The Wild came out flat yet again tonight, and it forced coach Mike Yeo to look for any spark, including breaking up his top line.
Devin Setoguchi was bumped to the second line, Pierre-Marc Bouchard popped to the top.
No spark, no momentum was created for a Wild team that looked lifeless early in this one and quickly fell behind 2-0 at the start of the second period.
The flat start better sound off alarm bells. Coach Mike Yeo said it was on him, but baloney. As Devin Setoguchi said, it's on the players to come out jacked, it's on the leadership corps, and the Wild skated so pedestrian-like in the first period, I almost joked on Twitter that it was a "good road period."
Problem is the Wild was playing at home, and its objective is to make Xcel Energy Center a tough arena to play in again for the visitor. It certainly wasn't that way tonight.
That's why the media was awkwardly ushered out of the locker room after the game because of a short team meeting that would follow.
There was just little sense of urgency in the first period, and certainly not that assertive, aggressive, fast hockey Yeo expects to see.
The power play again was horrific. Just like Long Island, every time the power play hopped the boards, momentum was doused. What's most amazing, the Wild had no problem skating the puck up ice and into the zone on the power plas. As Yeo said, that's usually where problems lie on poor power plays.
Tonight, the Wild spent the majority of its five power plays in the offensive zone, but it didn't generate any real daunting chances because players held on to the puck too long or stood stationary or weren't crisp or sharp with pucks.
The Wild power play had a chance to take the lead twice in the first period, to tie the game twice in the second period and to cut it to one in the third. The Wild failed on the first four, and in the third, Bouchard, late in his shift, turned it over to Matt Cooke, who set up Pascal Dupuis for the shorthanded dagger.
Yeo broke up Setoguchi-Mikko Koivu-Dany Heatley to start the second. The line has no even-strength goals the past five games -- scoring one power-play goal in Ottawa. Heatley's chances are getting fewer and fewer, and tonight, he had one shot and two missed nets. Setoguchi tried to force him the puck a few times in the first, and it didn't work.
And Koivu? No goals and three assists and a .495 faceoff win percentage and a lot of turnovers in six games for the $6.75 million captain.
Bouchard moved up to the top line, and things were no better.
Also, the Wild's puck management continues to be a concern. Players often just have to resort to chipping the puck off the wall and out of their own zone. The defensemen on this team don't move the puck well. The forwards aren't coming back to support. The Wild's wall play, as Yeo said this morning, has a lot to be desired.
Tonight, turnovers by Greg Zanon and Marco Scandella led to goals. On one of the goals, Niklas Backstrom gave up a cheesy one to James Neal.
Tonight, the Penguins were minus five or six of their big players, including Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang. Marc-Andre Fleury was a spectator.
And the Wild still didn't come out with the urgency needed to beat a team this prime for the kicking. If those stars had played, this could have been a really humiliating outcome.
Two game road trip coming up, and I'll be interested to see now what Yeo and/or Chuck Fletcher does to shake up the lineup or lines. Kent Youngblood has practice tomorrow as I head to Edmonton.