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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Like kissing your sister, Wild loses in a shootout for third time in four home games

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: March 16, 2014 - 8:51 AM

In tonight’s 2-1 shootout loss to Columbus, the Wild became the first team this season to have a 2-0 lead in a shootout and lose. In fact, it’s the second straight shootout Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu opened up with consecutive goals and the Wild still lost.

The Wild went 1-0-3 on its homestand and now has a five-point lead on the Stars and Coyotes, who beat Calgary tonight. Calgary rallied from a 2-0 deficit, but then Phoenix had five power plays in the third and scored on one of them. Apparently, according to Twitter, the officiating was dubious to say the least.

By the way, prior to losing three shootouts on this homestand, the Wild had won seven of eight shootouts.

Read the game story for all the details and the quotes about the feelings a 1-0-3 homestand left the Wild with, but tonight, the Wild had the better of the chances in a very exciting hockey game tonight but couldn’t beat Sergei Bobrovsky through 65 minutes other than Jason Pominville’s tying goal early in the third.

Prior to the faceoff, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter whispered to each other. If they won the draw, the plan was for Suter to try to hit Parise with a breakaway pass. The puck just bounced over Parise’s stick and into the zone. Parise beat out the icing and set up Pominville’s 25th. He became the 13th 25-goal scorer in Wild history and the first since Andrew Brunette and Guillaume Latendresse in 2009-10.

Before the shootout, Darcy Kuemper was beaten on one fluky goal with 21.6 seconds left in the second on a double deflection – a point shot hit Matt Cooke’s stick, then Jonas Brodin’s knee.

As I mentioned, Parise and Koivu gave the Wild a 2-0 lead. Artem Anisimov cut it to 2-1. Pominville could have won it but fired over the net. Mark Letestu, whom Kuemper robbed a few times in the game, tied it. Then Matt Moulson missed for Minnesota before Ryan Johansen won it after a deke. The goal was initially waved off because the officials thought Johansen scored on a rebound, but replays showed Kuemper never touched the puck with his attempted poke-check.

Kuemper fell on the knife after, saying all he has to do is make a save up 2-0. Coach Mike Yeo jumped to his defense after the game.

Bobrovsky was unreal. The game was reminiscent of April 13, 2013, when Bobrovsky strutted into Xcel Energy Center and was under assault by the Wild. In a game Minnesota outshot Columbus 41-22, Bobrovsky made 39 saves in a 3-2 shootout win.

But Pominville scored with 3:15 left to force overtime, and that point wound up costing the Blue Jackets a playoff spot. The Wild and Blue Jackets tied in points, but the Wild had the tiebreaker over Columbus and got the eight seed.

“I don’t know what it is, I don’t know if it’s being in Minnesota, or if there’s something in this building, certainly looks like he’s comfortable playing in this building and he’s the main reason why we got two points tonight,” Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said.

Yeo knows if you lose in a shootout, it “paints an ugly picture.”

But he loved the way the Wild played tonight. Their defensemen were pretty great tonight and despite the better of the chances, they just couldn’t get more than one through 65 minutes past BOB.

“We can’t sit here and let a shootout affect how we feel about the way that we’re playing the game,” Yeo said.

Bottom line though, the Wild, despite the acquisition of Moulson and Mikko Koivu’s return, still have to work sooooo hard to score. In fact, it’s been 11 straight games in which the Wild has scored three or fewer goals.

Koivu had no shots tonight. He has no goals and two assists and nine six shots in six games since returning from a broken ankle. His line isn’t scoring, looks slow and isn’t generating much off the cycle. This is a concern because it’s almost impossible to break up the Zach Parise-Mikael Granlund-Jason Pominville line.

Granlund had another terrific game. Four shots on goal, eight attempted, won 11 of 18 faceoffs.

Tonight Nino Niederreiter played on that line. I think Charlie Coyle should go back up there to add a little more speed or maybe toss Justin Fontaine back in the lineup. Another option even would be Matt Cooke.

Speaking of Fontaine, I think it’s time for him to return. McCormick’s had five games. He has no points. There haven’t been any big hits, no fights. The fourth line isn’t scoring.

Still, the Wild battled hard tonight, would have won easy if not for BOB and Yeo’s trying hard to make sure a 1-0-3 homestand doesn’t infiltrate the team with negativity. It’s tough right now because with this crazy schedule, there’s been very little practice time.

In fact, with three of four coming up on the road and Yeo sensing tired bodies, he’s canceled practice Sunday. And with back-to-back games Monday and Tuesday in Boston and on Long Island, one of the league-mandated days off will be Wednesday.

So that means all the Wild’s practice time this upcoming week will have to come during morning skates.

No penalties for the Wild in this home game. Third time in Wild history and first since 2004.

Suter picked up his 30th assist. The only other Wild defensemen to hit that mark in history was Marek Zidlicky (twice).

That’s it for now. The Wild plays in Boston on Monday. The Bruins are the best team in the East by far and have won eight in a row. Won’t be easy. The goaltending decision will be interesting. Few teams win in Boston. Would Yeo maybe consider saving his No. 1, Kuemper, for Tuesday’s game against the Islanders (a game the Wild must win) and start Ilya Bryzgalov in Boston?

We’ll see. No practice Sunday. Talk Monday barring news.

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