Update: The Wild placed Jordan Schroeder on waivers Sunday. He'll be assigned to Iowa on Monday if he clears. He scored one goal and had 11 shots in 11 games.
When the coach himself walks into his postgame press conference and unsolicited alludes to the fact that the Wild could be in the beginning stages of another winter swoon, it’s safe to say this will be the story line for a few days or at a minimum until the Wild figures out a way to break out of this skid.
“It’s the same story. Here we are again,” coach Mike Yeo said.
Again, Yeo volunteered that to start his presser. He wasn’t responding to a reporter’s question. I only point this out so fans or players don’t think this is a media driven story line. This is Yeo’s fifth year as the Wild coach. In only three of those years were there late Novembers and Decembers because the 2012-13 lockout wiped out November and December that season.
So in those three previous three seasons (2009-10, 2013-14 and 2014-15), the Wild fell apart starting in either late November or December.
Yeo said tonight, “It’s the same story. Here we go again.”
After tonight’s third-period collapse and 4-3 overtime loss to Dallas, the Wild is 1-4-2 in its past seven now and 0-2-1 in the final three games of a four-game homestand that if you recall started so well with a shutout over Nashville.
With the Wild up 3-0 on goals by Thomas Vanek, Charlie Coyle, and yes, Jason Pominville for the first time in 22 games, Alex Goligoski got it started early in the period right after the Wild killed off a Ryan Suter cross-checking penalty. The Wild then got a golden opportunity to regain its three-goal lead or at least reestablish momentum, and Mikael Granlund coughed up the puck twice, the final one resulting in a Jamie Benn shorthanded dagger. There’s a reason he leads the NHL with 18 goals.
Finally, with 5:43 left, John Klingberg, who leads all NHL D in scoring, slid left and walked the blue line like all gifted offensive defenseman can do. He then wristed a seeing-eye puck through traffic for the tying goal. In OT, Benn set up Tyler Seguin’s winner with 1:03 left after Darcy Kuemper, who stopped 40 of 44 shots, stopped Benn on a 2-on-1 and Patrick Sharp hit iron after Granlund first refused to shoot point-blank, then turned the puck over.
The Wild’s best OT scoring chance came on a Suter shot. Jason Zucker’s rebound stab somehow didn’t get by Antti Niemi and then Mikko Koivu missed the net.
The Wild lost at home when leading by three goals in the third for the first time since Jan. 31, 2012 vs. Nashville (lost 5-4 in regulation). The last time the Wild allowed three third-period goals in a loss/OT/shootout loss at home was Dec. 29, 2013, vs. the Islanders.
Those two previous notes are according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
This was the Wild’s first blown three-goal lead at home for a loss since March 11, 2014 (vs. Edmonton, up 3-0 in the first, lost in a shootout, 4-3). And I’m sure you remember, this is the first blown three-goal lead for a loss overall since Oct. 27, 2014, at the Rangers (up 3-0 in the third, lost 5-4).
If you thought Yeo ripped into the team after Friday’s loss to Winnipeg, that was nothing compared tonight.
I’ll do a follow for Monday’s paper with a lot of the stuff you’re going to read now because the Wild has Sunday off, but Yeo opened his presser my just saying we “might as well just take some of my quotes from last year at this time and use those.”
When I asked which quotes, Yeo said, “Not very happy probably. It’s the same story. Here we are again.”
“Boy, what a great 21 minutes and  seconds we played. That’s great,” he said, sarcastically, next. “Too bad the game didn’t end there. It doesn’t.”
So how does a team get a 3-0 lead on a goal by Pominville that should have lifted the team even further and then give up 19 second-period shots, have their bacon saved by Kuemper stopping all of them and then still collapse in the third?
“Well first off, losing battles,” Yeo said. “You look at how many one-on-one battles were lost all over the ice. They had the puck an awful lot more than we did. In order to have the puck, you have to do certain things in position. But there’s 50-50 pucks that they came up with. No. 2 we scored three goals and were far more concerned about getting the fourth and who’s going to get it and, ‘I want my goal,’ than we were about making sure we don’t give up the next one.”
On the Granlund power-play turnovers that changed everything, Yeo said, “It was coming. It was coming right from the second period. Tried to talk about it in between periods, but not quite, … you know.”
On the fact that the December swoon will now be a story line, Yeo interrupted and said, “It should be. How do we stop it? You win hockey games. You make plays for 60 minutes that win hockey games. They were more determined to play their game than we were. It was more important and they stayed with it, so credit for them. Great job. That’s why they’re in first place, that’s why we’re not. We talk about, we’re a good team and everything, the teams at the end of the year, they’re not the most talented teams, they’re the teams that play their game and buy in and do the things the right way night after night after night regardless of who you’re playing against, where you’re playing, what the circumstances are, and for whatever reason, we get to this time of the year, and whether we think we’re good enough, I don’t know. I’m not sure why and we haven’t been able to get to the bottom of it. But we’ll see. We’re either going to decide if we’re going to be a good team or a decent team. I think we’re all a little bit tired of being a decent team, but the only way to do that is to be better in our team game than the other team.”
Like I said, please don’t be upset when you read that stuff again in Monday’s paper. I wasn’t able to squeeze all that into Sunday’s and had to save some stuff.
Suter said, “It’s disappointing. We played well the first two periods and then we sat back, and that’s what happens when you sit back against a team like that. You knew they were going to come. You knew they were going to have a push. And they did.”
Asked why they tend to sit back, Suter said it’s just a natural, maybe unconscious thing in hockey: “You get up and you want to just defend. You don’t think about playing offense and making them defend. Every hockey team that gets up, that’s the same situation. We have to learn from it. It’s disappointing, but it does no good to sit here and dwell on it.”
With Justin Fontaine back tonight for the first time in 12 games, the Vanek-Coyle-Fontaine was reunited and they were great early.
Vanek scored his team-leading 10th goal. To put that in perspective, on Nov. 28 last season in the Wild’s 22nd game as well, Vanek scored his second goal. He didn’t reach 10 last season until Feb. 1.
One shift after Vanek scored on a seeing-eye knuckler from the left circle through Fontaine and Jonas Brodin screens, Vanek made an unbelievable pass to spring Fontaine and Coyle for a 2-on-1.
The line was just getting warmed up. Coyle made it 2-0 after Fontaine picked off Valeri Nichushkin’s risky drop pass in the defensive zone. Fontaine then dived to create a 2-on-1 for Vanek and Coyle.
With only defenseman Patrick Nemeth back, Vanek faked a shot on Antti Niemi and crossed a perfect feed to Coyle, who buried his sixth goal.
“We played good for the most part the first 40 minutes,” Vanek said. “That’s a good team over there, and there’s a reason they have 17, 18 wins. They kept coming and ultimately I think our power play, instead of gaining momentum when we’re up two goals, lost it for us.”
Vanek said the room was “pretty quiet” after. There’s not much you can say. Most of the guys have been around and know that’s not good enough, not acceptable.”
Early in the second, after the Wild killed off a power play by the team that owns the West’s most prolific one, Chris Porter forced Seguin into a turnover. Granlund fed Pominville along the right wall at the blue line.
Pominville skated to the top of the right circle and put every ounce of power he had into a shot that blew over top of Niemi. Pominville, who has scored 238 career goals and two years ago led the Wild with 30, didn’t even smile but got a very cool congratulations from Granlund.
The goal came one game after Yeo played Pominville 12 minutes, 11 seconds, to try to cajole him out of monster slump. It was the lowest ice time Pominville has logged in four seasons with the Wild (excluding injury.
Pominville said after the game it was a huge relief and I’ll try to put more from Pominville on the goal in Monday’s paper. Parise kiddingly motioned to Pominville if he should get the puck as a keepsake. Parise said he was just trying to make light of it, and Pominville said even in practices guys have been making similar jokes when he scores. He said it was a cool feeling to see how happy his teammates were doing his fly-by.
Unfortunately, it all went for naught.
Pominville mostly felt bad for Kuemper, saying the team wasted his effort.
Kuemper deserved better tonight. He faced 44 shots, stopped all 19 in the second, only faced seven in the first when the Wild did what Yeo told them to do and protected him early and played with purpose early. Unfortunately for the Wild, it didn’t protect him or play with purpose late.
“I think we got away a little bit from what was making us successful in the first,” Kuemper said. “We were on the cycle, getting pucks deep and controlling a lot of possession, and we got away from that a bit once we got up and I think they kind of sensed that and took advantage of it.
“It’s really frustrating. It was there for us and obviously one point is not what you should be coming away from there.”
Not much more I can say on this one. It’s after midnight and I should get out of this empty press box.
But buckle up, folks. As player after player said after this game as you’ll read in Monday’s paper, we’ll see what these guys are made of now. They don’t want to once again put itself in position where it needs a miracle second half like the past two seasons to save its behinds and make the playoffs.
The whole objective this season was not to do this yet again. Now, as Yeo said, “Same story. Here we are again.”
The calendar's about to turn to December, and the Wild's one point up on 9th-place Vancouver.
After the game, Gustav Olofsson and Kurtis Gabriel were reassigned. Marco Scandella is expected to return Tuesday in Chicago. If not, it’ll likely recall Olofsson again. Also, Jordan Schroeder ended up playing tonight because Ryan Carter had what the team called an “upper lower-body injury,” so likely groin or hip or something.
He did take part in warmups, so perhaps it’s not too serious.
Talk to you Monday unless there’s news Sunday.