Coming home is always a relief, especially when a team opens its season with five of its first six games on the road. But as happy as the Wild was to start a long homestand Tuesday against Vancouver, it didn’t want to be lured into thinking that Xcel Energy Center would somehow grant it special powers.
“It’s a blessing, because you get to be home with your family,’’ forward Jason Zucker said. “But you can’t get complacent with it. You can’t just say, ‘We’re going to come home here, and the crowd’s going to be behind us, and we’re going to win a game.’ We’ve got to come out and battle.’’
Vancouver’s defense made sure a crowd announced at 18,694 had little to cheer about, as the Canucks defeated the Wild 1-0. Jake Virtanen scored an unassisted goal at 10 minutes, 7 seconds of the third period after a Wild turnover, and goaltender Anders Nilsson — with strong support from his team — stopped all 29 shots he faced.
Neither team mustered many scoring chances in the Wild’s second home game of the season. Virtanen got his when he gathered up the rebound of his own blocked shot and pushed it underneath Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk. The goal came after Jared Spurgeon, who thought he was slashed, lost the puck.
The Wild wasn’t horrific against a Canucks team that completed an eight-day road trip with a 4-1 record. It just wasn’t good enough, especially in the final 40 minutes.
“I said between the second and third periods to these guys, ‘They outplayed us [in the second period],’ ” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. “ ‘We’re just going to have to pick it up and play to win.’ We played not to win. We played to tie the game. You can’t play that way.’’
Boudreau said he would have been equally unhappy had the loss been on the road. Zucker found it deflating to start a six-game homestand with a mediocre effort, particularly when the Wild had so keenly anticipated its homecoming.
“We let them off the hook too many times,’’ said Zucker, who finished with three shots and two hits but committed a roughing penalty that cut short a Wild power play late in the game. “I don’t think that’s anywhere near the pace and the way we want to play.
“It’s very disappointing. It’s not the way we wanted to start [the homestand]. We’ve got to regroup, watch some video and be ready to go for the next one.’’
Nilsson earned his second shutout of the trip even though the Wild outshot Vancouver 29-25. His teammates helped out by blocking 14 shots and preventing the Wild from generating odd-man rushes or consistent traffic around the net.
The Wild had been talking for days about using this homestand to right itself after a 2-2-2 start to the season.
It failed to score a power-play goal, going 0-for-4, and Nilsson stopped perhaps the Wild’s best chance when he got his pad to the post to block Zucker’s wraparound attempt midway through the third period. Virtanen scored only 32 seconds later.
“We talked about it all week,’’ Dubnyk said. “This is going to be an important stretch for us. It’s not the result we wanted, but this is a place we know we have to be real tough to play against.’’