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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Postgame: Young kids, defense again look stellar as Wild crushes Dallas

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: October 13, 2013 - 9:25 AM

Moments after Cities 97’s Paul Fletcher got the crowd booing by asking what fans thought former North Stars/Dallas Stars owner Norm Green was up to on the chilly evening, the same crowd was on its feet roaring thanks to the pride of UMD, Justin Fontaine.

Good evening from the X, where the Wild pounded the Dallas Stars 5-1 tonight to improve to 2-1-2. Read the gamer for details and more quotes, but Fontaine and Matt Dumba scored their first NHL goals, Matt Cooke registered his second straight two-point game, Zach Parise scored his fourth goal, Nino Niederreiter scored his first goal as a Wild, Jared Spurgeon had two assists and Josh Harding made 18 saves.

“They were ready. We weren’t reasy to play them,” Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas told me. “They outworked us and outskated us. They’re a good team. They’ve been some good acquisitions over this summer again. It’s a solid team. We’re going to have to face them a lot. We’ve got to forget about this one and learn from it.”

Fontaine, whom I have been told won a national title at the X for the Bulldogs, got the party started just 12 seconds into tonight’s game to break Dany Heatley’s franchise record for fastest goal to start a game by a second. Matt Cooke picked off a pass and Fontaine whipped a rolling backhander underneath Dan Ellis.

Told he scored his first NHL goal by breaking a franchise record, he goes, “That was a record? That’s sweet. That’s awesome.” He says his first goal puck is heading straight to his folks’ home in Alberta.

Update: According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Fontaine also matched the quickest goal ever from the start of a game by a player scoring the first goal of his NHL career: Rick Boh (in his seventh NHL game) scored his first career goal for the North Stars 12 seconds into a game at Boston Garden on Feb. 27, 1988.

Ten minutes later, Cooke stole a puck from Alex Goligoski and scored on a wraparound, a goal that would become Cooke’s second consecutive game-winning goal.

Most impressively though is this morning, coach Mike Yeo met with the Cooke-Kyle Brodziak-Fontaine line and told them their task for the night was to shut down the Jamie Benn-Tyler Seguin-Rich Peverley line, which lit up Winnipeg the night before. The Seguin line was minus-2.

Fontaine was so good tonight. He’s strong on the wall, he’s got a great stick and was constantly breaking up Dallas rushes in the neutral zone, he was making plays. I asked Yeo why he has so much confidence putting a rookie (a 25-year-old rook, but still a rook) like Fontaine on that line and giving such responsibility rather than more of a veteran like Torrey Mitchell.

Cue the coach: “I think he showed a lot of it tonight. Composure with the puck. We’ve talked about how we want to be a puck possession team and defending is a lot easier if you have the puck. We saw a couple plays he made coming out of the defensive zone through the neutral zone in the third period that if we just chip that up and chip that ahead, then it’s going to their defensemen and they’re countering back on us.”

The Wild continues to defend so well, largely because it has the puck all night.

The Wild outshot the Stars 36-19 (gave up 15 shots to Winnipeg on Thursday) and now have outshot its opponents 162-107 this season. The Wild has allowed a league-low 21.4 shots per game. The shot advantage in the second period this season is 65-25. The Wild and Sharks are the only two teams in the NHL to have outshot each of their opponents.

One storyline tonight is Dany Heatley was moved from the first to second power-play unit and it paid immediate dividends. The move makes all the sense in the world because having a left-shot in the high slot never seemed to result in good looks for Heatley. So the Wild moved Jason Pominville to that spot, put Spurgeon on the right points and then went with a second unit where Heatley played with Niederreiter (who was awesome tonight) and Mikael Granlund (who was awesome tonight) with Dumba and Jonas Brodin at the points.

Heatley, with everybody in the rink thinking he was going to shoot from the top of the right circle, instead sent a perfect cross-ice feed to Dumba, who sneaked into the left circle, and he roofed it for a power-play tally.

Fontaine and Dumba are the fourth Wild tandem to ever score their first NHL goals in the same game. The last, believe it or not, was John Scott and Robbie Earl at Carolina on Nov. 15, 2009.

Two minutes later, Niederreiter, whom Yeo was real happy with because he wants him to keep building on good games and Yeo felt he responded to a good game Thursday with another good game tonight (got all that?), scored. Parise, who is tied for second in the NHL with 30 shots, scored his team-leading fourth in the third period.

Cooke talked about the young kids chipping in, and again, we’re starting to see some real good signs with the young kids not only taking on key roles, but contributing and producing.

“We’re relying a lot on these young kids,” Yeo said. “And they have very important roles, but I’ll tell you what, with every game that goes, we’re gaining more and more confidence, and more importantly, their teammates are gaining more and more confidence in these guys because they’ve been prepared to play the right way. It’s a sign of the young kids maturing quickly.”

And remember, Charlie Coyle is hurt, so he’ll be back at some point hopefully by the end of the month. He was shooting pucks off the ice today.

Harding was again solid and should start Monday in Buffalo as the Wild kicks off a four-game trip to Buffalo, Toronto, Tampa Bay and Florida. (If you get TSN somehow, I’ll be on TSN’s Off the Record, a half-hour panel discussion show, Tuesday afternoon).

Darcy Kuemper will start for Iowa against Oklahoma City on Sunday and then likely rejoin the Wild in Buffalo. I think there’s a good chance he starts in Toronto on Tuesday. I just don’t think Niklas Backstrom will be ready. Interesting story ahead will be if Yeo continues to ride Harding.

He had a great camp (0.83 goals against average in exhibition games), is now 2 for 2 in starts, has a 1.07 goals against average and .944 save percentage, and Backstrom wasn’t playing particularly well before his injury to begin with.

 That’s it for me. Please check out the gamer, Pominville notebook on returning to Buffalo and my Sunday Insider on Thomas Hertl.

There may be no blog Sunday unless there’s news. I believe Backstrom will at least be on the trip. But I’ve got an early afternoon flight to Buffalo. So perhaps, you’ll next hear from me next on here after the morning skate in Buffalo. I’ll also have a good story in Monday’s paper.

Big four-game trip coming up. Enjoy your Sunday.


New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Milwaukee 115 FINAL
Orlando 100
New York 82 FINAL
Indiana 103
Denver 69 FINAL
Memphis 99
Chicago 9:30 PM
LA Lakers
Montreal 1 FINAL
NY Rangers 0
Winnipeg 2 FINAL
Philadelphia 5
Boston 5 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
Arizona 3 FINAL
Toronto 1
Dallas 6 FINAL
Ottawa 3
Detroit 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay 5
Columbus 2 FINAL
Florida 3
Nashville 3 3rd Prd 13:19
St. Louis 4
Minnesota 1 2nd Prd 10:17
Calgary 0
Buffalo 1 2nd Prd
Edmonton 2
Anaheim 1 1st Prd 14:47
San Jose 0
DePaul 72 FINAL
Providence 83
Michigan State 71 FINAL
Rutgers 51
Boston Univ 67 FINAL
Army 71
Fla Atlantic 61 FINAL
Charlotte 86
Youngstown St 87 FINAL
Detroit 93
East Tenn St 55 FINAL
Furman 59
Saint Louis 60 FINAL
George Mason 68
USC Upstate 78 FINAL
Jacksonville 65
High Point 72 FINAL
Liberty 53
Central Conn St 55 FINAL
Long Island 67
Western Ky 56 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 69
Dayton 64 FINAL
Massachusetts 66
Chattanooga 72 FINAL
Mercer 75
Wofford 58 FINAL
UNC Greensboro 42
Maryland 56 FINAL
Ohio State 80
Old Dominion 71
Fair-Dickinson 65 FINAL
Robert Morris 87
Mount St Marys 67 FINAL
St Francis-NY 73
Bryant 68 FINAL
St Francis-PA 75
Northern Ky 75 FINAL
Stetson 85
Coll of Charleston 70 FINAL
Towson 74
Western Carolina 85 FINAL
Va Military 70
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Wagner 75
Lipscomb 62 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 78
Kennesaw St 67 FINAL
North Florida 86
Appalachian St 46 FINAL
Ga Southern 83
Holy Cross 54 FINAL
Loyola-Maryland 64
Eastern Ill 51 FINAL
UT Martin 81
Jacksonville St 82 FINAL
Belmont 103
Connecticut 58 FINAL
Cincinnati 70
Rider 58 FINAL
Saint Peters 49
SIU Edwardsville 75 FINAL
SE Missouri St 61
Marshall 69 FINAL
Southern Miss 54
Tenn Tech 56 FINAL
Tennessee St 64
Middle Tennessee 58 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 69
Ill-Chicago 65 FINAL
Milwaukee 71
Weber State 67 FINAL
North Dakota 60
Denver 54 FINAL
North Dakota St 61
IUPU-Ft Wayne 66 FINAL
South Dakota 55
Louisiana 85 FINAL
South Alabama 89
Ark-Little Rock 70 2nd Half 1:11
Arkansas State 62
Georgia State 83 2nd Half 1:29
Texas-Arlington 72
ULM 44 2nd Half 7:36
Troy 44
Portland 29 2nd Half 13:34
Gonzaga 40
Kentucky 35 2nd Half 16:44
Missouri 26
Eastern Ky 44 2nd Half 14:32
Murray State 43
UAB 41 2nd Half 14:58
Texas-El Paso 34
Idaho State 53 2nd Half 10:35
Northern Colorado 56
UMKC 23 2nd Half
Grand Canyon 43
Chicago State 35 2nd Half
Utah Valley U 42
Colorado 35 1st Half 0:40
USC 38
Cal Poly 8 1st Half 14:00
UC Irvine 15
Hawaii 19 1st Half 13:05
CS-Northridge 11
Pepperdine 6 1st Half 11:29
Pacific 7
Santa Clara 11 1st Half 12:53
San Diego 10
Utah 13 1st Half 12:28
UC Santa Barbara 7 1st Half 13:25
UC Davis 6
Montana 6 1st Half 14:16
Portland State 2
Montana State 10 1st Half 12:33
Sacramento St 11
Long Beach State 9:30 PM
Cal State Fullerton
Loyola Marymount 9:30 PM
St Marys-CA
San Francisco 10:00 PM
California 10:00 PM
Washington St
Louisiana 47 FINAL
South Alabama 57
Saint Josephs 51 FINAL
Saint Louis 52
Appalachian St 77 FINAL
Georgia Southern 74
Niagara 58 FINAL
Saint Peters 65
Old Dominion 80 FINAL
FIU 67
Southern Miss 65 FINAL
Marshall 67
Georgia State 45 FINAL
TX-Arlington 57
Ark-Little Rock 69 FINAL
Arkansas State 70
Troy 90
Pittsburgh 45 FINAL
(17) Duke 62
(6) Tennessee 73 FINAL
(10) Kentucky 72
(24) Oklahoma 81 FINAL
(14) Texas 84
Nebraska Omaha 59 FINAL
IUPU-Ft Wayne 70
UC-Riverside 68 FINAL
CS-Northridge 56
Army 65 FINAL
Boston U 40
New Orleans 40 FINAL
Nicholls 56
Charlotte 68 FINAL
Florida Atlantic 71
Towson 54 FINAL
Delaware 72
Hofstra 66 FINAL
Northeastern 45
New Hampshire 56 FINAL
Maine 87
Albany 89 FINAL
Vermont 48
Hartford 60 FINAL
Stony Brook 58
UNC-Wilmington 62 FINAL
William & Mary 67
Clemson 62 FINAL
Wake Forest 64
Alabama 54 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 85
(23) Syracuse 58 FINAL
(8) Louisville 78
Missouri 68 FINAL
Florida 52
Iona 66 FINAL
Fairfield 77
Manhattan 38 FINAL
Marist 77
NC State 63 FINAL
Virginia 71
(4) Notre Dame 74 FINAL
Virginia Tech 50
(22) Rutgers 58 FINAL
Purdue 49
(5) Maryland 91 FINAL
Michigan 65
Milwaukee 58 FINAL
Cleveland State 67
Wright State 108 FINAL
Oakland 89
Jacksonville 64 FINAL
USC Upstate 66
North Florida 40 FINAL
Kennesaw St 46
Stetson 62 FINAL
Northern Ky 68
Loyola-Maryland 57 FINAL
Holy Cross 51
Lamar 87 FINAL
Sam Houston St 68
Fla Gulf Coast 71 FINAL
Lipscomb 49
Vanderbilt 44 FINAL
(18) Miss State 69
Western Ill 73
Abilene Christian 53 FINAL
Houston Baptist 50
Incarnate Word 54 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 63
McNeese State 78 FINAL
SE Louisiana 57
Oral Roberts 46 FINAL
South Dakota St 71
Louisiana Tech 66 FINAL
Western Ky 82
TX-San Antonio 53 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 73
Texas-El Paso 52 FINAL
UAB 67
Auburn 47 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Grand Canyon 65 FINAL
Illinois 57 FINAL
(15) Nebraska 59
(20) Iowa 102 FINAL
Northwestern 99
Utah Valley U 55 FINAL
Chicago State 60
Green Bay 67 FINAL
Valparaiso 52
Ole Miss 19 2nd Half 20:00
LSU 35
Portland State 26 2nd Half 8:59
Montana 55
Sacramento St 37 2nd Half 17:10
Montana State 54
North Dakota 31 2nd Half 15:00
Weber State 31
Ohio State 61 2nd Half 12:52
Wisconsin 49
Northern Colorado 34 2nd Half 12:14
Idaho State 45
BYU 15 1st Half 13:23
San Francisco 13
St Marys-CA 15 1st Half 13:53
Loyola Marymount 12
Pacific 14 1st Half 12:54
Pepperdine 10
Cal-Irvine 8 1st Half 13:47
UC Santa Barbara 4
San Diego 13 1st Half 13:11
Santa Clara 9
UC Davis 9 1st Half 13:44
Cal Poly 12
Long Beach St 10:59 PM
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