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 wins four in a row, prepares for five-game road trip

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: November 5, 2011 - 11:14 PM

Well, the Wild can win in a trounce when things come easy, and the Wild showed Saturday night it can respond to a big emotional win by working its way to a tight win.

Four in a row and counting as the Wild hits the road Monday after practice for a 5-game road trip to Calgary, San Jose, L.A, Anaheim and Columbus, who could be run by a new regime very, very soon after tonight's hideous 9-2 whipping in Philly.

Tonight, even when it was scoreless, it felt like the Wild was in firm control. Tonight, even when it was 2-0, it felt like the Wild was annihilating the Blues. Of course, that wasn't in actuality, proven when Jamie Langenbrunner wasn't very Minnesota Nice and ruined Josh Harding's shutout bid with 2:02 left to make for a tense final 122 seconds (math major).

But the Wild got the puck deep, played physically with the Blues D and finally forced them into some big turnovers and some poor discipline.

Funny scene at the start of the third period when the penalty boxes were filled with four players each. Then, David Backes and Guillaume Latendresse got into it, Backes got four minutes (meaning two men had to go to the sin bin) and Latendresse got two. That meant 11 players were squeezed into the penalty box (math major).

Funny scene, yes, as Mike Yeo looked down his slim bench and nearly threw Brad Staubitz on the power play.

The Wild had its legs, but this was a very different game than Thursday's rout. The Wild had to work, sweat and hit its way to a win. It had to block shots, like when Nick Schultz saved a goal in the first, and Nate Prosser helped create Dany Heatley's goal in the second my taking Jason Arnott's shot on the left foot.

The puck popped out to Mikko Koivu, who took off on a 2-on-1 that Heatley finished. Then Guillaume Latendresse scored the eventual winner late on a sickly slick backhander for the second game in a row.

Yeo wasn't overly ecstatic afterward, saying the start wasn't the greatest, and, "We weren’t as sharp in a lot of areas. I didn’t think we took straight lines to the puck as much, I thought we let them off the hook a little bit sometimes, but that [Latendresse] goal is a good example of what happens if you take a straight line to the puck, go stick on puck and create the turnover and away we go."

Harding was great again with 30 saves and tied his career high with his fourth straight win (0.77 goals against average and .977 save percentage) during the stretch. He's now 4-0-1 with a 1.18 GAA and .965 SP. He is 14-5-2 all-time at home as a starter, with a 2.15 GAA and .929 SP. Since Jan. 3, 2009, Harding is 7-0-2 with a 1.84 GAA and .944 SP. He hasn't lost a game at home in regulation since Oct. 30, 2008 vs. Montreal.

Still, Niklas Backstrom will almost certainly start in Calgary. They have to get him back in and he's 4-0 there in his past five starts with a 0.63 GAA and .979 SP. They can't go on a 5-game trip without getting this guy a game.

Heatley scored the first goal for the Wild for the third time this season. His four goals have been big. One winner vs. Columbus, one in Edmonton with 1.2 tics left to tie it, the only goal in a 1-0 win vs. Detroit and what would have been the winner tonight if Langenbrunner was Minnesota Nice.

Latendresse has 22 goals in 43 home games as a Wild.

During the 4-game win streak, the Wild is 14 for 14 on the penalty kill. Matt Cullen, who said last week the Wild has to start winning draws, has walked the talk. He's won 25 of 32 the past two games.

That's it for me. The Wild is off Sunday, so I'll have a follow in Monday's paper that should be pretty good. Also, check out my Sunday Insider with answers to many of those questions the other day.

Kent Youngblood is covering Monday's practice as I head to Calgary. Talk to you Tuesday.

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