Minnesota Wild coach Mike Yeo has tried a number of things to snap his team out of its month-long funk.
Little did he know the answer was right on his bench the whole time, in the form of third-line winger Darroll Powe.
Powe ignited a second period Wild outburst – not with his stick, but with his fists – as Minnesota snapped a four-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over Dallas at Xcel Energy Center.
"Emotionally, he gave our bench a huge lift tonight," Yeo said. "The guys were pumped about what he was willing to do for them."
Following a Devin Setoguchi power-play goal midway through the second, Powe was jumped by Dallas agitator Steve Ott off the face-off. It wasn't much of a battle, as Ott wrestled Powe to the ground before the two were separated and assessed minor roughing penalties.
After their penalties expired, Powe and Ott dropped the gloves for real. Again, Ott wrestled Powe to the ground, then followed with a couple of shots late.
The bullying nature of Ott's behavior didn't sit well with the Wild, which scored three goals in just 59 seconds as Ott looked on from the penalty box.
"I don't think guys were too happy about that," Powe said. "That's the kind of player he is, he likes to stir it up and get his nose in there."
Added center Matt Cullen: "We talk about each going out and leading in his own way. That's a guy being a leader in his own way. That was huge for our team. You could just feel the spirits lift on the bench."
"I'd have rather not had it happen," said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. "When you're winning 2-1 in somebody else's building, it's full, 19,000 people, I'd rather just have everybody sleepy."
Minnesota winger Cal Clutterbuck scored the first of the trio 2:17 after the fight, roofing a nifty backhand in front to tie the game at two at 13:37 of the second period.
Just 14 seconds later, the Wild got a goal from an unlikely source as Chad Rau -- playing in his first NHL game -- was credited with his first career goal after banking a puck off the Stars' Brendan Morrow's stick and past Kari Lehtonen to give Minnesota its first lead of the night.
"I guess if I could get a rewind on that, after that 3-2 goal, I maybe should have called a timeout," Gulutzan said. "I thought we could handle it as a group."
Instead, Minnesota struck again 45 seconds after that, this time with Kyle Brodziak capitalizing on a sweet tic-tac-toe passing play to bury his 14th of the season near the left post.
The three goals in 59 seconds set a Minnesota franchise record, breaking the old mark of 3 in 1:41.
"It was a fun night," Cullen said. "We really needed something like that."
Yeo said he was impressed with Minnesota's ability to "move the puck north," a credo he has preached all season long. When the Wild were atop the NHL in points last month, it's something they did on a nightly basis.
Described as fragile several times over their last 17 games heading into Saturday-- 15 of which they lost -- the Wild allowed a goal and seemed to crawl into a shell almost immediately. That was the case in each of Minnesota's last four losses, all on the road.
Saturday, Yeo said his team could have done just that, especially after falling behind 1-0 in the first period and again 2-1 in the second.
"We score a power-play goal (which tied the game at 1), get a breakaway right after (Cullen was shut down by Lehtonen on his original shot, and a rebound try), and then all of the sudden, we're down 2-1," Yeo said. "That could have been one of those moments in previous games where we've gotten away from things. Tonight, we didn't. That's a credit to our leaders."
Rau, an Eden Prairie, Minn., native, was credited with the game-winner in his big league debut with many of his family and friends in attendance. For his efforts, he was named the game's No. 1 star and received a shaving-cream pie from Clutterbuck in the locker room.
"That was awesome," Rau said of his goal. "I kind of blacked out after.”
In an attempt to kick-start his team for the final 20 minutes, Gulutzan inserted Richard Bachman in goal to start the third period.
It didn't matter.
Only 1:29 into the frame, Dany Heatley potted his 14th of the season, capping a 2-on-1, give-and-go rush with Warren Peters. The goal was Heatley's third point of the night and extinguished any hopes of a Dallas rally.
With three of their top six forwards on the shelf with injuries, the Wild got a great team effort as 11 different players scored at least a point.
Former Wild forward Eric Nystrom opened scoring in the first period, deflecting a shot from the point in front of Minnesota's Josh Harding for his 14th of the season. Phillip Larsen, back from a nine-game injury layoff, scored his first career goal at 11:03 of the second to give Dallas another brief lead.
Harding stopped 23 shots to improve to 9-6-3 on the season.
The victory pushed Minnesota briefly into eighth place in the Western Conference, with 53 points. Later Saturday, Colorado beat Los Angeles to move back into the final playoff place, but Minnesota is still just one point behind the pack and one ahead of Calgary.