Poor first showing of the season by the Wild, which lost, 3-2, tonight here in St. Louis.
Outshot 14-2 in the first period and 31-21 for the game, the Wild couldn’t get 32 of its 53 shot attempts on the net. They were either blocked and missed the target, including one crossbar.
Three breakaways by Jason Zucker, Eric Staal and Zach Parise to either give the Wild the lead or tie the score were denied by Jake Allen. And the Wild lost battle after battle in its own zone, where it spent much of the game, and had trouble connecting passes, catching a pass or not passing to a Blue.
“The passing and the turnovers, I thought, were much to be desired,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “It’s something we have to work on. I didn’t even ask if the ice was any reason for it, but they seemed to be able to pass the puck, so I guess it wasn’t the ice.”
The coach said Wednesday he didn’t think the Blues playing Wednesday in Chicago would provide an advantage for the Wild. He thought the excitement of the home opener would offset any fatigue, and after the game tonight, he says he thinks playing the night before actually gave the Blues an advantage because they got a first experience of playing a fast-paced regular-season game as opposed to the half-speed preseason games.
As Ryan Suter said, the Wild just never seemed to get up to speed. Besides the constant losing of battles – look at Zac Dalpe on the first and third goals, the Wild arrived to pucks late, failed to support and didn’t have much sustained pressure until late.
On the first goal, Mike Reilly, who had a very tough night, couldn’t catch a puck. That led to a minute of scrambling, and after Zucker tried to skate a puck out of the zone rather than pass or chip it, he was pickpocketed inches from the blue line and that spelled trouble before Alex Steen eventually scored.
Suter, who had five shots and logged 28:11 because the young D struggled so mightily, tied the game on a fantastic individual effort.
Looking fed up and wanting to make something happen, Suter, from the neutral zone, pressured Vladimir Tarasenko to skate back into his own zone with the puck. He forced Tarasenko, then Kevin Shattenkirk into puck mistakes, grabbed the puck in the slot and skated in alone. Allen denied Suter’s initial backhander, but Suter popped in the rebound.
The contest turned into a more even, tight-checking affair until the Blues capitalized on a bad goal.
Nail Yakupov, the former No. 1 overall pick just acquired from Edmonton, took a shot from atop the left circle that hit Devan Dubnyk’s glove and blew right through it like there was a hole in it. The puck hopped out and fell into the net to stun the goalie. The puck may have tipped Jared Spurgeon’s stick for a knuckled puck, but the Wild needed a save. Eventually, Yakupov set up fellow ex-Oiler Magnus Paajarvi for a 3-1 lead and eventual winner.
“I didn’t get it off his blade,” said Dubnyk, who made 28 saves and had to stop a 4-on-1 shot by Steen in the third. “You know, he can shoot the puck. It’s kind of one of those plays where it would have looked better if it went straight in. It was right up my ear. I got a pretty good piece of it, and anytime you get a piece of it, you’d like to have a little bit more of it. But I was happy where I was on the play and next time I’ll catch it.”
Charlie Coyle, demoted to the fourth line when Boudreau tried to jumpstart the team in the third by scrambling all four right wings (part of it was necessity because Chris Stewart got a 10-minute misconduct for dropping his gloves and trying to fight an unwilling Joel Edmundson, made it 3-2 with 7:11 left off a Zucker setup, but that would be all she wrote.
Reilly has got to be better and with another heavy team coming in Saturday (Winnipeg), maybe the Wild plays Christian Folin. If that’s the case, you do have to wonder if Reilly stays on the roster with the Wild up against the cap.
Joel Eriksson Ek has an appointment in Ottawa on Friday to get his P-1 stamp so he can play for the Wild as a Swedish immigrant. So one has to wonder if he’ll be in the lineup instead of Dalpe against the Jets. However, without any practices, that may be pushing it and perhaps Tuesday is more likely.
The Wild’s power play also went 0 for 5 and Boudreau tried to spark that, too, in the third by changing personnel.
“I thought OK I’m just going to shuffle things, and throw it against the wall and see what sticks,” Boudreau said.
Good push late, but too little too late.
“Probably we all agree we have a lot more to give,” said Dubnyk. “We came close to the end. We’ll build on it and get better for Saturday.”
Added Coyle, “We can’t afford that, especially this early in the season. We have to find ways to play a full game.”
My editor Chris Miller is covering practice Friday. Pay attention to Twitter if there’s roster news.