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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Posts about Wild game coverage

For the second time in 12 days, Marco Scandella scores OT winner after Wild blows 3-0 lead

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: November 29, 2014 - 12:46 AM

I don’t know how the Wild keeps giving up these 3-0 leads, but it certainly made for a quotable locker room after it survived tonight during a 5-4 overtime victory over the Dallas Stars.

For the third time this season, the Wild coughed up a 3-zip lead in what felt like were nanoseconds.

Last month at the Rangers, the Wild gave up five in the third to lose 5-4. Twelve days ago, the Wild gave up three in the third to go to overtime only to see Marco Scandella, fresh off the mumps, win it.

Scandella’s getting good at saving the Wild’s bacon after blown 3-0 leads. Amazingly less than two weeks after winning the Jets game, Scandella pulled it off again tonight with the OT winner off Zach Parise and Thomas Vanek assists.

It came after Nino Niederreiter, Jason Zucker and Mikael Granlund built the Wild a 3-0 lead. But in the final 3:42 of the second period – and in a 3:31 span – Ales Hemsky, Tyler Seguin and Erik Cole – tied the score.

Coach Mike Yeo had a big choice between periods. One game after pulling Darcy Kuemper for a second consecutive home start, could Yeo trust Kuemper enough to chill the heck out and not get so rattled that he would disintegrate in the third period?

After all, Kuemper was playing well before the vanished lead, and the Hemsky goal came after a terrific move on Ryan Suter, the Seguin goal came after the Wild let the NHL’s leading goal scorer fly right off the gut off an odd-man rush and the Cole goal came through (maybe) a screen.

So in Yeo’s mind, this was not like his recent pulls when Kuemper was giving up bad goals left and right and fighting the puck.

But Yeo, after leaders Mikko Koivu and Suter went over to Kuemper between periods to give him a pep talk, boldly stayed with Kuemper and he responded by stopped 19 of 20 third-period shots (and so many great ones, including a game saver in the final minute on Antoine Roussel). Yes, he gave up the go-ahead goal to Alex Goligoski on yet another top-line odd-man rush after Niederreiter got tripped up on a breakaway. But after Yeo brought Kuemper to the bench with 2:01 left for an extra attacker, Vanek scored his biggest (and second) goal as a Wild with 1:52 left to force overtime.

Remember the Tampa game when Yeo said he may revisit which players he tosses out there in need of a tying goal late after Zach Parise, Vanek, Koivu, Jason Pominville, Suter and Granlund couldn’t get it done on a 6-on-4 power play? Well, Yeo put his trust in the same exact six on this 6-on-5, Parise won a puck battle and finally a puck came right to Vanek in his sweet spot. He didn’t miss his only shot of the game.

Vanek had a sense of humor about both his goals this season coming against Dallas: "I think we play them 2 more times, so hopefully I can get my total to 4. This is obviously not the start I wanted, but I can’t dwell on the last 20 games. It’s just about coming the next day and staying positive and just keep going.

“I feel like I’m making plays and I’m getting in the areas. I was lucky enough to get a puck to get a chance there, but I feel like I’m finding the open spots, just the puck’s not coming or it’s hitting a stick or it’s going in front of me or behind me. This time it was right on and gave me a chance.”

Vanek has been a lightning rod for criticism all year and certainly was in this game again as he turned pucks over early and waved at a puck at his feet as he went for a line change before Seguin’s second goal.

What’s frustrating about Vanek besides the giveaways and lack of shots is that when he decides to move his feet, he does what he did to Kyle Brodziak earlier this year (two goals) and what he did on Scandella’s winner. When he wants to skate, he skates, and he did on this play when he recognized a loose puck pop into the defensive-zone slot. He turned on the jets and took off on a 2-on-2 with Scandella. He then was smart enough to pull up at the blue line, take Jason Demers with him, wait for Parise, who assisted on his third goal of the night to set up the Scandella winner.

Vanek earlier in the game also made a terrific assist on Niederreiter’s team-leading 11th goal. Brodziak’s forecheck rushed a clear by a Dallas defender. Vanek picked it off along the wall and immediately found Niederreiter alone in the slot for the bang-bang goal.

I didn’t have the space to get into this on deadline in Saturday’s paper, but I’ll probably run with it Sunday.

Yeo said, “There are a number of things that we’re still working with him. I’m talking to Thomas regularly and talking to him this morning and we’re looking at video and we’re going to support him and we’re going to keep getting him through. This is a different conference he’s playing in. It’s a different team, a different structure and system and the way we play the game is very different than what he’s been doing for a lot of years, so it’s going to take some time. As long as we keep seeing the improvement, everything else will follow along with it. That’s the thing with his skill. As long as he’s doing all the little things and continuing to play the system the right way, it’ll put him in a great position for his skill to shine.”

On Vanek not showing a willingness at time to do those little things or skate, Yeo said, “The consistency is going to come, that’s our job as far as developing the habits. They’re not habits right now and we can talk about capabilities or abilities or whatever, but we have to form habits and that takes time. But we’re seeing some progress here and that’s the key.”

After the Niederreiter goal, Zucker scored his ninth, and he was laboring all game after sustaining what Yeo called a leg bruise and charleyhorse (Twitter docs tell me they’re two separate things, but that’s what Yeo said), so we’ll see if Zucker will be good to go in front of Niklas Backstrom and the Wild on Saturday when the team opens a four-game homestand.

Then, Parise and Pominville set up Granlund. Here’s something interesting, but 15 of the Wild’s 16 goals of the past six games have come from Parise, Scandella, Niederreiter and Zucker.

On the game, Yeo said, “A rollercoaster, yeah. Really liked our first period. Second period you could feel that we were coming out and we were definitely letting them be the aggressors. We were on our heels pretty much right from the first shift and I thought that all the things we were doing well in the first period as far as winning 1-on-1 battles, the detail, all the little things, it was starting to slip and then we scored the third goal, but there was never a point where I was feeling comfortable because we just weren’t going the right way.”

On why he stuck with Kuemper after two, Yeo said, “Yeah it’s what I talked about this morning (see previous blog). Listen, we all would love to just coast through and have things be great night after night. What’s real important is how you handle things when things don’t go well. This is twice now coming into this building he’s bounced back. But I think even more importantly, overcoming the adversity of that second period, for him the way he came out in the third period, have to be real impressed.”

On if he was worried Kuemper would crumble like the LA game or NYR game, “I think this was a different game first of all. It’s not like this was a game where he’s fighting the puck. He was in this game. He was engaged. He was seeing it and tracking it well and playing big in the net. You’re always probably a little bit worried about how are you going to deal with that, even if you’re playing a great game and things haven’t gone well. I just liked the way that he picked himself up after. This is why we left him in last game as well. These are things that you have to deal with. It’s not always going to go the right way. It’s not always going to go the way that you draw it up, but that can’t kill you. You have to be able to find a way and that’s what he did.”

Please read the gamer for Kuemper and Scandella quotes.

Suter and Parise talked a lot after the game about how the Wild needs to learn how to respond the right way after taking leads.

“Too many turnovers the last half of the second period,” Suter said. “We turned the puck over every time we were coming out of our end. We feel very fortunate to come out with two points.

“We’ve got to learn. We have to learn to make the right play. A lot of times we get up three goals, we let our guard down and try to do the extra stuff. That’s usually when it ends up costing us.”

Great game by Parise (three assists, two shots, seven attempts shots, four hits, three takeaways, plus-2) after talking this morning about video work Yeo did with his line to show bad habits that crept into their game.

Scandella was plus-3…Jonas Brodin was plus-2 in his return from the mumps after missing seven games.

Lastly, goalie Josh Harding is expected to make his first Iowa start Sunday at San Antonio. Due to complications with multiple sclerosis that sidelined him the second half last season and then a broken right foot sustained days before the Wild’s training camp, Harding hasn’t played since Dec. 31.

That’s it. I still have to do Wild Minute, get back to the hotel, and it's almost 12:30. Very early flight and I have to fly back to Minnesota via ATLANTA, so not updates via Twitter on the St. Louis game until the late afternoon (No morning skate anyway). Yeo will talk at 4:45 p.m. Saturday. Not positive yet whether myself or Kent Youngblood will be at the controls Saturday, but at the very least, I’ll go to the game to write the notebook, tweet and blog.

Wild postgame: An 'off night' all around

Posted by: Rachel Blount Updated: November 26, 2014 - 11:45 PM

There really isn't much more to say about the Wild's 4-0 stinker against Los Angeles on Wednesday. It does seem interesting in retrospect that coach Mike Yeo seemed so nervous about the game when he spoke after the Wild's morning skate. He promised the game would be neither easy nor fun if the Wild didn't mind the details, which were sorely lacking in a sorry performance.

Goaltender Darcy Kuemper didn't have any real explanation for his poor play. He never looked right, which was magnified as he constantly faced odd-man rushes during the one period he played. Kuemper gave up four goals on 10 shots, including one that trickled through his pads, and sat glumly on the end of the bench for the final 40 minutes as Nicklas Backstrom finished up.

"It was an off night for myself,'' said Kuemper, who had gone 3-1-0 with a 1.60 GAA and .949 save percentage in his previous four games."I was off a little bit tonight, and it cost me.

"I felt good this morning, I felt good in warmups. It was just one of those nights where it doesn't really go your way. It happens. You've just got to get over it.''

Yeo said he considered pulling Kuemper after the second goal, scored by Dustin Brown on a two-on-one. Brown had winger Justin Williams open on his right, but he chose to hold the puck and shoot. That was the one that dribbled through Kuemper's pads.

"I thought about (pulling Kuemper after that goal),'' Yeo said. "I regret not doing that now. Even the third goal (scored at 18:18 by Tyler Toffoli), I thought, 'Well, there's a minute-thirty (left in the period), let's give (Niklas Backstrom) a chance to have a bit of a stretch between periods.' I thought we could get through that.

"The list of regrets I have now is very long. But at some point, you have to battle through that stuff, too.''

The Wild was caught flat-footed throughout the first period, which seemed to disgust winger Zach Parise. "We gave up what, 15 odd-man rushes in the first period?'' he said. "They capitalized on them, and it got away from us after that.''

The Wild outshot the Kings 28-22, but goalie Martin Jones was strong--despite having played in a shootout loss the night before--and his teammates supported him well. The Wild frequently turned the puck over in the neutral zone, and the Kings were all over them in the offensive zone. At one point in the third, Nino Niederreiter--who led the Wild with six shots on goal--got the puck at close range with a good look at the net. The Kings' Trevor Lewis swooped in and lifted Niederreiter's stick to spoil one of the Wild's best chances.

The Wild also missed the net 18 times, were outhit 23-16, whiffed on some good opportunities and were sloppy with their passing.

Yeo said the Wild's performance was "not even close to the way we're supposed to play the game ... We actually came out with some good energy, but execution, details killed us.'' He added that he wished he would have "done some different things to try to alter our focus and our mindset before coming into this game,'' but he declined to elaborate. While Yeo thought the Wild played better later in the game, he said, "I'm not going to try to get any moral victories out of that.''

The Kings were delighted to end a streak of road futility that had begun to play on their minds. They had won once in nine road games before Wednesday.

"This is important, not just for the two points in the standings, but for our psyche,'' Williams said. "It was big getting the lead. Mentally, we were exactly where we needed to be. (The Wild) played us hard in LA (in a 2-1 Kings victory in October). We wanted to show them what we're all about.'' 

The Wild will not skate on Thanksgiving day before traveling to Dallas. "We've played well on the road, so I think we're going to have some confidence,'' Kuemper said. 


Wild outwork the Florida Panthers en route to a good "team win"

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: November 24, 2014 - 10:23 PM

Good win for the Wild tonight at Florida, taking advantage of a team returning home after a long road trip and taking a 4-1 victory to end its three-game road trip with a 2-1 record.

The team returned to Minnesota after the game for a brief pit stop to play the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday before heading to Dallas on Thanksgiving for a Friday divisional battle – the first of a road-home back-to-back that finishes Saturday against St. Louis at Xcel Energy Center.

Jason Zucker scored two goals, Nino Niederreiter one, Zach Parise an empty-netter and Mikko Koivu had one of his best games of the season with two assists. Also, Niklas Backstrom, an outing after blowing a 3-0 lead in the third period to Winnipeg (eventual OT win), rebounded by making some huge stops in a 16 for 16 third to cap a 29-save effort.

Backstrom improved to 6-0-1 all-time against the Panthers and 4-0 in Florida. He improved to 24-3-4 all-time in the first start after being chased and 20-1-2 since March 26, 2008.

Coach Mike Yeo felt Backstrom was dialed in right from the start, as well as his team, which he said brought real focus and an impressive battle level.

“Our guys put a lot into this trip,” Yeo said.

Yeo tweaked his lines tonight, keeping his first line intact, but then putting Thomas Vanek and Zucker with Koivu, Niederreiter with Charlie Coyle and Erik Haula and Justin Fontaine with Kyle Brodziak and Ryan Carter.

Koivu and Zucker was dangerous from the start, with two great Koivu forechecks leading to two great Zucker goals. The first one, Koivu took the puck from Jimmy Hayes. The second one, coming after Florida cut the Minnesota lead to 2-1, came after Koivu and Zucker forechecked the heck out of Erik Gudbranson after a Nate Prosser dump-in.

Gudbranson’s outlet hit Koivu, who slyly backhanded the puck to Zucker, who tiptoed the line and scored a top-shelf backhander against the grain off the post and under the bar.

Pretty goal, and Zucker of course credited Vanek and Koivu after. Zucker had a career-high nine shots, although he said, “I don’t know who was counting them.”

I’ll likely write Zucker for Wednesday’s paper and how he has embraced everything Yeo has thrown at him, especially the penalty kill. Yeo and Koivu had high praise for Zucker after the game, and not so much about the goals and points, but the work ethic that is emblematic often by just how often the guy hustles down the ice to beat out an icing. That of course allows tired guys to get off the ice and avoids D-zone faceoffs.

“I just try to put my head down and skate as fast as I can and hope the [linesman] maybe misses a judgment here or there,” Zucker said.

A taste of the praise from Koivu: “His work ethic right now is another step of wherever he’s been. I think he’s playing his best hockey – not just the points and goals, but overall. If he keeps doing that, he’s going to be a great player, a big future from him.”

Zucker, who like Colorado earlier in the year stopped a potential comeback with that second-period goal, is now tied with Parise for second on the team with eight goals. Niederreiter is first with 10 and he scored an awesome backhand, top shelf breakaway goal in the first for his second winning goal of the season.

All that summer powerskating Niederreiter does in Portland, Oregon, paid off on that goal, but he said he won’t get overconfident and ripped himself for missing the net on three shots and being robbed in the third by Roberto Luongo.

Nick Bjugstad said of the Wild, “They were all over (us). They were on top of pucks and they were supporting each other. We just couldn’t find a way to get the offense going, which is tough. That’s a good team, we’ve got to play them physical and play them tougher than we did.

“They’ve got a lot of skilled players, a lot of fast players so we knew what was coming. We watched video on them and they were no different than any other team. They were ready to play so it was disappointing.”

Luongo said, “They’re a well-instructed team. They’re patient and they wait for the other team to make mistakes and they’ve got some good forwards.”

Said Panthers coach Gerard Gallant, “We had a ‘C’ performance tonight and it’s not good enough. We didn’t compete hard enough, we got outworked in the first two periods so it’s disappointing.

“We weren’t good as a group tonight. We had 20 guys that didn’t compete hard enough and I think you saw a team over there that was hungry to play tonight. … If we’re going to win hockey games we’ve got to outwork teams. We can’t get outworked like we did tonight. It wasn’t the skill of their team that beat us, it was the work ethic that beat us and that’s disappointing.”

That’s it for me. Yeo was deciding on the flight whether or not to practice the team Tuesday. It’s either practice Tuesday or practice on Thanksgiving before flying to Dallas.

If they practice, Rachel Blount will practice. Either way, I’ll have a story in Wednesday’s paper. Rachel is covering the game Wednesday, so follow her on Twitter at @blountstrib. Barring news, you’ll next here from me Friday in Dallas.

Minus-1 on special teams, failed power play yet again costly for the Wild in Tampa Bay

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: November 22, 2014 - 10:34 PM

Part of the maturation of the Wild the past year or so has been coach Mike Yeo putting the young guys out on the ice in more significant roles, like in the final minute in Philly on Thursday when Jason Zucker scored the winning goal or protecting the lead in the final minute Nov. 15 in Dallas when Yeo tossed Zucker, Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund on the ice.

In fact, after that game, Yeo admonished the media that they’re no longer “young guys,” that they’re members of the team.

Fair enough, but the one area where Yeo typically defers to the same vets over and over again with the game on the line is on the power play. And over and over again, and not just this season, the same vets haven’t gotten it done.

Now it’s easier said than done for a coach to NOT throw a Mikko Koivu on the ice or a Thomas Vanek or a Ryan Suter or a Jason Pominville in that situation. It’s certainly easier to say, “Do it,” from the press box or from your couch at home than if you’re standing in Mike Yeo’s shoes.

And if Yeo didn’t throw those guys out tonight with the game on the line with 1:17 left and on a 6-on-4 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, if Yeo went with other personnel and they didn’t score, it’d be easy Monday morning quarterbacking, too, to question the decision.

But there may have to come a point (and very soon) where Yeo says, “You know what, we’re 1 for 38 on the power play on the road (2.6 percent!) and 6 for 62 on the power play overall (9.6 percent), so enough is enough.”

Tonight, with 1:17 left and the Wild searching for the tying goal, Yeo put out his usual cast of Zach Parise, Koivu, Vanek, Pominville and Suter, and playmaker Mikael Granlund. The Wild failed to score on a third power play of the game, registering one shot, a couple near misses on goalmouth scrums and a whole lot of passing.

Parise was fourth in the NHL last year with 14 power-play goals, Koivu is the franchise leader with 165 power-play points, Vanek has 114 career power-play goals, Pominville 223 career goals and Suter is the team’s most trusted defenseman.

So that is why they’re out there.

But of the six players Yeo sent on the ice to tie the game, the only one who has even scored a power-play goal this season is Vanek, and as we have seen, he seems to no longer want to shoot. He had no shots again tonight and has one goal and 35 shots in 19 games. We know Granlund loves to pass and Koivu rarely shoots on the power play.

So there was a big passing mentality on the ice that last 77 seconds. In the meantime, left on the bench was the team’s hottest goal scorer and leading goal scorer Nino Niederreiter, who has scored four of his nine goals on the power play, Coyle and defensemen Marco Scandella and Jared Spurgeon, who have both played well lately and have shooting mentalities.

“There’s a lot of guys that are there based on what they’ve done in the past, and every coach is going to operate like that,” Yeo said. “But it comes to the point that what you’ve done also involves this season, too.

“We’ve probably tried nine, 10 different forwards on the power play and different D pairings. We have to find something that clicks here. It’s tough to keep switching every game, but we’ve got to find something here.”

Parise said it “feels like it’s repetitive. At least we were moving it around and getting chances as opposed to the last couple games where we were just standing around and staring at each other. At least we were moving and getting some shots and some good chances. We had some really good looks at the end but couldn’t get it.”

But Parise said the theme of the power play all season has been “a lot of sitting around and waiting for someone else to do something. We don’t support each other very well. When you’re scoring, you do that stuff naturally. When you’re not, we stand around, we look at each other, we don’t support each other, we don’t retrieve pucks. I don’t think that was so much the case tonight, but that’s kind of been a theme for us for a long time.”

The Wild played an even game with the Lightning, which has scored the most goals in the league. It jumped out to a 1-0 lead on Parise’s seventh when Vanek set him up for a layup … after not even considering shooting. Still, great play for Vanek's team-leading 10th assist.

The Wild had an 8-1 shot lead in the period but still was passing up shots. The most blatant was when Coyle picked off a puck and the Wild didn’t even get a shot off because Granlund and Vanek tried to force passes to Coyle.

In the third, there was a 2-on-1 with Zucker and Vanek and Zucker deferred to Vanek and the pass was turned over.

“For a team that hasn’t scored a lot of goals on the road, we seem to be willing to pass up opportunities to shoot a puck on a scoring chance,” Yeo said. “I can count at least four times where we were in a prime scoring area and we deferred and tried to make a prettier play instead of shooting the puck.”

Then, the game turned when the Wild couldn’t clear the zone on a penalty kill and get a line change. The puck actually got out of the zone, but Jason Garrison retrieved it at the red line and quickly countered so Erik Haula, Kyle Brodziak, Suter and Spurgeon couldn’t get off. By the time their 1:15 shift ended, Steven Stamkos scored a power-play goal with eight seconds left in the power play to cap a 2:19 shift.

The Lightning had the Wild on the ropes the rest of the period and after Granlund and Pominville lost a board battle and Parise blew the zone (he took responsibility for the “mistake” afterward), Alex Killorn deflected Anton Stralman’s shot for the go-ahead goal and eventual winner. Stralman was awesome again tonight just like he was in that 7-2 loss in Minnesota.

The Wild pushed hard in the third, but by then, Ben Bishop was dialed in.

“We played with that desperation that you’d love to see all game,” Parise said.

Pominville sustained a pretty gruesome injury tonight. With 30 seconds left in the first period, he got hit on the right ear by the puck. The puck sliced open the cartilage on top completely, so they needed to sew both sides to stitch it back together. He returned to the game about six or seven minutes into the second and said afterward he’s fine.

Four-game win streak snapped. On to Florida to face Nick Bjugstad, who has been a rock star lately, and the Panthers, who are playing quite well.

Zucker's late winner, Kuemper's goaltending leads Wild to fourth straight win

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: November 20, 2014 - 11:17 PM

The Wild won its fourth in a row tonight here in Philly after a tremendous response to Claude Giroux’s tying power-play goal with 3:30 left.

Jason Zucker, who had no goals in the previous 10 games and no points in the previous eight, buried Ryan Suter’s goalmouth pass for the winner with 45.4 seconds left en route to a 3-2 Wild win, the team’s fourth in a row as it starts a three-game road trip that continues to Tampa Bay and Florida.

Evening, and I am going to be very quick. You can please read the gamer and notebook for the details, but I have a wakeup call in less than three hours.

Darcy Kuemper, who was so good tonight, was rewarded with his ninth win after making a season-high 37 saves behind a team that was throwing pucks away left and right in the first 40 minutes and was outshot 14-6 through one period and 27-13 through two.

On the winner, Thomas Vanek slipped a pass through Wayne Simmonds legs to Suter. He inched in and took a shot that deflected wide, but Charlie Coyle won the race to the puck to get it back to Suter, who then made a great pass to Zucker for the big goal.

Mikko Koivu didn’t play the last 18:50 because he’s sick, coach Mike Yeo said. Yeo doesn’t think it’s mumps symptoms and I saw Koivu after, and although he was unavailable to interview, he definitely didn’t have the classic swollen glands the others had. So the Wild hopes it stays that way.

Koivu was definitely noticeably off his game tonight. Just little energy and the final straw was his blue-line turnover at the end of the early third-period power play tonight. He didn’t play again. But at 1:42, Marco Scandella put the Wild up 2-1 one game after scoring the OT winner vs. Winnipeg.

The Wild missed Koivu in the circle late, especially on that late Philly power play that Giroux scored on.

Nino Niederreiter, who also scored a goal (power-play goal to snap the Wild’s 0 for 32 road PP string), did so many good plays on the shift it was ridiculous. The sequence started with him getting the puck into the zone, then he outworked two Flyers on the forecheck to gather Jared Spurgeon’s rebound.

Finally, after Mikael Granlund outworked Scott Laughton in traffic to keep a puck in, Niederreiter found it and whistled it across for Scandella. He had all the time in the world to skate to the top of the circle and unload.

Scandella made amends for a couple mistakes he made before Philly’s tying goal in the second period to make it 1-1. Not normally on the power play, he seemed unaware that Giroux was coming out of the box. Giroux took it right from him. Then in the D zone, Scandella put Matt Dumba in a bad position with a bad pass, and Dumba turned it over before Mark Streit’s goal.

Check out the game for the strange sequence involving Spurgeon that led to Giroux’s tying goal with 3:30 left.

Yeo looked smart after this one. With many folks critiquing his changing of the lines after a three-game winning streak, that newly created Vanek-Coyle-Zucker line created the winner. Coyle, at center, was real good tonight. Yeo loved Coyle’s game at both ends of the ice. He was plus-2, had six hits, had two shots, drew a penalty and assisted on Zucker’s winner.

Zucker also was good again and his hustle led to a beat-out icing and drawn penalty late in the second. Vanek had glaring turnovers (so did every teammate), but he made play and had the “third assist” on the winner.

The Wild was beyond sloppy the first two periods, but Kuemper kept the Wild in it. Finally Yeo went in between the second and third and told his team to forget the first two periods and go out and win a 1-1 game on the road there for the taking. Make a play or two, he told them, after not moving their feet or trying to make plays in the second, just “throwing it right back to them.”

“We were defending hard, we were blocking shots, guys were willing to pay the price, but I really felt like we were just playing not to lose that hockey game,’ Yeo said. “I liked the way our guys came out in the third period. We really got after it.”

The Wild had 16 shots in that period.

Humorously this morning, Yeo said the Wild needs to start scoring three goals a game on the road.

“And it took all of them and it took almost the whole game to get it,” Yeo said afterward.

Kuemper was awesome and he said he knew he had to be good tonight because the Flyers were going to be hungry.

Yeo said, “He was good and I’m going to make sure he’s ready to be good for the next one, too.”

That's it for me. Josh Harding is backing up for Iowa in Rockford on Friday, by the way.

Talk to you after practice in Tampa on Friday.


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