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 season on the brink after shutout loss tonight to Chicago

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: May 8, 2013 - 1:08 AM
The Blackhawks can light you up offensively. And when they want, they can completely shut you down defensively, and that’s what we all witnessed tonight at the X.
 
The Wild attempted 68 shots tonight. Just 25 got through because the Blackhawks, the best team in the league all year and the team that gave up the fewest goals in the NHL, tightened up, clamped down and squeezed the collar around the Wild’s neck.
 
Twenty-six Wild shots blocked. Seventeen shots missed, in large part because the Wild began trying to whistle pucks wide of the shooting lanes that were jammed packed of bodies. The result was a 3-0 loss and 3-1 series deficit with Game 5 – potentially the last game of the Wild’s 2012-13 season – Thursday in Chicago (8:30 p.m., Fox Sports North, KFAN).
 
Good early morning from the X, where the Wild lost another goalie to injury tonight (Josh Harding, went scoreless on another six power plays tonight and again just didn’t get it done tonight.
 
Aggravating game because it was hanging in the balance early and even late for the Wild to either take or get back into. But the Wild’s power play – now 0 for 15 in the series – failed and failed and failed, especially on back-to-back advantages to start the third period.
 
Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise each were minus-2 and now are a combined minus-11 in the series. Parise’s been limited to one goal, Koivu, who just doesn’t look to be skating well to me, has been limited to no points.
 
“We’ve got to score on them. It’s as simple as that,” Parise said when asked how much he and Koivu need to step up.
 
Koivu said, “You can’t get frustrated. Obviously it’s hard. It’s tough when you’re trying to create and it’s not going in. Players go through that. I have to be able to find a way to get it to the net and keep creating.”
 
Coach Mike Yeo said of the two forwards, “It probably wasn’t the greatest of nights, but if you know them the way I do, you are very excited to see them play Thursday night.”
 
It was the fifth time the Wild has been shut out in the playoffs and first since the 2003 Western Conference Finals.
 
“It’s do or die,” Suter said. “Every single guy has to play their best game if we want a chance to keep at this thing. It’s tough to reset. But we have to go in there with a mindset of, ‘Hey, we have nothing to lose.’”
 
The power play has let the Wild down over and over again. Tonight, Jason Pominville returned, played the point on the power play for the first time as a Wild and couldn’t help it break out. Kyle Brodziak, out there to win draws on the power play, lost most on the power play. They’ve seemed to stop using Parise down by the goal line. And again, Chicago just blocked shots left and right.
 
“It’s tough when you have a lot of chances on your power play and you have nothing to show for it. We had some good looks, but I guess it doesn’t matter if you don’t score.”
 
Said Parise, “They collapse well and they get into shooting lanes. They’re passive, so it looks like we’ve got a lot of time and room. But they do a good job of getting in the shooting lane. So we have to figure out how to get through that. And when we did get through, we had a lot of rebounds that popped through your legs.”
 
Said Koivu, “We have to find a way. They’re playing good. They’re on the lanes. We’ve got to find a way to break that down and get that puck to the net.”
 
The first goal came because Koivu tried to hit Parise as he was exiting the zone. Marian Hossa picked it off and seconds later, Patrick Sharp scored the first of his two goals on a deflection.
 
“We caught them on a turnover with their D down, so Mikko was trying to spring us for a 2-on-1,” Parise said. “It’s the right play by him. If that gets through, we’ve got a 2-on-1. Unfortunately it didn’t.”
 
Then, Jonathan Toews landed on Harding during a deke where he lost the puck. Harding stayed down for a bit, slowly got up and at the next stoppage was flexing his left leg. He gutted it out but Darcy Kuemper started the second.
 
He gave up a goal on the first shot he saw after a sloppy Parise turnover. Still, bad goal, but he was ice cold.
 
I’d assume Nik Backstrom starts Thursday now. He put on pads as an emergency goalie tonight and sat on the bench in the third.
 
Now the Wild has to somehow win in Chicago.
 
“You guys count us out quite a bit,” Parise said. “So we’ll have to rebound and work on winning that next game and getting this series back here.”
 
On the Blackhawks, Parise said, “They play well. They’re so good with the puck and when you make a mistake they make you pay. There’s a reason why they were on top of the league all year and why they went 20-some games without a loss. They’re a very good team. We have to play a great game to beat them. Tonight we didn’t capitalize on our opportunities. That’s all.”
 
No Wild practice Wednesday. We have availability at 1:15 p.m. I’ll talk to you afterward.
 

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