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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Poor first period dooms the Wild in Chicago's latest victory

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: March 5, 2013 - 11:35 PM
Mike Yeo pointed out this morning that when playing a team as on fire as the Blackhawks, the most important thing is not to lose sight of “what we are doing when playing well.”
 
The Wild, usually so positionally sound in its own end, got caught in there the final 10 minutes of the first period and gave up four goals in a span of 5:43 after Devin Setoguchi struck first.
 
The Wild got caught watching. Players lost puck battles all over the player, got beaten to pucks, let Blackhawks players stand in front of the net and were frankly soft. No physicality despite the bogus 39 hits somehow registered and players dodging checks as well.
 
That element can’t be blamed solely on Cal Clutterbuck’s six-game absence. The Wild hasn’t been as physical this year.
 
In the end, the Blackhawks won their 10th in a row and stretched their point streak to start the season to a record 20-0-3.
 
Tonight, after a 6-1-1 run and being named Third Star of the Week, Niklas Backstrom was shaky and pulled after giving up four goals on 17 shots in 20 minutes.
 
The Pierre-Marc Bouchard-Mikael Granlund-Dany Heatley line was minus-3. Bouchard especially took the brunt of Twittersphere wrath from fans for passing up shots, trying to be too cute, turning pucks over and, what’s been a common theme (and understandable considering his head issues last year) avoiding the dirty areas.
 
Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu looked gassed tonight. Parise’s only shot came with 1:39 left. Koivu had two. Tom Gilbert and Justin Falk had tough nights, and after Ryan Suter and Kyle Brodziak scored goals in the third to trim the deficit to 4-3, combined for an own-zone mishap and blue-line turnover as Patrick Kane answered 61 seconds later.
 
The Setoguchi-Jason Zucker-Matt Cullen trio was the only line routinely in the offensive zone. Suter did score his first goal as a Wild (on the power play) and Brodziak scored a nice goal after Mike Rupp and Torrey Mitchell teamed up to set it up.
 
But, as you can read in the gamer and as Setoguchi said here, “We weren’t ready to start the game. That’s what happens when you play a good team.”
 
Parise said, “Very discouraging, very frustrating.”
 
Yeo said, “We just have to bounce back. Bad game.”
 
And it was. We’ll see how the team responds in Suter’s return to Nashville on Saturday. The good news is Backstrom usually responds. He is 19-2-4 all-time after getting pulled with, I think, a 1.95 goals against average and .930 save percentage (that may not be updated through the last chase). He is 15-0-2 in first games after being pulled since March 26, 2008.
 
That’s it for me. My brother’s wife went into labor in the second period tonight. Their first baby boy was born a few minutes after the game was over.
 
As I texted back, “That was quick.”
 
I’m flying to go meet my nephew Wednesday. I will meet the team in Nashville on Saturday. Kent Youngblood is on the team Wednesday and Friday. No practice Thursday. Bye.
 

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