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 played a playoff-like style in Thursday's victory over the Rangers

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: March 13, 2014 - 11:28 PM

Good win for the Wild tonight, hanging on to beat the Rangers, who are similarly desperate in the East, 2-1, in a tight-checking, in-your-face affair.

These are the type of games the Wild must win down the stretch. Wild wins 2-1. Phoenix loses 2-1, and now the Wild can feel a little more breathing room.

Coach Mike Yeo loved that both goals the Wild scored were “the kind of goals that you can score in the playoffs,” one off a hard forecheck by Kyle Brodziak and Matt Cooke to create Nino Niederreiter’s 12th goal of the season and the second in a net-crashing display by the Zach Parise-Mikael Granlund-Jason Pominville line.

Granlund attacked the net from the side and Talbot turned away three shots by Granlund and Pominville before Parise scored his 23rd goal (10th in the third period) and 46th career game winner 1:03 into the third.

From there, Darcy Kuemper was brilliant. In his 18th start in 19 games, he made 16 of his 29 saves in the third period to bounce back from a rare average game against the Oilers.

One of the subplots tonight was Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle.

The most impressive part of Granlund’s game the past two months has been his consistency. But like most young 20-somethings, we’ve seen large variance in performances from Niederreiter and Coyle. I thought both were real good against St. Louis, I thought both had tough games against Edmonton.

Tonight, Yeo felt Niederreiter was going early, so in the second period, Yeo popped Niederreiter up to the Matt Moulson-Mikko Koivu line and dropped Coyle to the Cooke-Brodziak line. From that point, Coyle was outstanding.

“The switch in lines kind of sparked Charlie,” Yeo said. “Whether he wanted to make a point or I’m not sure what it was, but from that point on , he was really moving his feet and attacking. Nino was a presence right from the start.”

Yeo said when he knows both players are going is when they’re engaged physically, and when that happens, “everything else falls into place.” That was the case for Niederreiter all game, Yeo said, and Coyle the last two periods.

Marco Scandella and Jonas Brodin looked to have a tough start to the game, but they rebounded nicely and rebounded from a tough night Tuesday by being plus-2’s.

Granlund won 11 of 16 faceoffs and has now won 22 of 29 the past two games. The Wild won 40 of 69 tonight. There were a lot of stoppages tonight. The first two periods were tough to watch at times just because both teams checked really well and gave the other very little. These are the type of games the Wild will have to win down the stretch, Yeo said.

The Wild has played in six straight one-goal games. I joked on Twitter that the Wild is on fire because it now has points in three straight overall (1-0-2) and nine in a row at home (7-0-2). That’s called, fun with numbers, NHL-style.

Nice response from the Wild after Hastings’ Derek Stepan tied the score on a power play in the second. Brodziak has been in the penalty box three times in four games when the opposing team has scored a power-play goal, so he best cut that out. He took a delay of game penalty also with 3:20 left, which caused a frantic last few minutes.

So, the sky isn’t falling after all. The Wild closes its homestand Saturday against very scrappy and very desperate Columbus, which always plays the Wild well home and away, especially under former Wild coach Todd Richards.

The Wild’s now five points up on Dallas and six on Phoenix, which lost tonight to the Bruins, who have won seven in a row. The Wild opens a three-game trip in Boston on St. Patrick’s Day Monday. The Wild’s 6-0 all-time at Boston, but this Bruins team is a true Cup contender and plays a Western Conference brand of hockey.

That’s it for now. Check out the game story for all the quotes and stories from the game, including Mike Greenlay taking a stick to the face during the game. Yeo said Greenlay is day-to-day with an "upper-body injury."

Talk to you Friday from practice.

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