NASHVILLE – One reason the Wild has spent the least amount of time in the NHL killing penalties is because players usually keep their feet moving and defend well.
But Saturday night in an uncharacteristically clumsy display, the Wild chased the puck and paraded to the penalty box in the first two periods thanks to unusual penalties such as too many men on the ice, delay of game and embellishment.
The Wild took five trips to the penalty box, including three in rapid-fire fashion in the first period, and generated precious few scoring chances, and the result was the end of its nine-game point streak during a 3-2 loss to the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena.
Outshot 39-22, the Wild suffered its first regulation loss since Nov. 27.
"Giving them two 5-on-3s in the first period is never a recipe for success," said Jason Zucker, who pulled the Wild within one 8 minutes, 35 seconds into the third period.
But the Wild, which trailed 3-0 at one point, could not get the equalizer despite a late push that included Zach Parise, who scored the Wild's first goal in the second period, getting handcuffed on a power-play try from 12 feet out and Pekka Rinne out of position.
"Just really couldn't get anything going 'til the end," defenseman Ryan Suter said. "It was just one of those nights."
Added coach Mike Yeo: "First period was not us."
Devan Dubnyk looked like a man stranded on an island. Most the night was spent in his vicinity, the Wild's first non-penalty-shot shot came almost 12 minutes into the first period and Minnesota only registered 13 shots through two.
The first two goals came off deflections on Shea Weber blasts, the third off a Jonas Brodin turnover that still should have been stopped by Dubnyk. But it was hard to blame Dubnyk for anything when he was swallowing most pucks and stopped a breakaway and a 2-on-0.
Nashville had a 1-0 lead 46 seconds in when Weber's shot deflected off Filip Forsberg's right knee. Forsberg wasn't tied up by Suter, and the goal came not long after Jared Spurgeon was knocked off the puck.
"We can't give up a goal like that the first shift," Yeo said. "That was a little too easy."
The Wild's slumber lasted another seven minutes until Zucker was hooked by Ryan Ellis on a breakaway. Zucker was awarded a penalty shot, but Rinne denied his attempt.
The Wild settled down and evened the shot count at 5-5, the closest call coming when Chris Porter's redirection almost squeezed through. Those missed opportunities to tie proved costly because the Wild took three penalties in a 2:22 span.
Only 1:11 after Spurgeon interfered with James Neal, Ryan Carter deflected a puck into the crowd that was kicked by Weber. "Fluky," Dubnyk called it.
That gave the Predators a 49-second 5-on-3. The Wild killed the first minor but then committed a too-many-men penalty when Justin Fontaine jumped onto the ice early. That gave Nashville another 49-second 5-on-3, and this time Ribeiro deflected Weber's bullet. Jarret Stoll, acquired Wednesday in part for his faceoff prowess, went 0-for-3 on the 3-on-5 faceoffs.
There were several lackluster performances. Nino Niederreiter hasn't scored since Nov. 14, Thomas Vanek had no shots, Jason Pominville one. Mikael Granlund passed up several shots, including a 2-on-1 with a chance to tie in the third period.
"It happens," Dubnyk said of the atypical performance, especially lately, by the Wild. "It's a long season and you're not going to play 82 perfect games."