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's No. 1 line breaks out in 3-2 win over Phoenix; Cullen has groin injury

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: December 10, 2010 - 12:12 AM

Well, that's more like it for the Wild, which snapped a five-game winless streak and won for the second time since Nov. 19 to open this three-game western swing that continues Saturday night at Los Angeles.

Usually when I write about something, it implodes later the same day, like, for instance, Josh Harding's knee.

Thursday I wrote about the Wild's No. 1 line, and I turned into the anti-jinx.

Actually, that'd be unfair to Andrew Brunette, Mikko Koivu and Antti Miettinen, who've been working overtime to try to escape the doldrums and break out the way they did tonight in a 3-2 win at Phoenix. Brunette registered his first two-goal game since, believe it or not, his days with the Colorado Avalanche. Yes, in his second stint with Minnesota, Bruno recorded two 20-goal seasons, but his last two-goal game was March 28, 2008, with the Avs.

Miettinen and Koivu, who were both awesome tonight, had two assists each. Koivu's multi-point game was his first since Nov. 6.

The line's been saying lately, "It's coming," that they felt they were making the adjustments and seeing little things on video that would get them out of the slump. We saw signs last weekend in Dallas, and tonight they were good from start to finish against the Martin Hanzal line. Hanzal is an up-and-coming defensive stalwart in this league, maybe even a future Selke winner, and tonight Koivu used and abused him. Hanzal became so frustrated at times, he'd just start jawing and jabbing Koivu.

Richards was delighted with the line's play, saying, "Marty [Havlat's] been going really good, but he’s been kind of going solo."

It was a good 60-minute effort. Obviously Phoenix pushed back in the third, but the Wild held strong after Taylor Pyatt scored his second goal on a late power play.

Lots of unsung guys tonight. It's almost unfair to name names, but Kyle Brodziak had six shots, four hits and won 9 of 12 draws. Cam Barker was strong in his own end and saved a goal in the second with a blocked shot. Greg Zanon had four hits and blocked five shots, including with his face and wrist late. Havlat was strong again and had some big backchecks. Brent Burns was great and scored his seventh goal. Niklas Backstrom made 33 saves for his 10th career win vs. Phoenix.

He got lucky, too. Shane Doan hit iron twice. Hanzal swung and missed on an open net. Scottie Upshall blew an open net, too.

But as they say, better to be lucky than good.

Some funny lines about Brunette's basically breakaway goal in the first. Miettinen made a great play to spring Koivu for a 2-on-1 and then Koivu gave it to Brunette for a last-second break. Brunette couldn't remember his last breakaway. I told him it was in the shootout his first year back in Buffalo in the preseason.

“I don’t think he’ll ever get a breakaway from further away,” Miettinen cracked. "Somebody’s going to catch him.”
 
The one bit of bad news was Matt Cullen, who was a game-time decision to even play, didn't play a shift in the third. He sat on the bench but his groin tightened up. That obviously makes him a question mark Saturday, meaning Brad Staubitz would get back in if he can't play unless there's a callup.

I'll be interested to see what will happen with the blue-line. Jared Spurgeon again had some shaky shifts tonight and the Kings are huge up front. I'd think Clayton Stoner would get back in.

Talk to you later. I have a 3:15 a.m. wakeup call for my obsenely early flight to LA through Salt Lake. (Skymiles) 

Do me a favor. I'll write more about this on the blog Friday, but please read the game notebook about an online auction Wild equipment manager Tony DaCosta and Coyotes equipment manager Stan Wilson set up to raise money for the two young daughters of Coyotes massage therapist Jukka Nieminen, who tragically died at age 40 a day before his wedding in June.

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