The good news for the Wild tonight is Phoenix lost at home to Buffalo and Dallas lost in overtime to New Jersey, so the damage of a 5-4 loss wasn’t overly detrimental.
One game after its most impressive win of the season by handing Anaheim only its second home regulation loss, the Wild fell behind 4-1 in Denver before seeing its comeback fall short.
The Wild just didn’t execute in the first two periods, taking three minors in a 5 ½ minute span of the first and seeing that momentum filter into the second.
The Wild gave up three goals in the second – a softie by John Mitchell, a soft play along the wall that resulted in Paul Stastny’s tally (he looked offsides on replays) and a Maxime Talbot goal when he smacked the stick of the posterchild for scrutiny Kyle Brodziak, who was slow to move the puck out of harm’s way and thus basically scored an own goal.
That ended Darcy Kuemper’s night. Well, sorta. He was going to get pulled, but Niklas Backstrom’s mask was in the locker room, and when he didn’t retrieve it fast enough for the ref’s liking, the ensuing faceoff occurred. Finally, at the next stoppage, Backstrom replaced Kuemper.
Before Zach Parise was injured, many fans and media members had been clamoring for Yeo to try Parise with Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville. In Anaheim, on the power play and a few even-strength shifts, the chemistry was there.
Yeo didn’t start them together tonight, but he ended them together, uniting them in the third period. They were fantastic, generating sustained pressure and scoring chances every shift.
Parise followed his 3-point night and winning goal in Anaheim with two goals, two assists and nine shots tonight. Granlund had a goal and two assists, 12 faceoff wins and logged 22 minutes and Pominville had a goal and assist. He scored with 2:14 left -- 11 seconds after Nathan MacKinnon’s breakaway goal by Backstrom, which actually gave Backstrom the loss despite Kuemper giving up four goals.
So that MacKinnon goal was a killer.
The trio will obviously stay together in Calgary. The question is whether Yeo keeps them intact once Mikko Koivu returns. I talked about this on FSNorth during the first intermission even before the third-period display and I think it’s time Yeo tries separating Koivu and Parise, especially because Granlund is playing at such a high level.
Jonas Brodin had a real tough night. Soft on the puck all game, turnovers galore, a penalty, minus-2.
But Brodziak will continue to get the fan’s scorn. The trend tonight was not moving the puck quick enough. That happened on one wall play in the first period and led to a minute of frantic play.
His lack of finish continues to be aggravating. Nobody gets better looks at the goalie, in large part because he often does the right things without the puck. But once he gets that puck, he doesn’t bury it. In the first period, Ryan Suter and Matt Cooke made a couple nice plays on the PK that led to a Brodziak chance, but Semyon Varlamov made the save. It happened later in the third, too.
Brodziak and Cooke were minus-3. Justin Fontaine were minus-2. Yeo wasn’t thrilled with their game and especially Brodziak’s, but Yeo feels Brodziak has been playing good hockey lately.
Once Koivu comes back, the easiest thing to do will be to send Erik Haula down. But one wonders if Yeo would ever pull Brodziak for a game or two to give him a little jolt.
Yeo made clear he’ll return with the Parise-Granlund-Pominville line in Calgary. He ended tonight with Charlie Coyle playing with Dany Heatley and Fontaine and Nino Niederreiter skating with Haula and Cooke. Brodziak was demoted to the fourth line.
Kuemper will likely return to the net.
I’ll talk to you Friday, although I may have some travel issues getting out of Denver. Also, I am scheduled to land in Calgary after practice, so I’ll get Yeo and players at the team hotel afterward.
At noon CT, USA Hockey will announce which player of Parise, David Backes, Ryan Suter, Dustin Brown and Ryan Callahan will captain the Americans in Sochi. I’ll be in the air, but my editor will drop the news on the blog.