovers by the team. “Once we started getting behind their D, they backed off. We learned it’s OK to chip pucks in.”
 
The Wild felt behind 1-0 but it felt like 4-0 as the Avalanche peppered the Backstrom but routinely had bad puck luck.
 
Then, often-undisciplined Steve Downie completely turned the game around with three minors in the first 6:22 of the second. The Heatley-Parise-Koivu trio teamed for two power-play goals with Granlund scoring in between on a deflection of a Jared Spurgeon shot.
 
Spurgeon fished the keepsake puck out for him. Coach Mike Yeo loved Granlund’s game, especially defensively, where Yeo said he had absolutely “zero” problems with it. He also loved when Granlund blocked a shot in the third to help preserve a 3-2 lead.
 
The Ryan Suter-Spurgeon duo had some issues, especially in the first, and Suter said they talked about it after the game and they’ll be better against Dallas on Sunday night.
 
Semyon Varlamov was terrific and kept the Wild from really blowing out Colorado in the last two periods. Heatley was robbed a few times of his hat trick try.
 
He did scored his 137th and 138th power-play goals, first in the league since 2001. He now has 351 goals and 61 two-goal games.
 
Koivu now has 50 two-assist games, Parise 36. Yeo loved Parise’s game, especially the way he attacks the net, and of course his relentless work ethic.
 
Bouchard’s goal was his 99th. Backstrom is now 21-5-2 all-time vs. the Avs, 12-3-1 at home. The Wild is now 5-1-1 on Hockey Day Minnesota, 11-0-1 in home openers.
 
That’s it for me. Please read the game story and the Mikael Granlund notebook. Talk to you Sunday.

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