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Russo's Rants

Michael Russo gives you complete coverage of the Minnesota Wild and the NHL

Postgame: Balanced scoring, huge second period lead to Wild's first road win

Tonight, by a 5-0 score, the Wild handed the Boston Bruins their most lopsided shutout loss since a 6-0 loss in Buffalo on Feb. 8, 2012, and their worst shutout loss at home since a 6-0 defeat to Los Angeles on Jan. 12, 2006.

Good win for the Wild, which not only won for the first time in four road games this season (1-2-1), it won for the first time on this road trip (1-1-1) that ends Thursday in Buffalo.

Charlie Coyle, Chris Stewart, Ryan Suter and Jason Zucker struck four times in the second period to snap a scoreless tie and Jason Pominville added a third-period goal. Rookie Joel Eriksson Ek, playing only his third NHL game, recorded three assists in only 8:55 of ice time for his first multi-point game and Devan Dubnyk made 27 saves for his 20th career shutout and 11th with the Wild.

Zucker had three points and was plus-3. Suter scored a power-play goal, had an assist, was plus-3, had four shots, two hits and two blocked shots. Matt Dumba had an assist and was physical. He was plus-3. Eric Staal won 13 of 18 draws. I thought Christian Folin was real good again, and frankly, Nate Prosser was outstanding in the first period especially. He made two great defensive plays to foil rushes by Boston.

I wrote my game notebook on Eriksson Ek, but at 19 years, 270 days, he is the second-youngest in Wild history to post three points in a game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The youngest was Marian Gaborik at 19 years, 244 days, on Oct. 16, 2001.

 But that came in Gaborik’s second season, not three games into his first.

Eriksson Ek, a plus-3 tonight, is a good one, folks. Fast, decent size, great vision, good shot, smart and very responsible defensively.

Obviously, everybody’s asking on Twitter if I think he’ll stay the full year. It really is way premature to say for certain now, but I do think so. The kid’s mature beyond his years.

It is funny how he’s starting to get grief from his teammates for being so quiet on the bench. Guys joked after that they’re giving him a lot of you know what on the bench for being so quiet and shy.

Bruce Boudreau wasn’t paying attention, saying, “I couldn't even get his name out. I was calling him, Yool, Joel, Ekky, Erik. Then somebody called him a name and that'll probably stick.”

“Ekker,” I believe, is what will stick.

“He’s playing well. He sees the ice well, he makes plays,” Suter said. “Every once in awhile he gets caught, but that’s what happens when you’re a young guy and not really used to certain players or the speed of certain players. But he’s stepped right in, and he’s done a good job and he’s a great kid. Like he’s a lot of fun to be around in the locker room.”

On what they say to him on the bench, Suter said, laughing, “We give it to him. It’s fun. You know, when you’re young, you’re kind of shy, you’re sitting back, so we kind of lighten the mood a little bit.”

Coyle, the Bostonian, scored his first goal in seven career games against his hometown team.

This afternoon, I ran into a Boston cop on the street who gave Coyle a ride-along this summer. The officer showed up at the Wild’s morning skate today with Boston Police hats and shirts for many of Coyle’s teammates. They loved it.

Stewart, who’s in the midst of a rough road trip, had a tough first period and one shift before scoring, Boudreau looked like he was going to have a conniption on the bench when Stewart turned the puck over. But Stewart scored to make it 2-0 just 12 seconds after Coyle.

“He scored a goal. He was ready to battle for our team if he needed be,” Boudreau said. “That's why I changed the lines up a little bit and put him with [Zac] Dalpe in the third. He can be better [though].”

(He moved with Dalpe because he was worried the Bruins would go after him after a boarding minor).

The Coyle and Stewart goals were one second short of the Wild road record for fastest two goals, set by Mattias Weinhandl and Wes Walz in 2006. I remember it like it was yesterday. 

“The second period I think once we scored that first goal it rattled their goalie (Malcolm Subban) pretty well because we scored right again,” Boudreau said. “Once we scored the second goal it gave us the confidence to keep going. It was a good period. Whenever we can outscore a team 4-0 in a period I think it's great. And I thought in the third period we did just enough to get it deep and get it deep and they had a couple little rallies in our zone. But I thought overall we were pretty good in the third.”

The Wild has scored an NHL-best 15 second-period goals.

“Well, we’ve got to try to do that in the first now,” Zucker said. “I think we need to have better starts.”

Added Suter, “That first period was ugly. We thought it was going to be a long night if we kept playing like that. We knew that we had more. We finally started to play the way we need to play, get pucks at the net, bodies at the net and play in the offensive zone a little bit more. We want to get it going a little earlier obviously. Hopefully we can change that and get our first periods going and have a complete game.”

The Wild now has 16 goal scorers, the most in the NHL.

“It's great balance,” Boudreau said. “That's what we need. If we can have balanced scoring in this league then every line becomes a dangerous line. That's what we're striving for.”

Dubnyk, on the game, said, “It was great. That’s what we’re looking for on the road. We play a solid first, we all knew we had more. A couple big goals and what’s exciting for us is the way we played in the third. We played hard, we got scoring chances, we outscored them, we did a lot of great things in the neutral zone, and that’s what we have to do to win.”

On getting the second goal so quick after Coyle, Dubnyk said, “And a great play. Hard work by those guys down there. Ekky had a real big night and that was the start of it there. It’s nice to see Stewy put ‘em in. He means a lot to all of us in here. It’s always fun to see him score and that was a big goal for us.”

That’s it for moi. Please read the game story and notebook on Eriksson Ek.

I'll be on KFAN at 9 a.m., barring flight delay. I'm also filling in for Barreiro on Friday from 3-6:30 p.m.

Talk to you from Buffalo.

Goalie crisis forcing Bruins to start inexperienced Subban against Wild

We'll find out nine or 10 hours if the Wild can take advantage of a break it's at least theoretically catching tonight.

Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask is hurt. Former Wild goalie Anton Khudobin was injured in Boston's practice yesterday.

That means Malcolm Subban will make his his second career start tonight against the Wild. Subban, 22, the younger brother of Nashville Predators defenseman PK Subban, was pulled in his only previous NHL start Feb. 20, 2015, in St. Louis. He gave up three goals on six shots in 32 minutes of action.

This season in Providence? Pulled in two of his first three starts and he's 0-3-1 with a 4.50 goals-against average.

Coach Bruce Boudreau says he has been around long enough to know that a kid with little NHL experience doesn't mean a shoo-in victory for the opposing team.

Former Blues captain David Backes, the pride of Spring Lake Park High whom the Wild pursued in free agency, is out for the Bruins tonight, too.

Devan Dubnyk will start for the Wild tonight.

Top two lines for the Wild, 0-1-1 on the road trip and 0-2-1 on the road this season, are expected to be the same as the Islanders game:



The other two lines were mixed up:

Pulkkinen-Eriksson Ek-Pominville


Also, Jared Spurgeon skated with the Wild this morning. Boudreau said he anticipates that as long as Spurgeon felt good that he'll skate tomorrow in Buffalo and perhaps return against the Sabres on Thursday.

Boudreau also said center Erik Haula, who like Spurgeon will miss his third straight game tonight, wants to skate in Buffalo tomorrow. If he feels good, Boudreau said Haula could be a game-time decision in Buffalo.

Boudreau wants better, more consistent play tonight. The fact the Wild is allowing 3.17 goals per game and almost 30 shots a game doesn't mean he's displeased with the defensive-zone coverage.

He noted that even though the Wild "basically" gave up five goals vs. the Islanders (excluding the empty-netter), "three were of the should have been stopped kind of variety" by Darcy Kuemper.

"I'd like to break out in the middle a little more rather than jam pucks up the boards," he said, though.

By the way, as dissatisfied as Boudreau was with Kuemper the other night, he claims this won't make him rethink yet how much he uses him.

"Still, his body of work for his career indicates he’s one of the better backups, and he’ll play," the coach said.

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