Well, I told you before the series and on Twitter with a pic the morning of Game 1 that Antoine Roussel would drive you absolutely batty. He certainly did during tonight’s 2-1 Game 2 loss to the Dallas Stars that has left the Wild trailing 0-2 in its best-of-seven series.
The difference between Roussel this series and Steve Ott in last year’s St. Louis series is Ott did nothing but run around. The Wild was able to skate away from him literally laughing time and time again because Ott did nothing to affect the game.
But Roussel is actually an effective player. Just look at how often he stepped over the boards tonight and the Wild wanted nothing to do him.
There was one first-period power play where it was clear as day that no Wild players even wanted to touch the puck with Roussel running around. On the fluky goal that we’ll get to in a second, a linesman had to separate him from bothering Jason Zucker before a draw in the Stars’ end, then when the puck was thrown up ice, Matt Dumba saw it was Roussel coming and instinctually backed up instead of stepping up to get the puck in the neutral zone.
That proved big because even though Dumba made a solid play in the defensive zone to take the puck from Roussel, the puck never would have been in the defensive zone in the first place if Roussel didn’t charge full steam ahead on the forecheck and cause Dumba to back up.
Before the opening faceoff, Roussel immediately skated at Erik Haula, who was returning from an injury, and then chased him around the ice that entire shift taking little shots at his “lower body.”
He hit the deck and stayed down trying to draw a call on a Ryan Suter check, stood over Justin Fontaine and taunted him after delivering a check. Somehow that wasn’t unsportsmanlike conduct, but referees Brad Meier and Kevin Pollock nailed Ryan Carter later in the game for a 10-minute misconduct for “incitement” when he brushed Kari Lehtonen going to the bench.
The Wild better find a better way to counteract Roussel because he’s running wild on the ice and the Wild’s a perfect team to run wild against because the Wild doesn’t have anybody like him in its lineup.
“He’s got his job. We know what he does. We know what we do to counteract it. We got to keep being physical on him and that’s it,” coach John Torchetti said.
Coach Lindy Ruff loved Roussel’s game, saying, “He's just going out and trying to work as hard as he possibly can. He doesn't change his game, he's on the body. He's hounding pucks, in some way he got rewarded for all the work he's done. The puck goes off him, goes in. It's what playoffs is about. Some guys can agitate some other guys. You know, I thought tonight he just played a real hard game tonight, I thought there wasn't a lot of agitating going on.”
Just a frustrating game for the Wild, which also didn’t get power plays when Mikael Granlund, who had a fat lip and cuts on his chin after the game, and Jared Spurgeon were high-sticked.
Yet the game’s first goal that was waived off by Meier was overturned by the NHL Situation Room in Toronto in concert with the video goal judge here in Dallas.
After Dumba wheeled the puck to Marco Scandella, Scandella’s attempted exit pass somehow deflected off Ales Hemsky skate behind the net and right to Roussel. In one motion, he kicked the puck and it hopped in the air and rolling over the cage and onto Devan Dubnyk’s back. As Dubnyk stood, he raised the net off the moorings and the puck apparently fell in.
Meier wiped out the goal, but after a long review, Meier announced that his call was overturned and that the call legally entered the net because as the league would later announced the legs were partially still in the hole on the ice. I think that’s the biggest debate because it certainly looked like the front angle that the net was off. It was just latest goofy goal surrendered by Dubnyk. This was hardly his fault, but who is the victim of more weird, funky goals than Dubnyk?
Dubnyk was incensed, and not for the first time in this arena. He had a diatribe earlier this season in this rink regarding another goal if I remember correctly.
“I’m not even going to talk about it. It’s embarrassing. It’s amazing. It’s the playoffs,” he said.
“Watch the replay. The puck is kicked and somehow they have enough to overturn the ref’s call. It’s mind-blowing that that’s the outcome of that play in the playoffs.
Asked if he got an explanation, Dubnyk said, “It’s not the refs call. He waived it off. You tell me how they come up with conclusive evidence on that play to call it a goal. … It’s crazy. The ref made the right call and somehow they have enough to overturn it in Toronto. I’m not going to say anymore.”
Torchetti called Meier over and asked if he can do anything to challenge. The only way you can challenge a goal if you’re a coach is on an offside or goalie interference.
“He said we reviewed the kick, we reviewed the high stick, we reviewed the net, and the whistle,” Torchetti said.
Added Ruff, “I've seen some crazy ones. I've seen some that are similar, but I don't think I've seen one that's gone to review where you don't know if it went in. You don't know if the nets off. Don't know whether it was high-sticked, don't know whether it was kicked. So there was a lot of options there to go over.”
“I’ve scored goals in many ways, but not like that,” Roussel said. “I was trying to kick it back on my stick and just perfect. It looked like a Crosby goal or something.”
That made it 1-0. Jamie Benn made it 2-0 on a third-period breaking, which would prove big because Scandella scored the Wild’s first goal of the series with 7:18 left. That would be the winner.
The Wild has lost seven in a row. It has seven goals in that span. Yes, a playoff team currenly playing has lost seven consecutive games, believe it or not, with seven total goals in those seven games.
That’s the issue. For the gazillionth time in Wild history, the Wild didn’t win because it couldn’t finish.
Just look at Mikael Granlund tonight. He had seven shots, including three Grade A chances in the first period. The first two, he let the puck settle on his stick like he so often does and that delay led to him not capitalizing. The third time, maybe because of the first two, he tried to rush a one-timer and flubbed it.
“I’ve got to put the puck in the net with those chances. That’s the bottom line,” Granlund said.
Granlund had a chance to make amends in the second. With the Wild down 1-0, he led a 3-on-1 shorthanded break with Chris Porter and Ryan Suter. Granlund skated himself into a position where he couldn’t execute a pass or a shot, and yet another golden opportunity was wasted.
“I was thinking shot, but then I got a bad angle and then I tried to pass it,” he said. “I need to make a better play.”
Facing the NHL’s highest-scoring team, the margin is just too thin for the Wild to leave such Grade A scoring chances on the ice and Granlund’s dejected reaction on the bench after his third stab said it all.
Give the Wild at least a participation medal tonight. It showed up after displaying no intensity in Game 1.
It competed and battled and worked hard. Just couldn’t score.
“I liked our game tonight a lot,” Torchetti said. “I thought we competed hard. I thought we did a good job. Second period probably needed to get more pucks deep. We’ve got to do a way better job of that still. Still too many turnovers that keeps us out of the o-zone.”
He called it a pretty good road game.
“I thought we had a lot better effort offensively,” captain Mikko Koivu said. “I thought we had momentum there. That’s a good sign. As long as we’re getting chances, as long as you get some momentum toward your net, it’s a matter of time before it’s going to go in. It’s a one-goal game, it’s tight scoring, it’s playoffs, you’ve got to find a way. I thought we got some real quality chances there. That’s a good sign. When we’re going toward that, it’s not hopeless at all. That’s a positive sign and that’s a step toward a better direction.
“I thought overall our game was a lot better. We came short, but we keep getting that kind of chances, we can create and put pressure on their D, I believe it’s a matter of time that we get rewarded too and we get some goals and hopefully get the lead.”
Problem is that’s a great point in Game 40. This is Game 2 of the playoffs with the team down 0-2 with seven consecutive losses with an average of one goal per game in that span.
The season could be over in two games, so it’s hard to consider all this a good sign unless the floodgates open quick and furiously.
The Wild has been down 0-2 seven times in history now. In the previous six, it lost five times. The good news is the Wild did this before against Colorado in 2014. It returned home and won its two home games to even the series.
That was a very different team though with a healthy Zach Parise, too.
“We’ve got to go home, get our fans, they’ll be fired up for us, we’ve got to come out, get motivated, do the same thing, but get some more goals, especially 5-on-5, we’ve got to battle harder,” Torchetti said.
One other crazy moment of the game came when Jason Pominville took a late third-period power play. The Stars, especially Jason Spezza, did a tremendous job of playing keepaway against the Wild. It started with Nino Niederreiter a couple times not flushing Spezza out from the back of the net.
The Stars ate up 59 seconds of previous time
“I thought our guys reacted to that situation great,” Ruff said. “To kill some of the clock, obviously try to make them came after us and if they came after us we were going to look for an opportunity. That's an unscripted, I thought it was hockey smarts out there by Spez and the other guys who were out there to kill some of the clock.”
Wild’s under the gun now returning home. You know the fans are going to be tense and quick to pounce on the Wild if things go haywire quick Monday. This is a frustrated fanbase who booed the Wild off the ice the night it would end up clinching a playoff spot.
Oh, and Tyler Seguin’s back, and even though he looked rusty tonight as the playoff intensity is high after not playing in 12 games (one shot in 15 minutes), you know it’s just a matter of time before he finds a dagger to stick inside the Wild.
So the Wild better regroup and figure out a way to put some pressure on the Stars in this series or there’s a chance I’m leaving this press box for the final time this season.
Good night, and talk to you Sunday.