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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Gigantic comeback victory by the Wild in Phoenix

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: March 30, 2014 - 12:14 AM

To say this comeback win by the Wild was ginormous would be an understatement.

One week after coach Mike Yeo said the Wild was a “different team” and not in the midst of another late-season collapse, the Wild wasn’t giving anybody reason to believe otherwise.

The Stars walked into St. Louis two nights after the Wild was pummeled there and won 4-2 tonight. So if the Coyotes hung on to beat the Wild, the Wild would have fallen one point behind Phoenix with Dallas only a point behind the Wild.

Instead, the proverbial four-point game. The Wild got two third-period goals from Zach Parise and a winning goal by Jared Spurgeon to pull three up on Phoenix in the race for the top wildcard spot and stay four up on Dallas.

I’ll write more about this in my follow in Monday’s paper to advance the Kings game, but this came one night after Mikko Koivu, Parise and Ryan Suter called a players-only team meeting at the hotel to rally the troops. The idea came during a private captain’s breakfast Friday morning between Koivu, Parise and Suter.

The three then helped lead the Wild tonight. As always, read the game for all the details, but...

Koivu had three shots, two assists, the faceoff win that led to Parise’s tying goal and won 12 of 23 faceoffs. Plus-2. Koivu has nine assists in the past seven games.

Parise had two goals, passed his dad, J.P. in goals with 239, five shots, eight attempted shots, three hits and two blocked shots. Plus-2.

Suter was plus-3, had two shots and blocked two shots in 29:38 of ice time.

The Wild had 29 hits tonight, blocked 22 shots, held Phoenix to three shots in the third period and no shots during one 23-minute span and got 23 saves from Ilya Bryzgalov, who kept the deficit to 1-0 for almost 45 minutes. He made some huge saves in the second. Zero doubt Yeo now comes back with him in L.A.

I talked on the radio this morning how if the Wild gives up the first goal (good chance because Phoenix has scored first in 12 of 15 games this month), it can’t get dejected. In a very un-Dave Tippett-like way, the Coyotes have coughed up lead after lead this season, especially lately.

The Wild completely took over the game in the third period after a tough first period in which it spent most the time in its zone because it could hardly make a pass. But once the Wild started to get pucks deep, it was all Minnesota.

The Wild’s penalty kill, which has been horrible the past month, gave up a goal on its first chance to kill one after twice failing to clear. But Phoenix had three more chances and the Wild killed all three, gaining momentum from the last by tying the score 1:01 after killing a minor.

Mike Yeo did a good job shuffling his lines, reuniting his first two lines from earlier this year in large part because the Parise-Granlund-Pominville line not only dried up, it was on for a bunch of goals lately. Granlund was minus-5 in the two games leading into tonight.

So tonight, the Parise-Koivu-Coyle line had a ton of chances and tied the game. He started with Niederreiter-Granlund-Pominville, but Niederreiter had another up and down game, so Yeo made a clever move at one point by throwing Matt Cooke on the line during a stretch where the Wild was sustaining a ton of pressure with bigtime forechecks in the second.

Then, in the third, he tossed Matt Moulson back on the line and Moulson-Granlund-Pominville helped set up Spurgeon’s winner. Nice response by Spurgeon, who got a pep talk from Yeo this morning, to two turnovers in the past two games that led to goals.

The Wild has to keep it going though. It’s going to go down to the wire, there’s little doubt.

Yeo wants a “springboard,” saying, “We’ve had enough games where there’s been some bad feelings afterward. Let’s use this as hopefully one we can build something off.”

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(11) Stanford
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(6) Auburn
(16) Clemson 8/30/14 4:30 PM
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