(edited in morning with updated numbers from Detroit game) Good evening from high above the AAC ice surface, where I still have never seen a Wild win. The ice surface is covered with wooden boards as arena workers put down the Mavericks' court on top.
Wild's now 0-9-3 since March 2003 inside this building, although tonight wasn't like most nights. The Wild had the majority of scoring chances and shots, outshooting the Stars 42-18. But Marty Turco stopped 40 Wild shots and Wade Dubielewicz, showed why at age 31 he's started 30 NHL games.
He gave up four goals on 18 shots and couldn't make the big saves when the Wild cut the deficits to 2-1 and 3-2. Now, Greg Zanon and Marek Zidlicky turnovers led to both goals, but Dubielewicz admitted he has to come up with one of the saves.
Instead, on shifts immediately after Guillaume Latendresse and Andrew Brunette goals cut deficits to one goal, the Wild let Dallas regain two-goal leads.
Just completely unacceptable. No excuse, and this relaxing or whatever on shifts after scoring themselves has been an all-year problem. It's just killed them.
Tonight, the Mike Modano goal after the Zanon turnover was the killer. Latendresse cuts it to 2-1 on a power play with 49.1 left. And Modano makes it 3-2 with 24.4 seconds left. So instead of going into the intermission with all the momentum, you go in deflated.
Now the Wild's got a big problem. Niklas Backstrom is sick and has skated once in 11 days. Josh Harding's got the hip problem, although he says he can fight through it. But read the quote in the paper. He admits it's just not getting better because he's not resting it, so are you going to keep on throwing him out there? The problem is how confident is coach Todd Richards to start Wade Dubielewicz against Edmonton on Thursday? Didn't sound afterward like he's very confident.
The Wild also can't figure out a way to neutralize Steve Ott. Two meetings ago, he concusses Petr Sykora with a hit that most people (minus Colie Campbell) felt was dirty. Last game, he runs around, sits on top of Harding, hits Derek Boogaard hard and then laughs at the Wild bench. Tonight, with Boogaard injured and John Scott scratched (Richards considered dressing him but chose to play James Sheppard instead), Ott ran around, talked smack, took a run at Brent Burns' head and fought Cal Clutterbuck twice in one-sided decisions.
Clutterbuck said afterward dressing Scott wouldn't have mattered. Ott's run around every single game he's ever played the Wild with Boogaard and Scott playing, including two weeks ago, and it's never stopped him. Last month, Boogaard challenged Ott. He won't fight those guys.
Tonight, for some reason Ott didn't get an instigator (2-5-and-10) for going after Clutterbuck after he lay a clean check on Brad Richards. I don't know why. The league has publicly said that if you start a fight after a clean hit,. it should be a 2, 5 and 10. The refs tonight gave him 2 for roughing.
Here's Ott courtesy of Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News:
``I was actually watching some stuff from the 60s and 70s today and they used to have bench-clearing brawls, so I don't think it's something that we should take out of our game. It was a situation where I'm right there and you just can't hit Brad Richards like that. That can't happen without some kind of response, so I responded.''
``I definitely think we need that element, but it can't just be certain players, it has to be everybody. Every player has to bring that toughness in some form or another, and I think we are starting to do that.''
Wild controlled the play tonight, had the majority of the chances, but from team toughness point of view, not good. Brenden Morrow was taking runs all night, once punching Martin Havlat in the face, the other hitting Clutterbuck with a knee on knee I felt.
Antti Miettinen, bad game. Mikko Koivu, not a very good game. Greg Zanon, bad game (turnover and walked around by Brad Richards resulting in Eric Belanger minor and PPG). Zidlicky, obviously bad on the last goal. Guillaume Latendresse was minus-3, took a puck in the throat and also missed the first five minutes of the second with another undisclosed problem.
Brent Burns, that shot he took leading to the Latendresse goal looked like the old Brent Burns.
Just a big loss. It's not just points right now -- Wild's six points out after Detroit come-from-behind win at San Jose. It's traffic. The Wild is in 12th place, and just let Dallas, which was one point ahead, move three ahead.
Eighth-place Detroit was on pace for 93.7 points. Wild has 58, meaning 36 more to get to 94. There are 52 possible points (26 more games) left. That means the Wild has to win at a .692 pace to get to just 94, and that still might not be enough.
And quite frankly, the only thing the Wild has proven it can do consistently on the road is lose, so this doesn't bode well. The Wild must rectify this, or the reason will end against Dallas April 10. Next five before the Olympic break are at home at least, where it's got the sixth-best points percentage in the NHL.
Stars/North Stars lifer Mike Modano had a goal and an assist tonight. Some Modano milestones:
-- Assist No. 797 tied him for 28th all-time with Jari Kurri
-- Goal No. 556 tied him with Johnny Bucyk for 18th all-time
-- Point No. 1,353 tied him with Guy Lafleur for 24th all-time
-- Game-winner No. 92 moved him past Wayne Gretzky and tied him for 10th all-time with Jeremy Roenick, Teemu Selanne and Mark Messier). He's one behind Stars GM and former teammate Joe Nieuwendyk and Sergei Fedorov.
Think Mo will make the Hall of Fame?
Stensaas on tomorrow as I work on Olympic preview stuff.