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 prevails thanks to Wellman's winning goal, Theodore's goaltending masterpiece

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: March 3, 2011 - 10:28 PM

I bet my career on Twitter tonight that Jose Theodore starts Sunday against Buffalo, so Todd Richards may go back to Nik Backstrom to spite me.

I'd think you'd got to run with the hot goalie now. Theodore made 46 saves in Anaheim in a 3-2 overtime win, and tonight, he made 40 saves in a game the Wild was outshot 41-19 yet prevailed 3-1.

Theodore likes the big stage. If you see the way he holds court after games in LA with bigwigs and celebs, you could understand why this guy thrives in situations like Madison Square Garden. This is a famous venue, and not an easy one to play in, yet Theodore's 9-0-1 in his past 10 starts on Broadway and 13-3-2 in his past 18 overall against the Rangers.

He had to be good early. The Wild spent the entire first period hemmed in its own end. It didn't take a shot until 17:15 into the first. But Theodore settled things down with a great performance after the Rangers scored early and Theodore accidentally shot the puck in the crowd.

The press box at MSG is in the lower-bowl corner. After his penalty, Theodore skated into the left circle right in front of us, kneeled one what knee, shook his head at his gaffe and then just looked straight ahead. Not shockingly, he was focused and brilliant the rest of the way. The turning point save was keeping a 1-0 deficit to 1 when he robbed Ryan Callahan with a reaching paddle.

So as badly as the Wild played in the first, the bonus was they were down only 1-0, not 3- or 4-0. Win! 

One shot, and the Wild's right back in it, and yes, they rallied -- first on Kyle Brodziak's deflection (14th goal, tying career high), then Casey Wellman's second career goal and first winner.

That was a redirection of Brent Burns' shot, coming in Wellman's first game since Nov. 20 after 12 goalless games to start the season.

Wellman was recalled upon emergency conditions if Cal Clutterbuck couldn't play because of Wednesday's head hit. But with Clutterbuck able to play (six hits), the Wild was able to swap Wellman and Jed Ortmeyer because Ortmeyer was also up on emergency conditions.

If Clutterbuck wasn't able to go after warmups, Ortmeyer could have immediately been recalled and he would have played without the benefit of a warmup.

Teams get four non-emergency callups post trade deadline. The Wild's already used two (Warren Peters and Jared Spurgeon, who from a paperwork standpoint had to be technically reassigned and called back up just to make him eligible for the AHL playoffs).

BY the way, check out Cal Clutterbuck's comments about Trevor Gillies' head shot on him here

Wellman provided the spark the Wild had hoped. He brought speed and energy, offense and his backcheck to perhaps save a goal came moments before Brodziak won a wall battle and Martin Havlat set up Pierre-Marc Bouchard's back-breaker.

One storyline I couldn't get into in the gamer due to space was Richards’ objective coming into the game being to try to get veteran Andrew Brunette more involved with the game.

He had one point in six games since Mikko Koivu was injured and no goals in the previous 10 games.
 
He skated with Eric Nystrom and Antti Miettinen, but Richards spotted Brunette in with Warren Peters and Wellman, and it was Brunette who valiantly did the wall work before Wellman's goal.
 
Spurgeon had a great, great. So did Burns and Bouchard. Warren Peters recovered nicely from stick checking instead of body checking on the Rangers' goal. Brodziak was great.
 
I love the MSG press box also because for a change, we're right at ice level, so you get a true appreciation for how little time and space these players really have. The game is simple and easy all the way up in the press box in most buildings.
 
Always fun returning to New York. I had a warm reunion with my old Panthers pal Mike Keenan before the game.

Funny moment. I ran into Marian Gaborik today. Of course, I was in the lobby of his building, so he may have thought I was stalking him. But Gaborik, who's trying to recover from a concussion, is feeling a little better. He woke up with headaches this morning, he said at practice, but he did skate.

I also spent part of the day with Derek Boogaard. He is also coming back from a debillitating concussion and is starting to feel much, much better.

What else? Cam Barker missed his fifth game tonight with an upper body injury, but he now has the flu, GM Chuck Fletcher said. This flu bug has been trickling about the team.

Also, wanted to throw this on the blog. It was in my first-edition notebook the other day, but I subbed it out for most editions after the Gillies-Clutterbuck incident happened. It's old news, but I feel I should get this out there because I agree wholeheartedly:

subhed
 
Coach Todd Richards jumped to Pierre-Marc Bouchard’s defense Wednesday morning. He had been criticized locally by some for trying to dive to save possession on a power play before Marian Hossa’s shorthanded dagger late in Monday’s loss to Chicago.
The Wild was peppering Chicago, and he didn’t want the puck to leave the zone so Chicago could change its tired penalty killers. Plus, if the puck came out, the Wild would have also changed, which would have extinguished much of the remaining power-play seconds.
So Bouchard made a split-second decision.
“Put me in that situation, I’m trying to keep it in, too,” Richards said.
 
The Wild won't practice Friday, so barring news, no blog as I fly home, work on my Sunday stuff and a Saturday follow.

Kent's got practice Saturday, will blog Saturday and a really nice story planned for Sunday's paper. I'll talk to you again Sunday. 

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