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: Konopka sticks up for Heatley, and other notes after Wild's 6th win in 7 games

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: November 5, 2013 - 11:24 PM

The Wild won for the sixth time in seven games overall tonight when it took a 5-1 victory over the Calgary Flames.

Justin Fontaine, … wait for it … ZENON KONOPKA and Zach Parise helped the Wild turn a 2-1 lead into a 5-1 rout with third-period goals.

Konopka, who’s half fighter, half winemaker, half decanter company owner, half bunny rabbit owner, half class clown (wait, how many halves in a whole?), scored his first goal since Dec. 16, 2011 (81-game drought) and first point in 53 games with the Wild. Torrey Mitchell sent him in alone and his pal Dany Heatley, who had another great game on that line, scooped up the puck for Konopka.

Konopka joked that he hoped the goals “come in bunches now. I’m not going to bet my life on it.”

Konopka, who plays the role of protector on the ice, then volunteered this out of the blue on Heatley: “Dany Heatley gets put on our line. Total professional. Instead of coming with a bad attitude to our line, total opposite. So excited to play with me and Mitchell, raised our game and was excited to play with us. I think it shows the unselfishness of him and being a true professional.”

Classy guy, that Konopka.

The goal of the night was Zach Parise finishing off an incredible tic-tac-toe highlight goal assisted by Mikko Koivu and Ryan Suter. The crowd erupted, and here are the highlights of all the goals.

Wrote a lot about the goal in the gamer, so give it a read. But check out Parise’s goal celebration. His mouth was just wide-open. Classic. You’ll be seeing this goal a lot in Wild folklore and John Buccigross tweeted that he was putting it on SportsCenter tonight.

It reminded me of last year’s 3-on-1 finish by Mikko Koivu off Parise and Suter passes. That was pretty too and Koivu joked afterward that he freaked he was going to miss the gaping net on that one. Parise didn’t miss this one either.

Parise scored two goals and one assist. Koivu scored one goal and two assists. The Wild has been waiting for this breakout game from Parise and Koivu and it sure helps that Charlie Coyle was back tonight. He adds so much to not only the line, but to the whole lineup.

“And Charlie is going to keep getting better,” coach Mike Yeo said. He adds a lot. He allows those guys, they don’t have to do, I don’t want to say all the work, but he allows them to do other things where they go to the middle of the ice, they can go around the net and they can allow him to make plays and control the puck and get themselves in scoring areas.”

Yeo on Coyle’s return: “It bodes well because we feel we have more depth now.”

Other notes:

--The Wild was 0-3-1 when the opponent scores first. Koivu scored less than four minutes after Jiri Hudler scored. It was his second goal. Cue Yeo: “Liked the way we responded, getting a quick reply, especially who got it for us.”

--Keith Ballard missed part of the third period after blocking a shot. Yeo didn’t have an injury update. Jared Spurgeon missed the last 13 minutes of the second after getting smoked by Tim Jackman. He returned in the third, but with banged up D, one would assume Matt Dumba lives another day.

-- Josh Harding made 24 saves and is now 8-2-1. 12 goals allowed in 12 games, one goal or fewer in 10 of those 12. He has an NHL-best 1.09 goals-against average and .951 save percentage. Insane in the membrane.

“It’s impressive,” Yeo said. “Making saves, looking really confident in the net. If we’re going to pretend that every team can be on top of their game every period every game, it’s not reality. What good goaltending allows you to do is sometimes you’re not quite there, but it allows you to find your game. And he’s done that for us.”

Harding, who is never one to talk about himself, said of his run, “I don’t focus on all those [stats] truthfully. I try to build off the last game I just played and learn what I can do better. I’m pretty critical of myself.”

-- Koivu on scoring his second goal and recording his first multi-point game of the year: “Of course you get frustrated when you’re not producing the way you want to. But also being in the league for a couple years, you know when you’re doing the right things and when the team’s winning, that’s a good feeling. Of course it feels good to get that confidence a little higher individually and helping the team to win. That’s our job to create and score goals. We have to stay on top of that.”

-- Read my game notebook in Wednesday’s paper. I talked to a USA Hockey exec about Jason Pominville, who is on the Olympic radar.

-- That’s it for me. I have a 7:35 a.m. flight to Washington, D.C., and I haven’t even packed yet. Just an fyi, the Wild practices in Washington at 2 p.m. ET, so the blog will be a little later than usual. Nate Schmidt and the Caps won 6-2 tonight. Alex Ovechkin returned. He scored twice.


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