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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One-goal-a-game Wild caves in the third to Anaheim, loses yet again

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: February 14, 2012 - 10:52 PM

Happy Valentine’s Day everybody!!!! The Wild left you with broken hearts yet again.
I mean, all that fun you were having doing that really hip “Wave” in the third period of a 1-0 game, and that was stopped in its absolute tracks at the exact moment it circled the X when Mikko Koivu, maybe distracted by all the arms going up, coughed up the puck for Niklas Hagman’s tying goal.
Just a joke.
In all honestly though, did I miss the memo on the Wave?
I’ve covered Wild home games since 2005. I don’t remember fans doing the “Wave” until the last two home games. I know the “Wave” is done at a lot of Canadian home games still, but the last time I remember doing it was at New York Mets games … in the summer of 1986!
Wild fans better hope the Wave isn’t done here Thursday because if it is, it may be a real good night for the Jets. I hear busloads of fans are coming down from Winnipeg.
The punchless Wild caved yet again tonight, scoring one goal yet again tonight and left stinging from its fifth consecutive loss (2-1 to Anaheim) to fall to 5-16-5 since Dec. 13.
Koivu’s big bro forced his turnover on the tying goal, then Corey Perry won it four minutes later with 7:39 left to send the one-goal-a-game Wild off with another crippling loss.
It’s a shame, too. The Wild defended well, worked hard, came up with some clutch penalty kills against the Ducks’ top-heavy No. unit of Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan, Teemu Selanne and Cam Fowler.
But this team simply can’t score. It’s a complete, annoying, skipping, scratching, nails-on-a-chalkboard, broken record already.
I can’t stand writing it anymore. If I had a $1 for every time I had to listen to somebody tell me they need to get to the net and score more greasy goals, I’d have more money than that lucky PowerBall winner.
This ain’t no aberration. They’re not getting robbed every single night. They’re not just so unlucky that they can’t ever, ever, ever bury an odd-man rush goal.
This team stinks at scoring. And scoring, well, is integral in the game of hockey.
I heard that somewhere once.
The Wild tried to defend this game to a 1-0 win, much I’m sure to the delight of the NBC Sports Network viewers. But it didn’t work.
And right now, because of its complete lack of offense, it’s beyond fragile. Early in the season, it could stick with it and win a game like this … easy. Not anymore. Not even close. You just knew the Ducks’ comeback was coming.
And of course, like all losing teams, they can’t buy a break. Missed nets, pipes, blocked shots and absolutely no benefit of the doubt from the refs.
Tonight was almost comical.
Seconds after Carson McMillan is given four minutes for high-sticking, the Wild forces a neutral-zone turnover. Kyle Brodziak’s got a potential shorthanded breakaway. Ryan Getzlaf blatantly bowls him over. Most refs give you the benefit for the effort and call the penalty.
Not tonight with Denis LaRue or Ghislain Hebert.
On the Hagman goal, moments before, Marek Zidlicky is tripped by Hagman. No call. Before the Perry goal, Nick Johnson is picked at the blue line by Jason Blake. No call. And the most obvious. LaRue ignores a blatant hook by Luca Sbisa in front of Jonas Hiller with five minutes left on Erik Christensen. The play goes the other way and Hebert whistles Nate Prosser for tripping Bobby Ryan.
But again, these are the things that happen when you’re in a funk like this. Not an excuse for the Wild’s epic season crumble. But it sure doesn’t help.
The loss was a shame because there were plenty of positives tonight BEFORE the third-period fizzle.
I liked the Prosser-Nick Schultz pair. Guys were committed to blocking shots, like when Marco Scandella saved a goal from Matt Beleskey and Johnson maybe saved a goal from Perry and Greg Zanon got in front of Perry’s shot in the slot and cleared the puck at the end of the second on the PK.
And Zidlicky played well for a second consecutive game. Maybe that’ll help GM Chuck Fletcher trade him, and I do hear from multiple sources it could be coming. If Fletcher finds a trade partner (Chicago?, New Jersey? maybe), it’ll be up to Zidlicky because he has a no-trade. I do think he’s open to waiving it.
The Wild, even though it’s hardly all his fault, cannot win with Zidlicky in the lineup. It’s amazing. The Wild is 2-14-5 in the last 21 games he’s played (1-10-2 in the last 13) and 13-4 in the last 17 without him.
Dany Heatley scored his 134th career power-play goal and team-leading 19th goal of the season when Zidlicky made a marvelous play to slide along the blue line and drag two penalty killers with him.
Zidlicky then made a blind 50-foot pass across the slot to the back door for Heatley’s tap-in. It was Zidlicky’s first power-play assist since Nov. 8; Koivu drew the second assist.
But the play was made by Brodziak, who used strong body positioning to knock Perry off the puck before it trickled to Zidlicky.
But for the third consecutive game on this homestand, the Wild struck first, struck early and still lost.
What a shame this season has become.
If you want some humor, go back in my Twitter feed tonight at www.twitter.com/russostrib (if you can stomach it) and read my Lou Nanne tweets as I tried to explain to him Twitter.
He, well, doesn’t get it. Nanne is downright hysterical, as you know. His one-liners were very funny.
OK, that’s it for me. Hope you had a good Valentine’s Day. I will talk to you after Wednesday’s practice.
 

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