NEW YORK - Considering the loss the Wild suffered on Long Island on Wednesday, considering how utterly dominated it was in the first period in Manhattan on Thursday, it was beginning to look as if the Wild's theme song the rest of the season was going to be Tom Petty's "Free Falling."
The Wild, looking like a shell of what it was only a week ago, seemed to be prepping for a painful spiral down the standings.
But a funny thing happened in the second period Thursday.
The uptight team relaxed and began to show glimpses again of the Wild squad that capitalizes on its chances and leans on its goaltender. It worked, and the Wild rallied for a 3-1 victory over the New York Rangers.
"We were definitely playing too uptight, and maybe after a tough couple games, we lost a little bit of confidence," said Kyle Brodziak, who scored the tying goal and had an assist. "We just did a good job of letting it go in the second and third and just trying to play hockey."
One start after he made 46 saves in Anaheim, Jose Theodore followed it up with a 40-save performance on a stage he adores. Theodore is 9-0-1 in his past 10 starts at Madison Square Garden.
"The game belonged to Theo," coach Todd Richards said.
While Theodore basks under the Broadway lights, so apparently does rookie Casey Wellman.
Recalled because the Wild was worried about Cal Clutterbuck's health, Wellman replaced Jed Ortmeyer on the roster when Clutterbuck was able to play and provided the spark the Wild was hoping for in his first game since Nov. 20.
Wellman landed in New York after 1 p.m., then scored his first career winning goal 7 1/2 hours later.
After a valiant battle behind the net, Andrew Brunette popped the puck up top to Brent Burns. Like the UMass goal scorer he was, Wellman read the play brilliantly, cut to the net and redirected Burns' intentionally wide shot into the net with 7:24 left in the second.
Wellman, who played 12 games without a goal earlier this season, scored for the first time since last season's finale.
"I was pretty pumped. It's something I've been dreaming about ... since the last one I had," Wellman said.
Wellman was as pumped in the third when his backcheck might have saved a goal. A puck squeezed through Theodore and fell through the crease, but a hustling Wellman skated the puck out of trouble. Moments later, Brodziak won a board battle, which led to a perfect Martin Havlat-to-Pierre-Marc Bouchard goal.
"My goal was great, but to keep them off the board again ... that was big," Wellman said.
The comeback came after a stunning first period in which the Rangers looked as if they were on a 20-minute power play. The Wild could barely get over the red line and spent the period in its zone. Jared Spurgeon registered the Wild's first shot ... 17 minutes in.
But Theodore was scintillating, his biggest save coming when he reached across the crease to rob Ryan Callahan with his paddle. In the final seconds, Theodore executed another thievery on Artem Anisimov.
"It seemed like we were watching in the first, but when you're down by one goal on the road, you know it's far from being over," said Theodore.
Bouchard said Richards told the players during the first intermission to forget the first period. After all, it was down only 1-0.
"One shot and we're right back in it," Bouchard said.
That came when Brodziak deflected home Spurgeon's shot for the tying goal after setups by Burns and Bouchard.