For the second time in three games, the Wild gave up a late winning goal to leave an arena disappointed.
Wednesday in Anaheim, it was Rickard Rakell that scored with 6:19 left. Saturday in San Jose, it was Joe Pavelski who stuck a shiv in the Wild’s back with 1:24 left.
4-3, San Jose victory.
When you’re struggling, it’s usually the little things that kill ya.
In Anaheim, it was a couple forwards stretching out their shifts. In San Jose, a simple defensive-zone draw occurs because Zach Parise flips the puck into the bench with Joe Thornton pressuring.
Mikko Koivu, normally one of the league’s best in the faceoff circle, was having a rare tough night (5 wins, 16 losses). He goes out to take a weak-side draw (lefty in the right circle), he gets smoked by Thornton, Pavelski is first to the loose puck and he skated to the top of the circle and lets it rip. Darcy Kuemper said he was looking at one side of the traffic and the puck unfortunately came from the other side.
In many situations, coach Mike Yeo probably would have tossed out right-shot Jarret Stoll, one of the NHL’s best faceoff men, to take that draw. But he just completed a shift 20 seconds earlier.
Just bad timing and the way things go when you’re struggling bigtime.
The unfortunate part about today is the Wild twice rallied from one-goal deficits, the first when Chris Porter and Charlie Coyle scored first-period goals, the second on Stoll’s tying goal – his second goal in three games – with 7:50 left. It came on a Jonas Brodin rebound after Marco Scandella, who had a solid game, pinched up the left wall and created a loose puck, then setup for Brodin.
For Coyle, it was a power-play goal, meaning the Wild scored power-play goals in consecutive road games for the first time since the first three road games this season. It was also the second time in two games Coyle scored in the final seconds of a period and it was his 12th goal in 48 games after scoring 11 in 82 games last year. The 12 goals ties his career high from two years ago.
But in the second, all was good until Scandella and Jared Spurgeon took penalties 2:20 apart. Yeo felt the momentum change, and it certainly did when the Wild’s normally-reliable penalty kill (near the top of the league since Dec. 1) gave up one goal. Then, 1:38 later, former Wild Joel Ward scored the go-ahead goal.
Throughout the Wild’s goal-scoring drought, the one thing that understandably went overlooked during the string of losses is the fact the Wild had given up the fewest goals in the NHL since Dec. 1 and had one of the league’s top penalty kills during that same span.
The Wild was let down by both facets today.
Yeo said the third forward often got caught on the wrong side of the puck in the offensive zone and that allowed the Sharks to constantly come with speed and put the D and Kuemper under pressure. That was certainly the case on the play that led up to Tomas Hertl’s goal 1:33 into the game.
Kuemper also made a bunch of good saves, but he also twice lost his net. That led to San Jose’s first and third goals.
Lately, the thirds have been troublesome. Little push when behind or giving up go-ahead goals goals. With the lead in L.A., the Wild’s mindset seemed to be to continue to push and it spent a lot of that third period in the Kings end.
On giving up the tie-breaking goals late, Yeo said, “That’s not typical of us. We have to find ways at those times. We have to be better there.”
There were a few real poor performances tonight. Mikael Granlund, whom Yeo has actually liked recently, was soft on the puck all game. I know he’s undersized, but he cannot be this weak. It’s killing the Wild and particularly the Parise-Jason Pominville line. Also, Matt Dumba, a real tough night.
The Wild needs more from many guys.
It does seem like the Wild, maybe because it’s struggling to get wins to such a degree, get into “get a point” mode rather than “get the win” mode.
Well, it better start getting wins because several teams are chasing from the rear.
Monday is a big game against Arizona at home. It’d be nice to go into the All-Star break on a high, and the Wild has a long, long, seven-day break.
Yeo recalled how last year the Wild mounted that big third-period comeback (started with that crazy Parise goal) in Detroit. Yes, it only got a point in that game, but Yeo called it “a real rallying point for us.”
Finally, I'm returning from this long road trip Sunday. Next Russo-Souhan Show at Tom Reid's is 4:30 p.m. Monday. Stop by. Also, Star Tribune Fan's Night Out that night. Check out wild.com/fansnightout for information.
Monday at 9:15 a.m., I'll be on KFAN in studio and on Fox Sports North that night.