With a little self-control and one big game, center Cliff Ronning overcame one of the most disappointing moments of his career.
After being acquired last summer by Minnesota, the former King became the Wild’s oldest and highest-paid player. His experience helped the young team make the playoffs, but he wasn’t doing much for Minnesota during the first part of its Western Conference semifinal series with Vancouver.
Ronning was a healthy scratch in Game 3, and his playoff scoring drought reached 18 games after the Wild’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Canucks in Game 4.
“He had nothing negative to say,” said left wing Andrew Brunette, who also scored on Canuck goalie Dan Cloutier in Monday’s blowout second period. “He was totally professional about it.”
But Ronning returned Monday night and scored two goals, one of them part of a franchise-record five on the power play in the second period. Minnesota won, 7-2, to force tonight’s Game 6 in St. Paul, Minn., but Vancouver still leads the series, 3-2.
Ronning’s 116 postseason games are by far the most on his team, so he has found himself becoming an extension of the coaching staff.
“A lot of it is what you say at the right times,” Ronning said. “If there’s too much tension, or there’s not enough tension, you kind of just have to know at certain times what to say.”
Steve Atkinson, a right wing for the Buffalo Sabres in the 1970s, died Tuesday of a heart attack. He was 54.