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 blanked in Calgary

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: November 29, 2010 - 11:41 PM

Evening from Calgary, where another second period killed the Wild tonight.

It wasn't a 20-minute snooze like we've grown accustomed to, but the 18-second nap -- or first 3 1/2 minutes in reality -- was good enough to ruin another game.

You can read the game story for most the details, but Jay  Bouwmeester and Jarome Iginla scored 18 seconds apart to turn a scoreless tie into a 2-0 Calgary lead just like that. That meant the Wild was chasing the rest of the game, and Niklas Hagman finally made it 3-0 on a very late power play.

The Wild played a good road first period, but Miikka Kiprusoff was sharp, making six of his 12 saves on Marty Havlat. Jose Theodore was sharp, too, making 11 saves.

But the Wild changed the way it was playing to open the period, coach Todd Richards felt. The game wasn't as tight, there was more open ice, something he pinned on poor execution and defensemen jumping up into the play.

A couple mistakes later, and it was 2-0. John Madden, on for both goals, took the responsibility, faulting himself just as much as Nick Schultz blamed himself the other night in Denver. Madden is now a team-worst minus-11.

For years covering Wild-Flames game, I got used to Iginla and Kiprusoff dominance. That left us the last few years, but Iginla was outstanding tonight, not just scoring a goal (he had been goalless in 16 of the last 18 games vs. Minnesota, amazingly for the leading scorer in history against them) and assist, but being physical, great defensively and just strong in all areas of the ice.

One of the big moments came in the final seconds of the second period. A good give and go between Havlat and Mikko Koivu resulted in a Havlat shot. Kiprusoff served up a rebound to Matt Cullen, but Iginla's strong backcheck kept Cullen from getting his stick on the puck.

That would have made it 2-1 going into the third. Kiprusoff also stoned Patrick O'Sullivan three times on great chances and five times in the game. He also made a nice save on a Cullen third-period redirection.

The Wild controlled the final 30 minutes, but they just couldn't beat Kipper.

That's four losses in five games for the Wild, and the pressure in mounting, especially on coach Todd Richards.

He must find answers. The Wild's hanging in there now -- only three points behind Vancouver in the division -- but this is a league where there's no room for an extended stretch of losses. A couple three-point games on top of them in the standings or a couple hot stretches by teams, and the Wild will be looking waaayyyy up. They're in the uphill climb of their schedule, too, in terms of road-heavy play.

The pressure's mounting. Just check out Mikko Koivu's reaction in the game story to a question about the team's recent losses.

Huge games coming up for the Wild, and Richards -- home against Phoenix and Calgary and a road game in Dallas, where the Wild hasn't won since I've been the beat writer (this is my sixth season).

This is a huge rest of the week for the Wild. Did I say that already?

The team's spending the night and practicing here Tuesday before heading home. I'm actually heading home in the morning, so I won't be at practice. If I hear of any news, I'll let you know.

I thought Jared Spurgeon looked real good tonight. Calm, poised, good shot, not outmatched. He played 14:42, not bad for a 20-year-old defenseman coming from Houston. It meant Rick Wilson had confidence throwing him over the ice.

The Wild did outshoot the Flames tonight, 32-31, so there's something  The Wild had been outshot in 20 straight, the first team since Buffalo (23) in 1996-97 to be outshot in 20 in a row.

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