That was sooooooooo Minnesota Wild.
Win two out of three on the road the hard way — beating the defending Stanley Cup champs, then Ottawa in overtime 22 hours after the puck drop to the Flyers loss. Then, come home and face a backup goalie for a team that surrenders the most goals in the NHL, has the worst save percentage, the 29th-ranked penalty kill and the worst goal differential in the league.
So, naturally, the Wild lose 1-zip.
Actually, it was the second 1-0 loss by the Wild in the past five games.
Solid start where it seemed to catch the Flames off guard with its speed. Line after line the first four minutes flew by the Flames. The first shift, the Nino Niederreiter-Eric Staal-Charlie Coyle line had three shots and it seemed like one of those games where the first goal would have changed the complexion because the crowd would have been rocking and the Flames reeling.
But Mike Reilly took a penalty 5:24 in, and Johnny Gaudreau scored a breakaway goal 41 seconds later when he slipped behind Coyle, Christian Folin and Jonas Brodin at the blue line.
Right before, Mikko Koivu, who has six shots in the past seven games, missed the net on a shorthanded breakaway. So, quite the turning point, and the potential 1-0 lead to 1-0 deficit did something to the Wild because it went the next several minutes without a shot.
In the second, oy.
A parade to the penalty box ensued. Evgeny Romasko, the first Russian ref in NHL history, leads the league in power plays per game, according to scoutingtherefs.com, and he showed why this period.
In a span of 2 minutes, 35 seconds, four penalties were called followed by a fifth 2:33 later.
That resulted in a 49-second 5-on-3 for Calgary, which was trimmed to a 41-second 4-on-3 and soon after the mayhem a 37-second Calgary 4-on-3. In between, a bunch of 4-on-4s.
The Wild’s penalty kill stood tall though by killing three Flames power plays, highlighted by a Devan Dubnyk read and robbery on Troy Brouwer.
In the first 5:55 of the third, two more Wild penalty kills. The Wild went 5 for 6, but after killing 26 of 27 minors the first 10 games, the Wild has given up five the past five.
“I mean, we killed the whole second period,” Staal, who was real good tonight, said. “It just kills the flow, kills the bench. It’s tough. But we battled and continued to try and play. Dubs was good. The stuff we gave up, he was there and then kept us alive to try and tie it in the third. Every time we got it down in their end, we spent some time and we turned it over and they came back at us, so we’ve got to do a better job of making sure we know when the plays are there and when they’re not and spending a lot of time in their end when we can because we’re dynamic enough to create enough chances once we get it down there. Tonight it just didn’t fall for us.
“I wish we could have those chances first shift back. If you bury one of those right off the bat in our rink, you get it bouncing and buzzing and it’s usually a different story. [Chad Johnson] made some good saves. I would like to have some better shots at it. We had a couple posts and other chances. You have to try to find a way and right now we just seem to not quite have it yet, but pick ourselves back up and be ready for the next one.”
The shot attempts tonight were 57-46 Wild despite six power plays totaling 8:33 for Calgary. The Wild missed the net 16 times, had 14 shots blocked.
It fell to 0 for 6 on 6-on-5’s this season totaling 7:24.
“Feels like every 6-on-5 we’ve had, we seem to be inches away from tying it up,” Staal said.
Boudreau clearly wasn’t fond of the officiating, saying, “there could’ve been a few more that weren’t called.”
Of course, the Flames probably could say the same thing. Gaudreau missed the final 12:38 because of a couple slashes he took.
Boudreau said, “The longer the game went 1-0, the more they dug in because they hadn’t been successful and hadn’t been successful defensively. So they really dug in and their goalie made some big saves when they had to.”
Boudreau yet again bemoaned the Wild’s inability to finish odd-man rushes. That’s been a broken record with this group for years.
“We practice that every day, so it’s frustrating,” the coach said. “1-0 is a game if we do certain things we’re going to win the game. So we’ve got to learn from the loss.”
Dubnyk, who has given up nine goals in the past eight games, said, “We obviously want to stay out of the box. I don’t know if I necessarily agree with some of those so we won’t look into it too much, but kill did a good job, not a play we usually give up I guess on their goal but as far as the penalty kill, guys were great again.”
On the second period, he said, “It’s tough, it slows the game down and it’s not, obviously, how we want to play the game, especially when we’re playing as well as we were 5-on-5, but that’s how some games go and you have to try and get through that stretch of the game. I thought we did a good job of that.”
He looked to be fighting the puck early, but then he got real good: “Yeah, I think popped out a few rebounds at the start of the game that weren’t my best rebounds. But those guys bailed me out on those ones and just kinda settled in. It’s nice to get that opportunity.”
Zach Parise, who played for the first time since Oct. 27, said, “Lotta whistles, lotta PK time, so [we] really didn’t get to generate a lot in the middle period. It took away. [We] just didn’t have the opportunity to get a ton of offense.”
On the officiating, he said, “Of course it frustrated us. At the same time, that’s probably not going to be the last time that happens this season. But, I think you have to look way past that. We’ve got to, as a group, ask ourselves, ‘Did we really do enough to give ourselves a chance to create offense, to sustain offense, to get scoring chances?’ And I don’t think we did. I think we left a lot out there and there’s a lot of things that go into making plays and creating offense and we just didn’t do it tonight.”
Just a frustrating, disappointing loss for the Wild and its fans, who were seeing the Wild for the first time since Nov. 1 as the team opens a three-game homestand and string of five out of six here.
That’s it for me. Mandatory CBA day off for the Wild on Wednesday. I’ll be co-hosting the Russo-Souhan Show at Hell’s Kitchen at 4 p.m. Please join. My mom is even flying to town and will be there, which is always a hoot!
Also, tough night for my family as my Aunt Muriel — my mom’s aunt and grandmother’s sister — passed away of pancreatic cancer. I got word literally as Wild players emerged for warmups in lavender jerseys on Hockey Fights Cancer night. Pancreatic cancer is an awful disease. My other grandmother died of the same thing.
I got to see my great aunt 10 or 12 days ago when I flew out to Seattle for the day. Her mind was sharp, still cracking jokes every second. Was great to see her even though we both knew it was for the final time. As I was leaving the house, she called over my cousin — her daughter’s husband — and whispered in his ear to make certain he took me and my mom out to dinner “on me!!!” before my flight to Denver.
Frankly, I felt like it was the last time I was seeing my grandmother all over again. They sounded, looked and acted alike. She was just a lovely lady who will be sorely missed.
My thoughts and prayers to her children and grandchildren (my cousins) and my mom, who considered Muriel her second mom.