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Rookie Kuemper carries Wild to win over Red Wings

The SportsXchange

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Some rookies would be nervous facing the Detroit Red Wings. Minnesota Wild goalie Darcy Kuemper, making just his second NHL start, didn't have time to get nervous.

Pressed into emergency duty just minutes before Sunday's game, after regular starter Niklas Backstrom was sidelined with the flu, Kuemper had 29 saves for his first NHL win, as the Wild rallied with a trio of second period goals to get a 3-2 victory.

"We threw (Kuemper) into a pretty difficult situation, and the way he responded was terrific," said Wild coach Mike Yeo. "That was pretty impressive. I thought he got better as the game went on."

Pavel Datsyuk had a goal and an assist for Detroit, which took a 2-0 lead it could not hold. Jason Zucker and Torrey Mitchell both scored their first goals as members of the Wild (7-6-2) who also got a Dany Heatley goal to snap a two-game winless streak.

"They got their goals and we kind of got rattled instead of just doing the things we do," said Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg. "We started thinking again, and that's something we've got to learn, something we've got to change."

Detroit (7-6-2) drew first blood with the only goal of the first period, after the Wild failed to clear a loose puck in front of their net. That miscue enabled Datsyuk to get a shot on goal that was re-directed past Kuemper by Damien Brunner for an early 1-0 Red Wings lead.

Tomas Tatar thought he had doubled Detroit's lead later in the first after a point blank shot from the top of the crease. Tatar raised his arms in celebration, and the goal light flashed red briefly, but after a review officials found no video evidence that the puck had gone over the goal line.

Instead, it was Datsyuk putting Detroit up by two for real on the initial shift of the second period, as he ripped a wrist shot past Kuemper from the top of the left circle.

"The pass came across and the d-man went to block it, so I kind of lost it for a second," said Kuemper, who is now 1-1-0. "I had a feeling he'd try to get my hand, but he sure picked a corner there."

Minnesota's top line finally answered midway through the second when Heatley's shot through a crowd found the back of the net. It was the fifth goal of the season for Heatley, who scored four times in the Wild's first five games, but hadn't gotten a goal since then.

Zucker, skating with the Wild for the first time this season, went coast-to-coast later in the second and tied the game with a wrist shot that beat Red Wings goalie Petr Mrazek on the stick side. It was the first NHL goal for the Las Vegas native, who played six games for Minnesota late last season, signing with the team after his sophomore season at the University of Denver was done.

"I skate fast and I try to get the puck on the net, that's what I'm trying to do," said Zucker, who added that he brings a "shoot first" mentality to a Wild team that has struggled to score at times this season. "I'm not exactly a passer. I'm trying to get the puck on net and limit my passing."

Less than a minute later, Torrey Mitchell joined the "first goal with the Wild" club, scoring off a faceoff in the Red Wings zone to put Minnesota ahead for good.

Detroit's best chance to tie came later in the period when Devin Setoguchi of the Wild received a four-minute penalty for a high stick to the face of Kyle Quincey. The Red Wings controlled play for much of the power play but could not score.

"These are games you have to have," said Red Wings coach Mike Babcock. "We were up two-nothing and I thought were playing really well, and for whatever reason mentally we weren't as sharp in the second period."

The Wild travel to Edmonton and Calgary later this week. Mrazek had 21 saves for the Red Wings in his second start of the season. Detroit will face the Predators in Nashville on Tuesday.

NOTES: Roughly 30 minutes before the game started, one Red Wings player had already hit the ice, hard. Winger Daniel Cleary was the first Detroit skater on the ice for warmups, where he stepped on a puck and took a tumble, drawing hoots from several Minnesota fans. He was uninjured despite not having a helmet on at the time. ... Zucker was one of two new faces in the Wild lineup on Sunday. Swedish forward Johan Larsson made his NHL debut for Minnesota, skating on the team's third line. ... Forward Mikael Samuelsson returned to the Red Wings lineup on Sunday for the first time since Jan. 21. He suffered a groin injury in Detroit's second outing of the season and had missed the past 12 games. ... Wild goalie Josh Harding has been placed on injured reserve while dealing with the effects of multiple sclerosis which was diagnosed during the lockout. Harding has started three games this season, going 1-1-0 with a shutout.
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