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 shuts out Avalanche to extend division lead to 5 points

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: November 18, 2011 - 12:09 AM

It wasn't pretty. In fact, I took a red eye home this morning from a far off place, was on no sleep and was able to take a nap during parts of this game.

But just when overtime looked on the horizon, a Dany Heatley shot hit Erik Johnson and the puck deflected right to Devin Setoguchi, who didn't miss with 2:31 left to lift the Wild to a 1-0 win over Colorado. The Wild won for an eighth time in 10 games (12 in 16 over Colorado) to move five points up in the Northwest Division.

As Heatley said, "0-0 game, both teams aren’t doing much. ... In those games, something like that usually happens in the end."

He called it a lucky break, but coach Mike Yeo said the line did exactly what it should do on that scenario and got rewarded for such.

Other than that, it was not a good night for that line, but the winner is why Yeo says he'll continue to stick with the line that often times seems to lack chemistry and puck support. Plus, the Wild keeps winning, so why tinker with the other lines -- especially that third line.

Yeo called the job Darroll Powe, Kyle Brodziak and Nick Johnson did against Matt Duchene, Paul Stastny and Milan Hejduk “phenomenal.”

Niklas Backstrom has seized his job back convincingly as he keeps on winning. He often beats Colorado, making 27 saves for his 24th shutout and second of the season. He is 18-4-2 with a 2.18 goals against average and .927 save percentage lifetime vs. the Avs and 11-2-1 at home.

The Wild wasn't sharp tonight, but again defended real well as you can read in the gamer.

Through two periods, the Wild’s best chance came from normally stay-at-home defenseman Nick Schultz, who in his 700th game tried to be an offensive defenseman for a change. In the first period, the vet joined the rush. In the second, he was absolutely robbed after a rare strong shift by the Wild’s No. 1 line.

Setoguchi’s solid play behind the net set up Mikko Koivu in the circle. Koivu found his road roommate, Schultz, pinching in. Schultz skated deep into the slot, deked and tried to slide home a backhander. The puck actually sneaked underneath Jean-Sebastien Giguere’s pad, but defenseman Jan Hejda’s stick was perfectly positioned to deny Schultz of his first goal of the season.

"Normally I try to shoot it in the pad. This time I tried to make a move. I should have just shot it," said Schultz, kiddingly.

The Avs were ticked that on the game-winner, Cal Clutterbuck got away with a high-stick on Jay McClement by the Wild bench. McClement said Clutterbuck got him with a good one but said that with so many bodies at the bench on a change, he understands why the refs may not have seen it.

Yeo was unhappy with two things:

1) At 10:33 of the third, David Jones, fuming after just getting rocked by Colton Gillies, caught Justin Falk as he tried to catch a puck. Jones left his feet and nailed Falk with a shoulder to the face.

Yeo said Falk's 6-4 and got hit in the face, so do the math, Jones was a foot off the ice.

Luckily for the Wild, it killed off the power play and in fact has killed 17 straight power plays at home and 14 in a row during the four-game home winning streak.

The Wild has given up 15 goals in nine home games for a 1.67 goals against average and 37 goals in 19 games overall for a 1.95 goals against average.

2. Yeo was real upset when with a few seconds left, Erik Johnson went into the corner and attempted an elbow at Matt Cullen's head. If it connected, it could have been ugly and Yeo said earned Johnson a long suspension. Here's that clip. It's really unlike Johnson

That's it for now. Ken Hitchcock and the Blues come to town Saturday.

Talk to you after Friday's practice. Very excited. Heading over to St. Cloud tomorrow night to catch St. Cloud-Minnesota. Who's going to be there?

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