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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Season ends today, Wild makes the playoffs!; Brodziak pots 2, Ill Latendresse one

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: October 22, 2010 - 1:44 AM

OK, maybe you shouldn't jump for joy that they're in the playoffs on Oct. 22, but considering it's been a long, long, long time since the Wild's been in the top-eight -- more than a year -- it's something.

Here's the game story

Here's the Staubitz notebook lead and interesting Koivu note

Give em credit. Wild escaped, thanks to Niklas Backstrom and a gutsy, gutsy penalty kill. But as I said in the gamer, if the Wild play like this when Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle can grow some hair on their face, the Wild will lose by five.

How often was the Wild's penalty kill on the ice tonight?

Andrew Brunette played ELEVEN MINUTES! Why? Because Brunette doesn't play the PK.

A step behind the final 54 minutes, the Wild gave Edmonton 10 power plays -- tying a franchise record not "accomplished" since March 2, 2002, against the Canucks. The Oilers scored on two, the second coming right after I promised on Twitter they would, and that made for a crazy final 12 minutes.

But Brent Burns' 175-book banked empty-net kept me from a heart attack.

Let's just say, the game story in the paper, I was at the point of no return with my Kyle Brodziak lead. The Oilers tie it, and I would have spilled water all over my laptop and claimed to the Star Tribune it fried.

Niklas Backstrom won the Wild this game -- plain and absolutely simple. He should get the same lawyer James Engquist gets and sue his teammates. He made 26 of his 34 saves in the final two periods, inside an arena that usually gives him horrors.

Brodziak, born an hour from here and a former Oiler, scored two goals 2:45 apart inside the first 5:34 of the game. His mom and brother were in the crowd. Boy, the Wild needed that cushion, because then they took penalty after penalty after penalty after penalty after penalty after penalty after penalty after penalty after penalty.

How many is that? 1, 2, 3, ... Oh, after penalty.

It was laughable. And yes, maybe the Oilers took a few along the way that should have been called, but most the Wild's penalties were legit.

"Unacceptable," said defenseman Greg Zanon after the game.

It truly was. Just not good. Luckily for the Wild, the Oilers are young and inexperienced, because there were so many unforced errors -- pucks not saved at the point, bad passes, times they should have shot instead of passed and missed nets.

Hall played his best game as an Oiler. The 2010 No. 1 pick flirted with NHL Goal No. 1 a half-dozen times. He took 11 shots aimed at Backstrom, but six missed the net and three were blocked.

Latendresse, who played sick, scored a goal and an assist for the second straight game. Matt Cullen had a power-play assist, his eight power-play point to lead the league.

Burns had a goal and an assist, played 23 minutes, had five hits.

Now on to Vancouver. Wild has an optional skate in the morning. I'll bet my life savings Jose Theodore starts against the Canucks. Backstrom deserves to fly back to Helsinki for a long sauna after this one.

If the Wild beats the Canucks, it'll be the first set of back-to-back road wins in consecutive days since Jan. 10 and 11, 2008 (at Detroit, at Chicago).

OK, talk to you Friday from the hornet's nest I'm about to step in. In a span of a few days because of that whole Rick Rypien thing, I've managed to not only tick off the entire Canucks organization, but half the media I've ripped on Twitter and the Blog.

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