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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Wild loses close game at Anaheim, but honestly, it wasn't close in a lot of areas

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: December 12, 2013 - 12:59 AM

The Wild’s road winless streak reached four games Wednesday night when the Anaheim Ducks, the only team in the NHL without a regulation home loss, improved to 12-0-2 at the Honda Center with a 2-1 win.

Jason Pominville’s power-play goal early in the third made it a game again, but in reality, the Wild didn’t play nearly well enough in the first 40 minutes to pull this one out.

I know it’s the Ducks. I know they’re bigger and faster and more skilled with a sniper-and-a-half with the great Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf running hot right now, but this was a disconcerting display.

The Ducks skated through the neutral zone for the first 40 minutes like the Wild was a bunch of pylons. Defensemen had poor gaps all night. And during the Wild’s rare forechecks, it took a gust of wind to knock forwards off pucks.

That is just unacceptable. This wasn’t just a size differential thing. It honestly took no effort at times by Anaheim for Minnesota to just lose pucks in the offensive zone.

The Wild was soft on pucks all night. Coach Mike Yeo agreed.

“Collectively, we’re not strong enough in those situations,” Yeo said. “We’re getting pucks back and then we’re losing it right away. We need some more puck strength, we need a little more urgency, a little bit harder on that puck. It’s always we’re doing one thing right and we’re not following up with another thing right now.”

Early in the third, the Wild finally exited its zone cleanly, got into the offensive zone, made a good play on the wall and drew a power play because of it. Then Pominville, who has been lost at times without injured Mikael Granlund, scored his team-leading 15th goal.

But for the 13th time in 14 games, the Wild drew three or fewer power plays. That one was Minnesota’s only power play of the game.

There have been instances where the refs don’t seem to give the Wild the benefit of the doubt, but this is more an indictment of how the Wild plays. It’s just no aggressive enough. It doesn’t have the puck enough. It’s not in the offensive zone enough.

“Again, we draw one power play,” Yeo said. “Other teams are [either] extremely disciplined against us or we’re not doing enough to draw penalties. We’ve got to force them into situations where we’re drawing more. It’s tough right now when you’re getting one power play, two power plays every game. This has been an unbelievable streak of this. We have to do more to draw more.”

The second line is giving the Wild no offense since Granlund’s concussion (he is skating on his own and working out, GM Chuck Fletcher says, but he’s not close to returning). Tonight, Nino Niederreiter got to the net but couldn’t score. He also wasn’t hard enough on pucks on the wall. Jason Zucker was largely responsible for the game’s opening goal by defenseman Alex Grant, although it was a bad goal surrendered by Josh Harding, who did play great and did everything he could to give the Wild the cushion to find its game. Zucker just seems lost at times with how the Wild plays in all three zones. And Charlie Coyle finally looked like the old Coyle in the third period. Yeo wants him to take charge and in the third, he resembled the player he hasn’t been for much of his time since returning from a sprained knee. Jonas Hiller made a nice save on him on a breakaway in the third with the Wild down 2-1.

Coyle said he got in too tight and wishes he had it back, although Hiller made a nice save on a nice move after Coyle made a great play to create the breakaway for himself. But Coyle knows he needs to do more offensively and I’ll write about that in Thursday’s paper.

The third line was again good tonight. They can’t score for the life of them, but many shifts in the offensive zone and Matt Cooke was physical, surly and played with attitude all game. The Keith Ballard-Clayton Stoner pair had a tough night. It’ll be interested to see if the super-fresh Nate Prosser draws in at San Jose.

Just not good enough tonight against a great Anaheim team. Perry scored the winner for his 21st goal to extend his goal streak to seven games. He had seven shots.

That’s it for me. I’ll come to you from San Jose, although it’s doubtful they’ll have a morning skate. Niklas Backstrom likely the Thursday starter against a Sharks team that has dropped four in a row and will be looking for payback after losing in Minnesota on Sunday.


Buffalo 12/28/14 12:00 PM
New England
Cleveland 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Dallas 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville 12/28/14 12:00 PM
San Diego 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
NY Jets 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Chicago 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia 12/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
New Orleans 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Carolina 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Detroit 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Oakland 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Arizona 12/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
St. Louis 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Cincinnati 12/28/14 7:30 PM
TBA 1/3/15 2:00 AM
TBA 1/3/15 2:00 AM
Toronto 110 FINAL
LA Clippers 98
Boston 88 FINAL
Washington 101
Orlando 102 FINAL
Charlotte 94
Memphis 103 FINAL
Miami 95
Indiana 110 FINAL
Brooklyn 85
New Orleans 100 FINAL
Chicago 107
Atlanta 90 FINAL
Milwaukee 85
Philadelphia 71 FINAL
Utah 88
New York 129 FINAL
Sacramento 135
Minnesota 97 FINAL
Golden State 110
NY Islanders 3 FINAL(SO)
Buffalo 4
Detroit 3 FINAL(OT)
Ottawa 2
Carolina 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay 2
New Jersey 1 FINAL
NY Rangers 3
Boston 2 FINAL
Columbus 6
Winnipeg 4 FINAL(OT)
Minnesota 3
Washington 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 0
Dallas 4 FINAL
St. Louis 3
Philadelphia 1 FINAL
Nashville 4
Anaheim 1 FINAL(SO)
Arizona 2
Chicago 5 FINAL
Colorado 2
Edmonton 1 FINAL
Calgary 4
San Jose 1 FINAL
Los Angeles 3
Indiana 87 FINAL
Georgetown 91
Maine 43 FINAL
Seton Hall 72
UNC-Wilmington 82 FINAL
Minnesota 108
Georgia State 61 FINAL
Green Bay 78
Jacksonville St 61 FINAL
Jacksonville 75
Kentucky 58 FINAL
Louisville 50
Northern Ky 55 FINAL
Northwestern 76
North Carolina 89
Pepperdine 53
Santa Clara 60 FINAL
St Marys-CA 73
Oakland 56 FINAL
Maryland 72
Gonzaga 87 FINAL
BYU 80
Mercer 77 FINAL
Georgia 86
San Francisco 77 FINAL
Pacific 71
Wright State 55 FINAL
Ohio State 100
Presbyterian 65 FINAL
Virginia Tech 87
Brescia 42 FINAL
Western Ky 89
Tennessee St 46 FINAL
Tennessee 67
Kennesaw St 45 FINAL
Illinois 93
Colorado State 58 FINAL
New Mexico St 57
Portland 61 FINAL
San Diego 58
Wayland Baptist 63 FINAL
Utah State 75
Bristol University 59 FINAL
Weber State 109
Sacramento St 74 FINAL
Utah Valley U 49
Southern Utah 45 FINAL
SD Christian 50 FINAL
San Diego St 72
Illinois 18 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 35
Rutgers 40 FINAL
North Carolina 21
NC State 34 FINAL
UCF 27
Cincinnati 17 FINAL
Virginia Tech 33
(15) Arizona State 36 FINAL
Duke 31
Miami-Florida 21 FINAL
So Carolina 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Penn State 31
(25) Nebraska 42 FINAL
(24) USC 45
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
(19) Auburn 1/1/15 11:00 AM
(17) Wisconsin
(7) Michigan State 1/1/15 11:30 AM
(4) Baylor
(16) Missouri 1/1/15 12:00 PM
(2) Florida State 1/1/15 4:00 PM
(3) Oregon
(5) Ohio State 1/1/15 7:30 PM
(1) Alabama
Houston 1/2/15 11:00 AM
Iowa 1/2/15 2:20 PM
(11) Kansas State 1/2/15 5:45 PM
(14) UCLA
Washington 1/2/15 9:15 PM
Oklahoma State
East Carolina 1/3/15 11:00 AM
(2) Connecticut 96
Houston 50
Gonzaga 78
Pacific 92 FINAL
San Francisco 54
St Marys-CA 62 FINAL
Santa Clara 61
San Diego 87 FINAL
Portland 65
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