The puck sailed off to the side, floating away from the net after it had just smacked the crossbar.
It was an unsuccessful last-ditch attempt off the stick of Wild winger Ryan Donato but also a fitting conclusion to an evening that was jam-packed with close calls — a collection of what-ifs that culminated in the Wild getting blanked 1-0 by the Predators on Monday in front of an announced 18,833 at Xcel Energy Center to remain two points behind Colorado for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference with five games to go and having played one more game than the Avalanche.
“That sort of epitomizes the way it was going and the season: getting chances to score and not burying them,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.
Nashville goalie Juuse Saros turned aside 29 shots for his third shutout of the season to help the Predators clinch a playoff berth. But some of the Wild’s offensive woes were self-inflicted, with off-target looks, a 0-for-3 power play and botched chance at a 5-on-4 attack among the culprits.
“We had it all,” winger Jason Zucker said. “That seems to be the story of this season. We can’t score goals.”
The only one the Predators tallied was a shorthanded marker 4 minutes 32 seconds into the first period after they picked off a pass to the middle by winger Kevin Fiala and center Ryan Johansen deposited it behind goalie Devan Dubnyk. It was only the third goal given up by the Wild’s power play this season.
“I saw [Ryan] Suter there,” Fiala said. “It kind of slipped.”
There were plenty of opportunities, though, to overcome the gaffe.
Later in the period, a shot by rookie Luke Kunin on a 2-on-1 rush went off the post and on the do-over, Kunin missed the net.
In the second period, Greenway was stopped twice at the near post by Saros, who also kicked out a pad on a Donato attempt — this after Donato ripped the puck over the net from in-tight.
The Wild got closer to scoring in the third period, with center Victor Rask’s redirect and follow through pushing the puck to the goal line — enough to merit video review. But it was determined the puck didn’t cross it.
Then, with the Wild’s net knocked ajar and the team rushing up ice while action was at 4-on-4, Dubnyk decided to head to the bench for an extra attacker knowing that if the Predators gained possession the play would be whistled dead because of the net being off its moorings.
But amid confusion on the bench, teammates screamed at Dubnyk to report back to his crease and when he finally did, the Wild had too many men on the ice.
“It kind of created some chaos,” Zucker said. “But I don’t think we can blame Duby. I think if we had a little more communication, it probably would have been great.”
Nashville didn’t score on its ensuing power play, going 0-for-3, and Dubnyk totaled 18 saves.
The Wild has been shut out eight times this season. It has scored more than two goals only seven times over its past 19 games — struggles that have come mostly at Xcel Energy Center. The team has gone nine periods at home without an even-strength goal.
Over its past 14 contests in St. Paul, the Wild is 2-8-4.
“This is the most pivotal time of the year for us, and we can’t have games where the pucks just don’t find a way into the net,” Donato said. “You’ve got to find a way to force one in.”