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, with points in 3 consecutive games, ends Chicago's winning streak

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: January 31, 2013 - 12:04 AM
Big win for the Wild tonight as it ended Chicago’s six-game winning streak – the best start in Blackhawks history – with a 3-2 shootout win to sweep its back-to-back homestand.
 
Matt Cullen and Cal Clutterbuck scored their first goals of the season, Zach Parise and Cullen scored in the shootout and Niklas Backstrom, who replaced Josh Harding 6:45 into the game after Harding gave up two goals on four shots, was spotless with 28 saves the rest of the way.
 
The Wild, 4-2-1, now has points in three in a row as it leaves Thursday for a two-game trip to Anaheim and Phoenix.
 
Backstrom had to be good. The Wild registered four shots in the second and two in the third (outshot 11-2 in the third period). Read the game story for more on Backstrom.
 
The Wild looked like a team that played the night before. Icings a few feet from the red line, turnovers and scrambles, etc. Coach Mike Yeo felt the Wild created issues for itself by overextending shifts and having some bad changes.
 
But before that, the Wild was in control of the game and did a good job limiting the chances of Chicago’s most threatening stars.
 
Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin had a terrific game, with Suter, who has been taking IV’s the last couple days because he’s been sick, logging another 30-minute night. Brodin again, just sensational. There were a couple shifts where he suavely fended off some of the Blackhawks’ most elite players. Again, 19 years old.
 
Tom Gilbert again was awesome on both ends of the ice.
 
Cullen scored 90 seconds in off Mikael Granlund’s rebound.
 
But Harding had an off night and the Blackhawks rallied to take a 2-1 lead. You can tell he was fighting the puck early. Seemed a little surprised by Marian Hossa’s shot from way out, then was beaten by Patrick Sharp but saved by the crossbar.
 
Then Andrew Shaw and Jonathan Toews scored 91 seconds apart, and for the first time in Harding’s home career, he was pulled for a non-injury. Yeo felt terrible but said it was the right move at the time, saying that Harding wasn’t given the best chance to prepare for the game by no pregame skate and limited work in Monday’s practice.
 
It was clear he was just fighting it tonight.
 
Yeo played a lot of the second and third lines down the stretch. The top line has played hard minutes lately, Yeo said, and were terrific early in the game, but it was clear to Yeo that the top line was tired. Dany Heatley really looked spent.
 
Granlund had some tough shifts in the defensive zone, but he was hardly the only one. He does need some pine tar on his stick or something. Dropped it four or five times tonight.
 
But Granlund was one of the few forwards with legs late, so Yeo kept throwing him over the boards. Yeo said tonight was a positive step for Granlund (drew a minor for a 5-on-3, lots of offensive chances created), was moving his feet, saved a goal in overtime. He wasn’t worried putting him on the ice.
 
Good game from Clutterbuck, too, who’s had a real good start to the year and was finally rewarded with a goal.
 
Anyway, big two points obviously and against a real good team. Wild is now 2-0 in the second of back-to-backs (Harding shutout vs. Dallas).
 
The team is off to Anaheim on Thursday. There is no practice, so there may be no blog unless there’s news. But I’ll be with you from SoCal Friday. Jared Spurgeon is coming on the trip, but he hasn’t played or practiced in more than a week, so Phoenix would probably be the earliest he can play if that.

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