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's top line shines in shootout win at Chicago

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: April 1, 2012 - 10:24 PM

Very entertaining game here at the United Center tonight as the Wild overcame the Blackhawks rallying from a 4-2 deficit to beat the playoff-bound team, 5-4, in a shootout.
Five of the Wild’s last six wins have come in a shootout or overtime and the Wild has won five of its last six shootouts and four in a row.
Devin Setoguchi, who was brilliant tonight, scored his fourth shootout goal of the season, and it was the winner. Erik Christensen, on another sick move, scored his 29th career shootout goal. That’s tied for third in the NHL and he is 5 for 7 with the Wild.
The Wild has won three in a row for the first time since it won seven in a row from Nov. 28-Dec. 10 (also known as, “nobody has a clue that the wheels are about to fall off the season in a most catastrophic way starting next game).
Catchy, isn’t it?
The top line of Setoguchi, Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley was outstanding tonight, spending all game virtually in the offensive zone. The line combined for seven points, with Setoguchi notching his 8th career 3-point game and Heatley scoring his 22nd goal and having an assist on Setoguchi’s game-opening breakaway-and-rebound goal.
Heatley’s goal led the team for a period until red-hot Kyle Brodziak again tied him with his 22nd. Koivu also had two assists, including Clayton Stoner’s first goal since Feb. 25, 2011, at Anaheim.
It was an intense, nasty game at times. I guess the Blackhawks aren’t very grateful to the Wild for single-handedly putting them in the playoffs last year!
Three fights, lots of scrums and it all started with Brandon Bollig, a 25-year-old, undrafted, enforcer from St. Lawrence University, lining up next to Heatley after Heatley apparently slashed Patrick Kane (I missed it, but I heard it did happen).
Whatever Bollig said to Heatley, Heatley was breathing fire during an incredible war of words. Right after, Stoner fought Bollig.
“It tells your teammates that you’re there for each other. That stuff is contagious,” coach Mike Yeo said.
Soon after, Setoguchi (who played his best game in a Wild sweater, Yeo felt) got things started with his 19th goal. After a dynamite headman pass by Heatley, Setoguchi was stopped by Ray Emery on a breakaway. But the puck squeezed behind him and Setoguchi found it in the blue paint.
Patrick Sharp answered 34 seconds later after an awesome setup by Wild 2009 first-round pick Nick Leddy (he and Johnny Oduya were real good tonight).
But on an ensuing power play, the Wild continued its marvelous puck movement of late and Heatley completed his 22nd goal by burying a tic-tac-toe from Koivu and Setoguchi.
Victor Stalberg, a threat all night, tied the score early in the second period, but 20 seconds later, Koivu sent in Setoguchi for a tremendous chance and Stoner scored his first goal in 67 games.
Just 41 seconds later, the Wild took a 4-2 lead when Brodziak was hit by Tom Gilbert’s shot, then found the loose puck for the tally.
But Kane cut it to 4-3 late in the second, then Kane tied it with 2:45 left after Koivu tripped Dave Bolland (I thought it was a dive, but Koivu reached in the neutral zone, which is asking for trouble).
Both teams were playing in the second of back-to-backs in Chicago’s regular season final home game. Yeo pretty much used the Koivu and Brodziak lines all game to avoid matchups, plus the Christensen-Nick Johnson-Jason Zucker line spent much of their shifts in the d-zone. Christensen and Zucker were minus-2 and at one point Johnson was minus-3 on eight shifts.
Now that the Wild’s winning, it’s seventh worst in the NHL. Only bottom five gets a crack at the No. 1 overall draft pick.
Yes, this is sooooooooooooooooooooooooo Minnesota Wild. Painful season and blowing its chances for a top-5 pick.
That’s not Yeo’s problem. His job is to win, and he says, create the culture that’ll turn this franchise into a consistent winner.
“I know that our scouts are going to get a good player,” Yeo said. “My job is not to try to help the scouts in this situation.”
If you didn’t see, Steve Kampfer suffered a knee injury and is done. Warren Peters has a pinched nerve and will meet the team in Nashville. If he can play and no other forward is hurt, Cody Almond will have to go back. I thought he played real well tonight and got into a good scrap with Andrew Shaw.
Also, Nate Prosser played a great, great game, and Gilbert was terrific. Logged 31:56 of ice time. Four of his top six ice times in his career are with Minnesota and this was his second most, topping last night.
On to Nashville for the last road game of the season.Talk to you Monday.

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