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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It was a nailbiter, but the Wild makes the playoffs for the first time in five years

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: April 27, 2013 - 11:21 PM
Exhale. That was never, ever, ever … in doubt.
 
Money in the bank, as I like to say. As I promised on Twitter 30 or so minutes before the game, Red Wings, Wild and Blue Jackets would all win and finish 7, 8, 9.
 
OK, maybe after the 10th Wild icing of the third period I started to get a shade concerned, but in a true must-win, the Wild hung on for absolutely dear life and pulled out a 3-1 victory tonight here at the Pepsi Center over Colorado to advance to the National Hockey League playoffs of all things for the first time in five years.
 
Minnesota’s reward? The President’s Trophy-winning Chicago Blackhawks.
 
But hey, we can all recast how torturous this April was for the Wild, but the good news is the Wild 1) got in and 2) when the series starts, the calendar could conceivably turn to May. April’s gone!
 
The Wild had to get in. There is almost no doubt there would have been drastic, painful changes if the Wild completely the April swoon. Mike Yeo almost certainly would have been handed his pink slip, maybe as soon as getting off the plane in Minnesota. More on that in the main story.
 
But now the Wild moves on and begins the necessary next step of an organization that’s trying to grow and frankly hopes to one day model itself after a franchise like Chicago.
 
“But let’s make sure that we’re clear, we’re not done,” Yeo said. “We’re just not going to sit here on Cloud Nine and say this was a huge accomplishment.”
 
As of now, it’s uncertain when the first round will begin. Word should come some time Sunday night after the Ottawa at Boston makeup game. The Bulls are at home Thursday at the United Center, so the series may go Wednesday-Friday. However, TV rules in this instance, so once the league sees what NBC Sports Network wants, there is a chance the series could even go Tuesday-Friday if the network wants somebody else Wednesday.
 
But it is real unclear right now.
 
You’ve got to hand it to the Blue Jackets, who just played so well the last month to put themselves in this position. They just won five of six on the biggest road trip in franchise history. Then tonight, they rally on Nashville to win 3-1 and put the pressure squarely on Minnesota.
 
Thousands of fans reportedly stayed at Nationwide Arena and watched the giant bigscreen that showed the third period of the Wild-Avs game. They rooted for Colorado, but the Wild broke their hearts.
 
The Wild and Jackets – expansion siblings – tied with 55 points, but the Wild had three more non-shootout wins than them. Coincidentally, the big proponent for the rule change tiebreaker? Former GM Scott Howson. But either way, Wild would have had the previous tiebreaker, too – most wins.
 
Tonight, please read the new main and the new gamer/notebook once it merges onto www.startribune.com/wild for all the quotes and scene stuff, but Niklas Backstrom had just a huge bounceback game after being chased from the nets against Edmonton after giving up three goals on five shots.
 
The Avs pressed hard in the third. The Wild was get the puck out of the zone mode. But Backstrom stopped all 15 shots he saw and stopped 29 of 30 shots in the game.
 
Zach Parise scored, Pierre-Marc Bouchard iced it with an empty netter and Devin Setoguchi’s first goal in 15 games on a second-period power play lifted the Wild into the postseason.
 
Now, my annual offseason diet is delayed indefinitely, which is good news for us all, because I don’t want to go on vacation just yet. Lots of coverage on the horizon in the Star Tribune, I promise.
 
There is no access to the Wild on Sunday, so I will write for Monday’s paper on the Blackhawks and reaction in the Wild room about playing such a juggernaut.
 
A lot of happy Wild players in that room postgame. More than half the room, like Setoguchi – a solid playoff performer who calls the next step “a different animal” – have postseason experience. And then there are newbies like Kyle Brodziak.
 
“It’s pretty awesome,” he said. “A lot of guys in here have worked really hard to get to this point. It feels good to be able to take the next challenge.”
 

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New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Minnesota 94 FINAL
Philadelphia 103
Houston 93 FINAL
Boston 87
Portland 99 FINAL
Atlanta 105
Sacramento 90 FINAL
Cleveland 101
Toronto 127 FINAL
Brooklyn 122
Dallas 93 FINAL
Miami 72
LA Clippers 103 FINAL
New Orleans 108
Golden State 100 FINAL
Utah 110
Chicago 93 FINAL
Phoenix 99
Pittsburgh 2 FINAL(OT)
New Jersey 1
St. Louis 3 FINAL(SO)
Carolina 2
Nashville 0 FINAL
Colorado 3
Buffalo 2 FINAL
Vancouver 5
Chicago 4 FINAL
Anaheim 1
Harvard 75 FINAL
Princeton 72
Quinnipiac 57 FINAL
Canisius 63
Brown 49 FINAL
Cornell 57
Siena 79 FINAL
Manhattan 87
Marist 65 FINAL
Niagara 61
Dartmouth 51 FINAL
Penn 58
Oregon 68 FINAL
Arizona State 67
Yale 63 FINAL
Columbia 59
Monmouth 60 FINAL
Fairfield 59
IUPUI 59 FINAL
Western Ill 63
Oregon State 34 FINAL
Arizona 57
Kent State 55 FINAL
Buffalo 80
Canisius 75 FINAL
Monmouth 58
Butler 67 FINAL
Providence 59
Cornell 65 FINAL
Brown 52
Columbia 47 FINAL
Yale 55
Coll of Charleston 47 FINAL
Drexel 64
Penn 55 FINAL
Dartmouth 39
Elon 60 FINAL
James Madison 89
(19) Princeton 96 FINAL
Harvard 46
(9) Florida State 82 FINAL
Georgia Tech 62
Quinnipiac 87 FINAL
Siena 62
Richmond 54 FINAL
Rhode Island 50
Loyola-Chicago 58 FINAL
Southern Ill 64
Georgetown 52 FINAL
DePaul 93
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Marquette 59
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Northern Iowa 51
Xavier 65 FINAL
Creighton 74
Bradley 58 FINAL
Illinois State 55
Missouri State 89 FINAL
Drake 94
Arizona 48 FINAL
Utah 62
(11) Arizona State 68 FINAL
Colorado 60
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