Ugly, ugly performance tonight by the Wild really for the first time this season when the Montreal Canadiens outskated them from start to finish en route to a 6-2 victory.
The two goals make it sound closer than it actually was. Nino Niederreiter and Dany Heatley each scored with the Wild trailing by five goals, Heatley’s coming with 1.3 seconds left.
Max Pacioretty, who entered the game with two goals, an eight-game goalless drought and all but disappearing from USA Olympic talk, scored three goals (a natural hat trick) on 10 shots.
Josh Harding was pulled for the first time this season, and it was far from his fault. He held the Wild in a scoreless first period and did all he could in a one-sided second period. Coach Mike Yeo gave him the mercy pull so he didn’t have to endure any more punishment and could now have enough in the tank to start Wednesday in Ottawa.
From everything I’ve been told, the plan was to go with Darcy Kuemper in Ottawa (although Yeo was denying that after the game).
Regardless very doubtful that happens now. Kuemper, who gave up three goals on seven shots last month in Toronto, came in and gave up three goals on nine shots to the Canadiens. He was beaten on the first two shots he faced, meaning at that point, he had stopped four of 9 shots this season.
He is 3-7 in the minors with a goals-against just under 3.0. This is a problem, especially with Matt Hackett (who has actually been worse statistically in Rochester) no longer in the organization and Johan Gustafsson having next to no North American pro experience.
Niklas Backstrom is sidelined with a concussion. The Wild has a ton of games coming up, including back-to-backs the next three weeks and in four of the next five (not counting Wednesday). He is doing light workouts but not skating, so my guess now is the Wild will have to somehow add an experienced backup, whether it be trading a draft pick for a Scott Clemmensen-type or signing a Jose Theodore or a Rick DiPietro or a Mathieu Garon or somebody.
But Harding can’t do it all himself and it’s hard to be confident with Kuemper right now until he goes to Iowa and gets his game in order. He just doesn’t look comfortable in net. This kid knows how to play goal. He's played at a high level before. But right now, he's struggling.
Still, goaltending by Harding and Kuemper had nothing to do with tonight’s loss. The Wild, 10-1-2 in its previous 13, just had a clunker that happens over the course of every season.
The objective now it too get a little “ticked” as Yeo termed it and use it as a motivating factor in Ottawa.
The second and fourth lines had a tough time tonight. No sustained pressure, which led to a lot of playing on its heels and retreating. Jonas Brodin was a minus-4 (maybe he was getting used to his new half shield; just kidding), Ryan Suter was minus-3, Heatley was minus-3 and needs to be shown the video of his entire shift before Pacioretty’s first goal, a goal that started the snowball to roll. Mikael Granlund, Jason Pominville and Torrey Mitchell were minus-2s.
Top line was even and Clayton Stoner, Nate Prosser, Kyle Brodziak and Matt Cooke managed to be plus-1s.
Mitchell hurt his leg tonight. No update from Yeo, although he didn’t think it would be too serious. Still, if there’s a chance he can’t play, the Wild will either have to dress seven defensemen or recall a forward from Iowa. Mike Rupp’s extending his conditioning stint to play two games this weekend, so it won’t be him. Prosser did play forward a little bit last season.
Anyway, that’s it for me. Wild may not skate in the morning, so may be a late update Wednesday.