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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Blackhawks showing signs of frustration as Wild even series with terrific effort

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: May 10, 2014 - 1:03 AM

Brand new series.

Just like the first round, the Wild has rallied from an 0-2 deficit to even the best-of-seven series with the Chicago Blackhawks at 2 wins apiece following tonight’s dominant 4-2 victory.

Game 5 is at the United Center on Sunday night (8 p.m., CNBC).

Justin Fontaine, Jason Pominville, Nino Niederreiter (second playoff GWG, tying Wes Walz for first in Wild history) and Jared Spurgeon scored the goals and Ilya Bryzgalov made 18 saves, including a huge stop on Patrick Sharp’s second-period breakaway to preserve a 3-2 lead (came right after Mikael Granlund had a goal disallowed because the ref blew the play dead prior to puck entering the net) and a huge stop in the third on Jeremy Morin to preserve a 4-2 lead.

The pressure is on the Blackhawks now. Obviously things change by the series heading back to Chicago, but they cannot feel good about what’s transpired in this series. The Wild is frustrating the Blackhawks to no end defensively. For the fourth consecutive game, the Blackhawks registered 22 or fewer shots.

“I think it’s reflecting of our intensity,” Jonathan Toews, who was shut down in Minnesota largely by Mikko Koivu’s line and Ryan Suter. “They worked for their chances. They worked for everything they got. We have to do the same. I don’t really know how to explain it, we have to be better. It’s frustrating to not get a win the last two games on the road. Could have put ourselves in a great spot had we played the way we need to play to try and get a win these last two games. But we didn’t. This series is long from over. That’s the good news. We have a chance to redeem ourselves and be better than we have been.”

Added Duncan Keith: We played them during the regular season and it was different games than last year. We have a lot of respect for these guys; we know they’re a good team.”

Matt Cooke made an immediate impact. He had five hits, three blocked shots, were causing Blackhawks players to dodge checks left and right and stole a puck from Michal Rozsival to set up Fontaine’s first career goal for the first goal of the game.

“You never know the way it's going to go or how it's going to play out, but I felt like I had a lot of jump,” he said. “I should have fresh legs. I've got to go out there and lead the way and hopefully my energy is contagious and I felt like we were ready to go before the drop of the puck.

“I wanted to make sure when I got the opportunity to play again, I didn't want to be a guy on the perimeter that wasn't able to go help my team. They helped me a lot, so I wanted to go out and return the favor.”

Added Niederreiter, “He’s such a physical guy. I don’t know how many hits he had tonight, but I feel he had five-plus hits and that shows the kind of player he is. He’s playing very hard down low and he’s a guy that is definitely frustrating to play against.”

Added Charlie Coyle, “We love the way he plays here. He gives us a boatload of energy out there and he gets the guys going no matter what he does. He's always hitting, playing physical and that's what we need. He knows how to play to our strengths and it feeds into us.”

The Wild did lose Keith Ballard to head injury. He was boarded by Brandon Bollig and left clearly dazed. Ballard was only two games back from missing almost two months with a groin injury. He has had his season devastated by injuries this year with a concussion and broken ribs and a groin.

If Ballard is out, which I’d suspect he will be, Nate Prosser will probably slide back into that spot instead of Jon Blum.

Wild players know they have to figure out a way to bottle up this pace and this stinginess and bring it to Chicago. The good news is the Wild played a pretty decent Game 1 there and even though its game wasn’t up to par in Game 2, the Wild could very easily have won either game. So it knows it can play in Chicago, and it won there this season.

“We have to play smart, not give them any freebies,” said Zach Parise, who is second in the NHL with both 10 assists and 14 points. “Just play pretty stingy like we have been in our rink.

“We’re always making them come through five guys. That gets them frustrated. We’re working hard. We’re making it tough. We’re just playing a good defensive game and that is in turn letting us have the puck more.”

Most amazing about tonight is how different tonight’s pace was to Game 3.

“It seemed like it was a little more open, a little more in-zone play, especially for us,” Parise said. “Some more cycles, some more puck possession time in zone. Not as much choppy neutral-zone play as there was last game.”

In the third period, Parise actually stood up Patrick Kane at the blue line. Not something you see everyday – 1) Parise crushing somebody; 2) Kane getting smoked. He’s so good at being slippery.

“That doesn't happen often,” Parise said. “He's a hard guy to hit. I think I guessed right.”

So many good performances on the ice. Spurgeon had a goal and assist. Marco Scandella again was great. The young kids like Erik Haula, Niederreiter, Fontaine, Mikael Granlund, Coyle were very good. Koivu was stellar defensively against Toews.

Here’s Yeo, courtesy of Rachel Blount:


The atmosphere in the building tonite was amazing.

(Cooke) he’s a playoff performer. He’s brought in here obviously to do a lot of things and help you get to the playoffs. But the experience he has, the way that first goal was created, that’s what we’re looking for. We want him to finish checks, we want him to play an honest, hard game, and he’s got the ability to make plays, the ability to be a hard guy to play against defensively, but also to help you create some stuff offensively too.

(first goal, how set up) we need everyone doing that. We’re playing a great team, a team that plays with a lot of structure. Even in the first period, breaking up a lot of plays off the rush, a lot of entries that are broken up, and they’re scary because they turn things back so quickly. So when it’s not there, you have to be willing to get in on the forecheck, and you have to be strong on the forecheck because it’s a good team. You can do the right things, but if you’re not following up with a good forecheck, then they’re going to break it right out and come right back at you again. You gotta be strong in a lot of areas. For the most part we saw that tonite.

(nino goal) It was big. There was a lot of responses tonight. There was a great response by Bryz, too. There was a possibility of a momentum swing. We think we go up by 2 goals, then all of a sudden, they have a breakaway and he makes a huge save on the breakaway. He made another huge save in the third period, so I thought that was a great response from him. I felt we were playing very well. We got a 1-0 lead. It’s tough to give up a goal in the last minute of any period, that’s always tough for a team. I liked the way we came out, the focus we had the way we started the second period. You grab the lead and then it doesn’t take long and they tie it up. But we stuck with it, that’s the key for us.

(team growing) it’s a step but the next one’s bigger. That’s the key. We’re not here to just try to make a series of it. We know we’re playing a great team. We know we’re playing a team that won the stanley cup last year. They know the grind, they know how hard it is, and they’ve been through it. This is an extremely skilled team, but that said, we think we have a really good team. We’re playing because we think that we can win. We know it’s hard and we know the hardest is still yet to come, but we’re taking steps.

(gaining confidence) It goes back to what we’ve seen from this group over and over again, just as far as when you’re faced with some adversity, when our backs are up against the wall, this group comes out fighting. I point to our leadership. For me, most of all, I really like the way we played the game. We have to play smart but we haven’t been playing safe. We’re getting on the attack. That was an exciting game, it was going back and forth, it was high paced, there were a lot of scoring chances. If we keep playing like that, we’re giving ourselves a chance, but that’s all we can focus on right now. We played a good game tonight, but we have to know that going into that next one that we have to play even better.

(showed team film this morning, making plays) For us, we won the last game. We’re gonna look at some things we did well and we need to keep doing and look at some things we can do better. That changes from game to game, as the series goes on. Hopefully you start to get to know the other team a little bit better, but it changes from game to game. It’s just a real challenge for us now to put this game aside. Listed, the last series we played a great game 4, our 2nd game at home, maybe the best game we played in the series. Then we follow up with a loss in Colorado. We have to be careful how we handle this. It was great we won the game, I’m real happy about that, I’m real happy to be even in the series. But we know there’s a lot of work ahead of us still.

Ballard—I don’t have an update for you, I’ll have a better one for you tomorrow

(parise hit on kane) We want to be a physical team, and we’re kind of asking everyone to play a certain way. And when you see skilled guys blocking shots and finishing checks, and your leaders doing it, obviously it has an impact on the rest of the team.

(lot of changing line combos in third period) I had no idea what I was doing. What was happening is we were having trouble catching up because we had some guys that were getting caught on long shifts and we had some other guys that were coming on. So yeah, it was sort of just trying to have the freshest guys on the ice.

(still played well despite changing line combos) We talked at the start of the year that we wanted to make more changes through the course of the year so we’d be able to be more used to it when the situation called for it. But mostly we have a way we’re supposed to play as  a team, where every guy goes out there and whether you’re a 1st line guy or a 4th line guy there shouldn’t be a big difference as far as what the intentions are. Obviously that helps chemistry wise when we’re going out there like that.

(bryz, how impt to have 2 good games) Important for him and important for our team. I said after game 2

he needed to get a win, we needed to get a win for him. What I like about Bryz  right now is he’s just part of the team. He’s doing everything he can for his teammates. After the last game I’m reading his quotes and all he does is praise his teammates, all he does is talk about what a great job they’re doing in front of him. For us that makes us want to play harder for him. Getting that win for him was big for his confidence, I think he showed it tonight. And then get a 2nd one. Like everybody, like our team, we have to make sure that we can’t get too satisfied on this. It was a big win for us, but the next one’s gonna be harder.

(is the key to come out hard in first period at Chicago?) The first 2 games there was a lot of things we were doing that were similar to what we’ve been doing at home, but it’s just making that one big mistake. What we’ve been trying to do and what we’ve been trying to build on is to build on the things that we’re doing well but limit the mistakes you’re making. Our guys have been doing a good job. What we’re trying to do through this entire playoff series and through the whole playoffs so far is we’re trying to get better every game. You don’t always do that by making nicer plays. You do that by making the best plays you can make, but also getting rid of the worst plays and you bring your game up that way.

That’s it for me. Wild has noon availability, and then I’ll have to hustle for my flight. So not sure when I’ll blog, but for real-time updates, follow me at Twitter at @russostrib.


Atlanta 6 FINAL
Detroit 4
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
Houston 6
St. Louis 4 FINAL
Miami 1
Baltimore 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay 2
NY Yankees 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
Chicago Cubs 6 FINAL
San Francisco 8
Los Angeles 6 FINAL
Chicago WSox 1
San Diego 4 FINAL
Seattle 9
Cleveland 9 FINAL
Cincinnati 3
Milwaukee 2 FINAL
LA Angels 3
Oakland 2 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 2
Texas 4 FINAL
Kansas City 5
Colorado 3 FINAL
Arizona 4
Washington 5
Boston 8 FINAL
Minnesota 9
Toronto 0 FINAL
Baltimore 5
Oklahoma City 105 FINAL
Chicago 108
Dallas 75 FINAL
Portland 94
Calgary 4 FINAL(SO)
Boston 3
St. Louis 1 FINAL
Philadelphia 3
Minnesota 2 FINAL
Washington 1
Toronto 2 FINAL
Tampa Bay 4
Dallas 4 FINAL(SO)
Florida 3
NY Islanders 4 FINAL
Nashville 3
Vancouver 2 FINAL(SO)
Arizona 3
Montreal 3 2nd OT :00
Los Angeles 4
Morgan State 76 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 89
Niagara 54 FINAL
Siena 71
Holy Cross 83 FINAL
Bucknell 90
Western Ky 88 FINAL
Charlotte 84
Navy 62 FINAL
Colgate 72
Temple 70 FINAL
East Carolina 56
Fla Atlantic 62
Boston Univ 64 FINAL
Lafayette 89
American Univ 68 FINAL
Lehigh 62
Wisconsin 76 FINAL
Minnesota 63
Fairfield 33 FINAL
Saint Peters 63
Arkansas 78 FINAL
South Carolina 74
Morehead State 76 FINAL
UT Martin 65
USC Upstate 63 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 62
Lipscomb 57 FINAL
North Florida 71
Southern Ill 55 FINAL
Missouri State 48
Texas State 64 FINAL
Appalachian St 67
SC State 62 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 72
Delaware State 104 FINAL
Coppin State 92
Middle Tennessee 54 FINAL
FIU 59
Texas-Arlington 64 FINAL
Ga Southern 76
Norfolk State 80 FINAL
Hampton 69
NC Central 69
Savannah State 57 FINAL
Florida A&M 64
Southern Miss 61 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 72
Marshall 50 FINAL
Old Dominion 67
Rice 76 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 74
South Alabama 81 FINAL
Arkansas State 76
Alabama State 70 FINAL
Grambling St 46
Alabama A&M 54 FINAL
Jackson State 72
Sam Houston St 67 FINAL
Lamar 61
Georgia State 58 FINAL
ULM 50
Central Arkansas 70 FINAL
Nicholls 77
Portland State 51 FINAL
Northern Ariz 58
Southern U 77 FINAL
Prairie View 73
Alcorn State 73 FINAL
Texas Southern 94
Houston Baptist 72 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 85
Ark-Little Rock 69 FINAL
Louisiana 75
SE Louisiana 79 FINAL
New Orleans 85
California 60 FINAL
Arizona 99
Memphis 54 FINAL
Connecticut 53
VA Commonwealth 55 FINAL
Davidson 82
Ark-Pine Bluff 0 Postponed
Miss Valley St 0
Sacramento St 65 FINAL
Southern Utah 69
Northwestern St 66 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 92
North Texas 60 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 83
Colorado 64 FINAL
Washington 47
Idaho 63 FINAL
Weber State 74
Abilene Christian 52 FINAL
Incarnate Word 64
Eastern Wash 85 FINAL
Idaho State 81
Marist 80 FINAL
Quinnipiac 74
Eastern Ill 64 FINAL
Belmont 97
Bradley 52 FINAL
Drake 50
Cal State Fullerton 62 FINAL
UC Irvine 68
CS-Northridge 58 FINAL
Long Beach State 69
UC Riverside 59 FINAL
UC Davis 61
Stanford 60 2nd Half 0:14
Arizona State 64
Utah 67 FINAL
Washington St 59
Monmouth 68 FINAL
Canisius 56
Wake Forest 85 FINAL
(22) Syracuse 79
Saint Louis 65 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 58
Saint Peters 62 FINAL
Rider 54
UNC-Asheville 51 FINAL
Liberty 59
UNC Greensboro 44 FINAL
(17) Chattanooga 78
Michigan State 69 FINAL
Michigan 49
Arkansas 72 FINAL
Ole Miss 61
Manhattan 51 FINAL
Niagara 57
Massachusetts 63 FINAL
Richmond 67
Virginia 52 FINAL
Miami-Florida 62
Jacksonville St 45 FINAL
Belmont 55
Morgan State 65 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 50
Campbell 65 FINAL
Winthrop 52
Furman 65 FINAL
Samford 54
Oregon 64 FINAL
Washington St 66
Indiana 52 FINAL
(23) Rutgers 63
Pepperdine 67 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 68
Auburn 47 FINAL
(18) Texas A&M 57
Morehead St 66 FINAL
Tennessee St 81
George Mason 43 FINAL
Saint Josephs 71
Western Carolina 53 FINAL
East Tenn St 73
Arizona 62 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 79
Texas State 55 FINAL
Appalachian St 61
TX-Arlington 66 FINAL
Georgia Southern 41
SC State 57 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 56
Delaware State 51 FINAL
Coppin State 80
Portland 58 FINAL
Santa Clara 66
Norfolk State 49 FINAL
Hampton 64
Florida Atlantic 56 FINAL
UAB 59
NC Central 46
Savannah State 72 FINAL
Florida A&M 51
Virginia Tech 51 FINAL
Pittsburgh 45
Central Arkansas 43 FINAL
Nicholls 53
Houston Baptist 48 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 73
Gardner-Webb 70 FINAL
Radford 56
Georgia 75 FINAL
Missouri 64
Old Dominion 67 FINAL
Marshall 55
Ark-Little Rock 68 FINAL
Louisiana 66
South Alabama 60 FINAL
Arkansas State 70
Georgia State 66 FINAL
ULM 61
Sam Houston St 73 FINAL
Lamar 92
SE Louisiana 75 FINAL
New Orleans 84
Northwestern St 45 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 56
Alabama A&M 58 FINAL
Jackson State 66
Alabama State 68 FINAL
Grambling 62
Southern U 78 FINAL
Prairie View 50
Alcorn State 55 FINAL
Texas Southern 73
Ark-Pine Bluff 0 Postponed
Miss Valley St 0
Wofford 54 FINAL
Mercer 75
Abilene Christian 72 FINAL
Incarnate Word 62
La Salle 60 FINAL
Rhode Island 65
Illinois 71 FINAL
Nebraska 86
TX-San Antonio 60 FINAL
Rice 49
Valparaiso 55 FINAL
Oakland 70
Missouri State 65 FINAL
Indiana State 56
Georgia Tech 64 FINAL
(15) North Carolina 84
Charlotte 72 FINAL
Western Ky 80
Texas-El Paso 69 FINAL
North Texas 61
Wichita State 77 FINAL
Evansville 63
Loyola-Chicago 64 FINAL
Northern Iowa 69
Bradley 70 FINAL
Drake 86
Presbyterian 62 FINAL
High Point 75
Vanderbilt 61 FINAL
(12) Kentucky 67
Colorado 75 FINAL
USC 63
San Francisco 74 FINAL
Pacific 64
Idaho State 58 FINAL
Eastern Washington 62
Weber State 42 FINAL
Idaho 71
Purdue 78 FINAL
Minnesota 82
Cal-Irvine 54 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 66
Long Beach St 60 FINAL
CS-Northridge 77
UC Davis 56 FINAL
UC-Riverside 61
Northern Ariz 79 FINAL
Portland State 62
Southern Utah 73 FINAL
Sacramento St 107
Hawaii 60 2nd Half
UC Santa Barbara 36
Utah 57 2nd Half 4:19
Washington 64
BYU 59 2nd Half 2:25
St Marys-CA 60
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