UPDATE: Russo here, interrupting the start of Rachel's postgame blog. Just wanted to remind you I will be hosting a live chat at www.startribune.com/wild at 1 p.m. CT Tuesday from Detroit. And heeeeeere's Rachel: >>>
Well, that was short, wasn't it? After the Wild put together consecutive victories for the first time in two months, it couldn't make it three in a row on Monday, falling 3-1 to Columbus at Xcel Energy Center.
One winning streak did continue. The Blue Jackets--and former Wild coach Todd Richards--beat the Wild for the fourth time in a row. Monday morning, Wild defenseman Ryan Suter was talking about how his team needs to get all the points it can on home ice as it seeks to climb back into playoff contention. A tight Columbus defense and all-star goalie Sergei Bobrovsky foiled that aim, leaving the Wild to regroup again.
Sunday, Wild coach Mike Yeo warned against reading too much into that itty-bitty winning streak. "Our message is that it's great that we won two games, but we cannot in any way be satisfied,'' he said. "Our next game is the only thing that matters right now. ... We're certainly not in a position to feel too good about ourselves. Our focus heading into the Buffalo game was to rebuild our game. We're getting there, but by no means are we there yet.''
Monday's game bore that out. Yeo was disappointed that his team knew exactly how Columbus would play them, and it still failed to handle the pressure. It didn't start to get pucks in deep until the second period, and when it did start to spend more time in the Blue Jackets' zone, it couldn't cash in. The Wild outshot the Jackets 26-23, but it also had 23 missed shots and a dozen more attempts blocked.
It didn't help that Zach Parise lost control of the puck on a penalty shot attempt in the second period. The puck rolled off his stick, ruining a fine opportunity to break a 1-1 tie. The Wild got another big opening with a four-minute power play late in the second, courtesy of a double minor for high sticking on the Blue Jackets' David Savard. That power play was a complete mess, and Richards called that a "pivotal moment'' for his team. That penalty kill, he said, fueled Columbus all the way into the third and helped pave the way for the winning goal.
James Wisniewski scored it from low in the right circle on a bang-bang play. Nick Foligno wheeled away from Suter behind the Wild net and found the unattended Wisniewski, who snapped a quick shot past goalie Devan Dubnyk. Wisniewski had a great game; he assisted on the Blue Jackets' other two goals, and late in the third, he swatted away a loose rebound in the crease before the Wild's Jason Pominville could get his stick on it.
Here are some postgame quotes from Yeo that didn't make it into the game story:
--On whether it is hard mentally for the Wild when it has to battle for every goal: "It is, but if that’s what it is, let's go grind out some more. I know we can do a much better job as far as puck strength, hanging onto the pucks. One-on-one puck battles I thought tonight was an issue, one we have to be better at.
"As the year goes on, it gets tougher to score goals. We have to have that mentality. Some pucks were laying around the crease; we have to find a way to get in there and win those battles. We just have to make sure we're focused on defense. If goals aren’t coming easily to us, then we have to make sure we're not giving up a whole bunch of chances. I thought we did a pretty good job of that tonight, but we've certainly got to find a way to score more than one goal.''
--On whether he was frustrated that the Wild didn't take more shots as it entered the offensive zone: "I'm always a big believer in, you've got to put pucks on the net. It’s the time of year where goals are scored like that. And not just off the initial shot, but make sure guys understand that the puck is going to the net, and so we've got the bodies there to create traffic, to generate secondary opportunities. There definitely wasn’t a lot of secondary opportunities tonight.''
--General thoughts on the game: "In the first period, we weren't sharp. Execution-wise, we had way too many turnovers. They played the way we knew they were going to. They play with good structure and pressure hard; in a lot of ways, they're similar to a lot of the things we're doing. And I thought we didn’t do enough to back them off. In the second period, we started to get things going, we started to back them off. We started to execute a little bit better. We created a little bit more, but as the game went on, I had a feeling it was going to be a one-play type of game.''