Only the Wild can strut into Anaheim, come away with its most impressive win in the year and wind up turning the same road trip into the feeling of such disappointment.
But that was the feeling in the locker room after tonight’s 4-3 overtime loss to Calgary. The Wild returned to Minnesota following a 1-1-2 road trip, which is better than the 1-2-1 trip it came so close to being.
Still, player after player called it a disappointment.
Evening from the Saddledome.
Here is my Sunday column on an early look at Chuck Fletcher's thinking heading into the trade deadline.
The Wild battled back from a 3-1 deficit to get a point, but for the second consecutive game, it followed a horrible second period with a strong third period. Unlike Colorado on Thursday, the Wild at least forced overtime this time before Mikael Backlund’s winner 2:25 into the extra session.
In Colorado, the Wild gave up 18 shots in the second period and three goals. Tonight, another 18 shots and one, taking three penalties in an 11-minute span as Calgary took a 2-1 lead after Matt Cooke previously tied the score with his 15th career shortie.
The Wild was undisciplined, generated few scoring chances, was soft on pucks, threw pucks away and was sloppy in the first 40. Nineteen seconds into the third, the Wild drew a holding penalty with a chance to tie.
Instead, it gave up a shorthanded goal. That seemed to wake the Wild up because it was all Minnesota the rest of the period. At one point, the Wild was being outshot 26-10. The final shots were 32-23 as Dany Heatley and Keith Ballard scored 5:55 apart late in the third.
Coach Mike Yeo said, “Defensively we were OK, but offensively we very much on the perimeter and not gritty enough, not dirty enough. Took us to get down 3-1 to really start to develop that mentality.”
Yeo was happy with the way the Wild battled back, but he said the Wild has to rectify the second periods of the past two games.
“This hasn’t been a trend lately. It’s been the last two games and we have to fix it,” he said.
Early in the game, Yeo said the Wild wasn’t committed enough to playing a heavy game, getting to the middle and battling.
“We were looking for easier stuff instead of harder stuff,” Yeo said. “Every time we got the puck in the offensive zone, we threw it away, gave it to them and broke it out for them. When we’re playing well, we’re strong on that puck, we’re controlling the puck in the offensive zone, moving our feet. I didn’t see any of that early in the game.”
Calgary’s first goal, with two guys deep, Jason Zucker threw it away. Calgary’s third, the shortie, Ryan Suter tripped or was tripped (never saw a replay) and a 3-on-1 was triggered.
This was one of those games where the kids had trouble, weren’t strong on the puck. Charlie Coyle took two penalties and had one shot, although he made a great move and Karri Ramo robbed him. Nino Niederreiter didn’t get a shot off on three good lucks. Zucker worked his tail off but was bounced off the puck over and over and was minus-2.
After so much was made about putting together Zach Parise, Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville, Parise and Pominville were minus-2 and Granlund was minus-3. Kyle Brodziak, struggling mightily in the faceoff circle lately, lost 13 of 16.
On the winning goal, there was a total breakdown between Ballard, Pominville, Granlund and Marco Scandella.
“Me and Granny (he meant Pominville) were in the corner, on the side boards with two of their guys,” Ballard said. “I think he thought I was going to go, he thought I was going to go. Neither one of us went fast enough.” Scandella then took himself out of the play by sliding, Granlund lost Sean Monahan and Pominville was defending the middle of the ice rather than Backlund.
The bad news is Phoenix beat Pittsburgh tonight and Dallas beat Anaheim. The Wild is going for one of the last two wildcard spots. There’s just no chance they’re going to catch St. Louis, Chicago or Colorado, so Phoenix, Dallas, Vancouver and maybe LA will be the teams to watch the rest of the year.
Wild’s still in 7th, two up on Vancouver and three up on Phoenix. Two home games before the break, starting Tuesday against the Lightning.
“We’ve got to take the points right now,” Heatley said. “It was a tough trip, a lot of travel, some good teams, We’ll take four points, but really would have liked six, I think.”
The Wild has Sunday off. I’d assume Stephane Veilleux at least will be Iowa bound soon. Talk to you Monday.