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Eric Peterson, Published May 06 2013

Cullen says Wild need to keep up the intensity level against Chicago

FARGO – Matt Cullen lives for moments like he experienced Sunday at the Xcel Energy Center.

The Moorhead High School graduate was on his stomach when he slid a pass to Jason Zucker, who scored the game-winning goal in overtime.

“I don’t know if there’s a building louder than that one. That was pretty fun,” Cullen said Monday. “Those are the memories that you hang on to for a long time.”

Sunday’s Game 3 victory vaulted the Minnesota Wild back into the best-of-7 NHL playoff series with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Chicago holds a 2-1 series lead entering tonight’s Game 4 in St. Paul.

“We kind of set the bar for where we need to be,” Cullen said, referring to the team’s Game 3 effort. “We need to be there or better.”

Sunday was the first home playoff game for the Wild in five years. That’s one of the reasons the game had an electric feel. Cullen said the Xcel Energy Center had an added energy that was palpable during warm-ups.

There was also extra emotion before the game. Jack Jablonski was the honorary Wild flag bearer. Jablonski is the Benilde-St. Margaret’s student who is paralyzed. He suffered a neck injury during a hockey game.

“I had a lump in my throat when I saw him out there. That was pretty cool,” Cullen said. “It just added to the whole thing. It’s just such a part of Minnesota hockey culture now (that) Jack has become. Seeing him out there just seemed so appropriate.”

The challenge for the Wild is to maintain that level of intensity for Game 4 with a chance to even the series. The 36-year-old Cullen has played in 66 playoff games. He played for a Stanley Cup winning team in 2006 when he was with the Carolina Hurricanes.

Cullen said managing emotion during the playoffs is important for a successful run.

“I think we’re a smart enough team to understand that it’s only one game,” Cullen said. “We have to continue to build off of that. … I know that they’ll (Chicago) come out with more next game. So we’re going to have at least that effort. That’s the whole story of the playoffs.”

Cullen said what his team can take from Game 3 is the style of game it needs to play. The Wild outhit Chicago 17-4 in the first period, and 34-13 for the game.

That zest was lacking in the first two games, which were both Chicago home victories.

“I don’t know if we were cautious because they were the Chicago Blackhawks and they the season that they had,” Cullen said of the top seed. “That (Game 3) was kind of our first jump-in-with-both-feet type game.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter

Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found

at peterson.areavoices.com