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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Postgame: Thoughts after Koivu, Harding lift Wild to sixth consecutive home win

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: November 17, 2013 - 11:49 PM

Evening from the X, where Mikko Koivu scored both goals and Josh Harding made 21 saves (8 on Blake Wheeler alone) to lift the Wild to a 2-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets for its sixth straight home win.

Read the game story for the details on www.startribune.com/wild, but Jets fans came in droves, chanted, taunted Harding, causing Wild fans to boo and give it right back with loud “Let’s Go Wild” cheers.

“So how about our fans tonight? It was awesome. I loved it,” coach Mike Yeo said. “Their fans are great, there’s no question. They travel well. They’re loud. I thought our fans were awesome.”

Read more about that in the gamer, like I mentioned, but one’s got to think Harding should be one of the three Stars of the Week on Monday in the NHL. Four goals in three wins and 12 goals in eight games (7-0-1) this month to help left the Wild, which has points in 12 of its last 13 (10-1-2).

Harding is 9-0-2 since Oct. 17 for the longest point streak in a single season by a goalie in Wild history. He is 10-0 at home with a 1.15 GAA. He is 12-2-2 overall and leads the NHL with a 1.26 GAA and .946 SV%. In his career at the X, he is 31-9-2, including 24-4-1 since Jan. 27, 2010.

Koivu recorded his 13th career multi-goal game and Zach Parise tried to set him up for the empty-net hat trick, but Parise said that he led him too far with the pass. Koivu’s winner came with 3:12 left after he won a draw to Ryan Suter. Suter patiently sent it to Charlie Coyle, who cut down low along the half wall, spun away from Keaton Ellerby and passed to Koivu in the left circle, who one-timed a laser past Ondrej Pavelec.

Koivu has nine points in his past six games.

“Offensively, I sure hope he keeps going the way he is right now because defensively, every single night, he’s just a guy that’s extremely difficult to play against,” Yeo said.

Suter logged 30:08 of ice time and blocked a career-high seven shots. The Wild, the NHL’s third-best faceoff team (.549), won 33 of 52 faceoffs.

The Wild is the best defensive team in the West, giving up 1.95 goals per game (2nd in the NHL). It has allowed the fewest shots in the NHL (24.0) and the fewest 5-on-5 goals (19 in 21 games).

Marco Scandella had another outstanding game, assisting on Koivu’s first goal. Since being scratched in three in a row, Scandella is plus-9 in 15 games with one minus-1 game in that stretch. His MO has been inconsistency, but that’s awfully consistent and I think one big thing is he doesn’t have the minors hanging over his head anymore.

Mikael Granlund had another outstanding effort. Great on both sides of the puck, and Koivu and Granlund did this with Finnish brass Jari Kurri and Erkka Westerlund in the press box scouting. Granlund had four shots, attempted eight shots and won 8 of 11 draws after winning 7 of 10 last game. He's also sneakily good with the stick, constantly taking pucks away from unsuspecting opponents like his countryman and mentor, Koivu.

Matt Dumba looked much more at ease tonight and Jonas Brodin was much better than recent games.

The Wild got off to an outstanding start tonight, dominated the first period and jumped out to a 1-0 lead on Koivu’s first goal. It left some other goals on the ice, so to speak. Kyle Brodziak missed the net on a couple chances, Nino Niederreiter set up a three scoring chances on one shift, including one from his belly, Jason Pominville was stopped from in tight, Jared Spurgeon whistled one wide of the net during a monster shift by the top line.

The momentum turned with a second-period penalty, and Harding had to be great. For the second game in a row, the Wild began to get sloppy in the neutral zone and that made life difficult on itself as the Jets began to pressure.

Dustin Byfuglien scored 54 seconds into the third, but Yeo said, “Once they tied it up, something clicked.”

Koivu then tied it. For the second game in a row, it was that line on the ice for the tying goal only to recover and get the winner.

On the Parise-Koivu-Coyle line, Yeo said, “Those guys were going all night. That line was great all night long, so I’m not surprised to find them in that situation.”

Parise, always honest though, said the Wild had to figure out why it’s getting some complacent in games it’s dominating because it will eventually catch up to them. Remember, the Wild has yet to play teams like San Jose, St. Louis, Coloradoand Phoenix, and he said “there are good teams out there that will make you pay for it.”

Wild hits the road for four after practice Monday, heading to Montreal (Scandella’s second return to his hometown), Ottawa (Matt Kassian), Winnipeg and St. Louis (Team Minnesota!)

I’ve got a couple good stories in the works, a couple that may be in Tuesday’s paper. I’ll talk to you after Monday’s practice, although I’ll have to hustle to make my flight, so who knows when. That’s it for me.

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