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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Is Havlat's second straight tying goal to earn Wild a point enough to stave off changes?

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: December 4, 2010 - 11:18 PM

GM Chuck Fletcher wasn't in Dallas tonight, but it'll be interesting to see how he reacts going into this stretch of four days off before the Wild heads west for three in a row starting Thursday in Glendale, Ariz.

The Wild rallied from a 2-0 second-period deficit and 2-1 and 3-2 third-period deficits to earn a point before Stephane Robidas won it in overtime on a power play.

For the second straight game, red-hot Marty Havlat scored the late equalizer to force OT. Havlat was again good all night, and there's no doubt he's on top of his game and playing his best hockey as a Minnesota Wild. It's a sight to see, a reason for optimism.

The Wild played a decent first period, I thought controlled the play in the second period and definitely had the better of the chances and rallied in the third -- twice. As coach Todd Richards said, it would have been easy for the Wild to pack it in tonight after tailing 2-0 and 3-2 after playing the night before, travelling and not arriving at their Dallas hotel until 2:30 a.m.

As Fletcher often says, everybody wants results, as in W's, but it's "about the process, too, and we've got to get these guys getting some confidence back in their game."

Well, if Fletcher lives by his own credo, maybe he gives the Wild more time before he attempts a roster shakeup. Since Fletcher's comments to me the other day, where he said he'd first give this group a chance to win games before he makes changes, the Wild's 0-0-2.

Two games doesn't seem like much of a chance to let "this group" start winning, but in this league, you can't be too patient, not when you're centimeters from the West cellar and on an 82-point pace in a conference that'll take 95 to make the postseason. With the team idle til Thursday, who knows where they'll be in the standings by then?

So does Fletcher try to make a trade or two this week before the team plays in Phoenix, or does he not feel that desperation -- yet?

There were good signs tonight. The Mikko Koivu line twice turned the momentum the Wild's favor. Down 2-0 late in the second, Antti Miettinen scored his seventh goal after Koivu, like the Koivu we all remember, grabbed a puck off the wall, made a strong move to the net and began jamming away with Miettinen and Andrew Brunette.

Goal, 2-1. Then, Chuck Kobasew, back after 14 games off with a groin injury, scored early in the third after great plays by Matt Cullen and Cal Clutterbuck.

But 4 1/2 minutes later, Adam Burish made it 3-2, and the Wild's tired legs seemed to catch up to them. They were running on fumes and couldn't create anything for 10 minutes until with about six minutes left, the Koivu line again came over the boards with Brent Burns and Nick Schultz.

The five players kept the puck in the Stars' end for a minute. The fans were freaking, and even though the Wild didn't get a power play out the pressure or the tying goal, the momentum was theirs.

Two shifts later, Havlat struck as he and Kyle Brodziak battled at the net for a Marek Zidlicky deflected puck. Greg Zanon, who had a very tough night, also played a big part in the goal earlier in the shift, and just to show you what a difference Pierre-Marc Bouchard makes, look at the replay of Havlat's goal and look how much respect Dallas gave Bouchard before passing to Zidlicky.

Richards made a great point. It looked like a power play. Dallas just let Bouchard set up the puck at the half wall before giving it up to Zidlicky. That's the type of thing the Wild missed with Bouchard out of the lineup the last year.

The Wild still can't figure out how to nullify Steve Ott from not only running around, but scoring against them. Richards scratched Patrick O'Sullivan to dress Eric Nystrom and Brad Staubitz because last year, Ott fought goalie Josh Harding and twice in a game fought Clutterbuck.

Problem is Ott still created havoc tonight, and Staubitz only saw one shift with Ott that I can remember in the third period.

All in all though, it was a good game by the Wild with a lot of positivbe signs. But the Wild's at a juncture where it can't accept moral victories anymore.

It's 1-5-2 in the past eight, 1-4-2 off this seven games in 11 day stretch. It needs wins and it's not winning.

So what does Fletcher do? Make a trade? Look at replacing his coach?

I know Fletcher really doesn't want to fire Richards. He's made it clear to me that he feels the players have to be accountable before the coach.

So I really believe a trade's coming at some point soon. Just, is it now -- before Thursday?

If so, most the depth in the organization's on the blue line, so does it come from there? Could it be Burns? He's healthy. His stock could be back up there, and like I've said for awhile, like Koivu last summer, the Wild will have to make a critical long-term decision with Burns next summer. Could it be Schultz? Cam Barker?

We know it's not Marek Zidlicky, who's got a partial no-trade?

And as I wrote in the Insider the other day, too, four forwards are in their last years of contracts -- Brunette, Madden, Kobasew, Miettinen.

What does Fletcher do? That's why he gets paid the big bucks and I don't.

I would think Jared Spurgeon will be sent down Sunday with four days off. No need to keep his cap hit, and tonight, he was exposed at times, especially on one shift by Brenden Morrow and Jamie Benn.

OK, I'll be out of the loop in the morning tomorrow on a flight home with no Internet. I'll be back with you after I land to let you know if anything's up.

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