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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Wild wins third straight, upends Columbus; Burns dominant; Theodore solid; Clutterbuck provides highlight

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: November 6, 2010 - 10:38 PM

Evening from Nationwide Arena, where it's not often I write to you after a Wild victory here. In fact, the only one I remember covering here was Jacques Lemaire's final game in Minnesota. There may have been a few more in my six seasons as the beat writer, but this was only the Wild's fifth all-time here in the Buckeye State.

Other than a one-sided second period in which I thought Jose Theodore justifiably could have pulled himself, the Wild played what coach Todd Richards called a solid "bookend," a good first period and a great third to win for a third straight game and go into the four-day break on a high.

The break comes at a good time with a bunch of tired bodies and a banged-up roster. The Wild returned to Minnesota after the game, will get a well-deserved day off Sunday and practice in Minnesota on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before heading to Atlanta Wednesday afternoon for the final three games (Atlanta, Florida, Tampa Bay) of this four-game trip.

Brent Burns was dominant. Here's a little secret between only you and me. I've wanted to write about Burnzie for about 10 days, but after the Washington or the San Jose game (can't remember), he basically asked me if we'd scrap the one-on-one because the last time I did a "Burnzie's playing great" article, he hit the skids.

But Sunday's game story (read it!) is 100 percent Brent Burns' fault. If you don't want to be written about, don't dominate a game in all three zones.  He was sensational tonight. Yes, two power-play goals for his first career two-goal game. But he was just outstanding defensively, breaking up 3-on-1, knocking guys off pucks, leading the rush.

And he had to be good with offensive defenseman Marek Zidlicky missing from the lineup with a leg injury and Nick Schultz, his defense partner, gone the final 12 minutes after blocking Kyle Wilson's shot with his beak (Schultz will be fine, although he might scare small children for a week or so).

The Wild was G-d awful, as Bryan Murray loves to say, in the second period. It was outshot 16-3, not getting its first shot until 5:40 left when Burns whistled a shot through traffic to tie the score at 2. This was because Jose Theodore, getting the short shrift on the second of a back-to-back, provided the cushion with save after save after save. He made 35 in the game for his first Minnesota win.

Cal Clutterbuck got the winner in the third as the Wild got back to forechecking. He took out two guys on one play, Jan Hejda and destroyed Jakub Voracek, before going back to the net, finding a loose puck and burying it for his fourth goal and second in two games. On the goal, Eric Nystrom recorded his first point with the Wild.

Clutterbuck had eight hits for a second straight game and now has 16 in two games.

On the hit, Richards said, "It was basically a bowling ball going down the ice. As [assistant coach] Rick Wilson said, ‘He took out the 5 and 7 pin on one play.’"

I told Richards that a reader tweeted me that it was a 7-10 split, but Richards said it couldn't be that because the two guys (pins) were next to each other.

Just a gutsy win for an undermanned, tired team that played the night before, had to fly here, lost an hour and was facing a confident team that won seven of nine and was coming off consecutive shutouts.

It was the first time the Wild's scored more than two goals in seven games (Oct. 21, at Edmonton).

Anyways, that's it for me.

I'm going to hold off on the Matt Kassian feature for Monday's paper. I may write it later in the week or for next Sunday's column. He did have his first NHL fight by the way with Jared Boll.

Kassian and Cody Almond were reassigned after the game. It just made sense with four days off, the potential of getting some injured players back and in reality, to save salary cap space.

I'll update the blog there's news Sunday. Otherwise, the team's off, so it'll be a silent day. But the team's starting to show a lot of growth, maturity and character. This is a banged-up, tired team, and it continues to find ways to win.

Like I said, give the game story a read for more particulars about the game, the notebook a read with some interesting stuff from GM Chuck Fletcher regarding the young kids, and Robbie Earl, and give the Dino Ciccarelli column a read at this link.

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