It might have been easier to take if the mistakes had been made by the players just called up from Iowa. The fact that they came from the Wild's veterans, though, left coach Bruce Boudreau searching for words.
He finally settled on "embarrassing,'' though he clearly wanted to use something stronger in the wake of Saturday's 5-4 overtime loss to Columbus. The Wild squandered a two-goal lead in its home opener at Xcel Energy Center, allowing the Blue Jackets to score three unanswered goals to steal a point and deflate a crowd announced at 19,064.
With only eight healthy forwards left after Thursday's victory at Chicago, the Wild recalled four players from Iowa on Friday to fill the sizable skates of injured Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter and Marcus Foligno. Boudreau had no quarrel with how the reinforcements played. What upset him was the failure of mainstays such as Eric Staal and Ryan Suter to clamp down defensively in a game the Wild led 4-2 with 18 minutes, 18 seconds remaining.
Boudreau pointed out that the Wild has led or been tied in the third period of all four of its games this season, yet it has only one victory to show for it. Saturday, Staal, Suter and other experienced players in a patched-together lineup were charged with holding a two-goal lead. The Blue Jackets rallied with goals from Cam Atkinson at 2:39 of the third and Josh Anderson at 16:23, then finished it with Alexander Wennberg's winner 47 seconds into overtime.
"It is embarrassing,'' Boudreau growled. "I don't understand why. It wasn't what Columbus was doing, because I've seen Columbus play 10 times better than that. But the simple plays we're supposed to be making, managing the puck, turning pucks over.
"You can make excuses all day long. These guys are professionals, and they shouldn't be doing that.''
Staal and Suter were on the ice for all three of the Blue Jackets' late goals. Jared Spurgeon, Chris Stewart and Joel Eriksson Ek were on for the two that tied it.
Staal got things started on a good note with a goal at 15:50 of the first period. But the Blue Jackets tied it 35 seconds later, a quick response they repeated in the third period. Only 57 seconds after Tyler Ennis scored his second goal of the game, a power-play strike that put the Wild ahead 4-2 at 1:42 of the third, Atkinson swatted in a rebound to put the Wild under pressure.
Anderson deflected in a David Savard shot to tie it, as Columbus outmaneuvered the Wild down low for much of the third. Wennberg's winning goal also was scored from close range, as a rebound bounced off his chest and then his stick.
"When you get that lead, we've got to find a way to come out with that win,'' said Staal, who has scored in each of the past three games. "It's a disappointing feeling.
"It felt like [Columbus] just kept answering back. You want to be able to shut them down and close it out, and we weren't able to do that.''
Before the game, Boudreau declared that "excuses are for losers'' and challenged his team to play as well as it did in Thursday's victory at Chicago. The injuries to Coyle, Niederreiter and Foligno left him to reconfigure lines already pockmarked by the absence of Zach Parise and Mikael Granlund. Landon Ferraro, Zack Mitchell and Christoph Bertschy, recalled from Iowa along with Luke Kunin, teamed on the fourth line and scored a goal.
Columbus outshot the Wild 35-21, including a 13-5 advantage in the third period.
Boudreau planned to talk again with his team about its defensive shortcomings, and probably with some unprintable words.
"It's been addressed,'' he said. "And they didn't … what's the word I'm looking for? To be safe, I won't say anything.''