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Wild rally past Red Wings for 3-2 victory

by Dan Myers

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Just 20 seconds into the second period, the Minnesota Wild looked dead in the water.

After being outshot 14-8 and outscored 1-0 by the Detroit Red Wings in the first period, Pavel Datsyuk's snipe from the left circle looked like the final straw for a team that's struggled this season to score more than one or two goals.

But in the span of about four minutes that all changed. The Wild rallied with three second-period goals and rallied to defeat Detroit by a 3-2 score Sunday at Xcel Energy Center.

Instead of galvanizing the Wings, Datsyuk's goal turned out to be a game-changer for Minnesota. Wild coach Mike Yeo said it "ticked" his team off. The team won the next shift, and the one after that -- stringing together quality shifts for the first time all night.

Finally, Dany Heatley scored at the 9:35 mark of the frame and the floodgates opened.

"It picked up our physicality," Yeo said of Datsyuk's goal. "That has to be there every night. We have to play the game with an edge. Taking straight lines, getting there in a bad mood; that's gotta be a part of who we are."

Heatley's goal came after hard work in front by linemate Mikko Koivu, who's rebound came free to Heatley in the slot. His off-speed shot seemed to catch Detroit goaltender Petr Mrazek off guard as the puck went 5-hole for Heatley's fifth of the season and first since Jan. 27 -- a span of 10 games.

Just under four minutes later, the Wild tied it on an electrifying play by rookie Jason Zucker, just called up from the Houston Aeros of the American Hockey League.

Zucker won a pair of puck battles in his own zone, chipped it ahead to himself at the blue line and raced down the right side, leading a 2-on-1 break. He snapped a wrister, beating Mrazek blocker side for his first National Hockey League goal.

"That's what he does," Yeo said. "He finds ways to get opportunities, and that wasn't the only one he had tonight. He can bury it."

"I just tried getting the puck out of the zone at first," Zucker said. "I just kept skating. I was surprised there was nobody in front of me once I got past the blue line. Thought about passing to [Devin Setoguchi] but shot and just tried to get it on net and it went in for me."

It was nothing new for Wild goaltender Darcy Kuemper, who has watched Zucker terrorize the AHL for goals 19 times this season.

"I've seen him do that so many times this year," Kuemper said. "He's got world-class speed, no many guys can catch him. It was really exciting for him and was glad he put that in."

Kuemper, another one of the five players skating with Minnesota 22-years of age or younger, was solid himself, stopping 29 shots to earn his first NHL win.

Not a bad night for Kuemper, who figured to back-up Niklas Backstrom Sunday. About five minutes before the end of warmups, Backstrom fell ill and Kuemper was leaned on to make just his second big-league start and first at home. He stopped the final 17 shots he saw to preserve the victory.

"It was almost good finding out last minute," Kuemper said. "There's no time to get nervous."

"We threw out Kuemps in a very difficult situation and he responded," Yeo said. "I thought he got better as the game went on."

Minnesota grabbed the lead for good just 32 seconds after Zucker's goal, as Mikael Granlund won a faceoff to Mrazek's right and tied up his opponent so wing Torrey Mitchell could swoop in. He flipped a backhanded shot past Mrazek for his first of the season and with the Wild.

Mitchell, who's rotated between the third and fourth line for Minnesota this season, signed with the team last summer just days before the team added both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter in free agency.

"I don't know what happened in the locker room between periods. We made some mistakes right from the start [in the second period] for them to get momentum," said Red Wings coach Mike Babcock. "Really, we never generated anything after that."

Damien Brunner also scored for Detroit, his seventh of the year, giving the Wings a 1-0 lead at 8:48 of the first period. Datsyuk had an assist on Brunner's tally and Henrik Zetterberg tallied helpers on each of Detroit's goals.

The victory for Minnesota evens their record with Detroit this season and in the standings. Both teams are now 7-6-2, tied with the Phoenix Coyotes for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

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