Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Wild 5, Toronto Maple Leafs 2; Backstrom earns 100th career 'W'

Posted by: Michael Russo under On the road, Wild game coverage Updated: November 10, 2009 - 9:05 PM

Good evening from South Florida, where I watched tonight's Wild victory in Toronto from the comfort of my couch.

I'm meeting the team in Tampa in the morning, and that might not be a good thing for the Wild or its passionate fans. Wild is 0-8 on the road with yours truly on the watch; 2-0 with Rachel Blount.

That's right. I have still not seen a Wild road win in person since last season's finale in Columbus -- better known as the end of the Jacques Lemaire era.

But the Wild's starting to turn the tide under Todd Richards, now winning four of its last five with W's coming in PIttsburgh, at home against the Rangers and Dallas and in Toronto.

I was obviously watching on TV and I'm not getting the luxury of talking to Richards and the players tonight, but in my mind, the Wild's compete level was at its highest tonight in Toronto. It played a complete game until the last five minutes when the Maple Leafs turned it on and pinned the Wild in its own end. In the end was a very hairy 3-on-6 disadvantage.

Phil Kessel made it 4-2 late, then Mikko Koivu shot it in the stands, Marek Zidlicky took a penalty and the Leafs pulled the goalie for the three-man disadvantage.

But Niklas Backstrom was poised and calm, and Owen Nolan scored a 150-foot, rolling, bouncing, shorthanded empty-netter to seal the W with 3.3 ticks left.

Backstrom put together his third 37-save effort of the season, but first in a win, for his 100th career win.

Wild scored more than three goals on the road for the first time this season, second time scoring three or more.

Mikko Koivu scored the winning goal and had two assists. Marek Zidlicky had one and one. Greg Zanon and Martin Havlat also scored. Havlat's goal was his first since Oct. 8. Zanon's was his first as a Wild. Zidlicky's was his first not scored by an opponent

Wild starting to play much better now. Leafs couldn't make a pass in the final period as the Wild shut things down with a three-goal lead. Things obviously got hairy in the end, but it was a well-played game.

Kim Johnsson looked good in his return, although he was on the ice for the last goal.

Richards did a good job rolling four lines for the most part. No defenseman played more than Zidlicky's 22:24.

Koivu played a sensational game, as did Zidlicky (until the end). Nolan, a former Leaf, had five shots and the shortie. Zanon four blocked shots.

All in all, good victory vs. the Leafs, who were 3-0-4 in their past seven and coming off a huge win over Detroit.

On to Tampa now. I'm heading to both Lightning and Wild practices Wednesday, so I'll blog after that.

 

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