Tale of three games for the Wild today as it blew two one-goal leads to lose 3-2 in overtime against the Canucks.
First period: Probably the best its played its system all year, especially in the neutral zone, where the Canucks had trouble getting through, and its defensive zone, where the Canucks were held to four shots. Devin Setoguchi's goal helped the Wild carry a lead into the second period for a change in this building.
Second period: Started well, but two Brad Staubitz penalties annihilated momentum (surprised he wasn't benched frankly, and he got away with a potential penalty on his first or second shift of the third when he fell over top Keith Ballard). Still, Nick Johnson (exceptional today in his first game after being scratched in four) and Kyle Brodziak stopped the bleeding with a late goal.
Third period: Jannik Hansen's perfect redirection tied it up early, and then the Wild spent the majority of the rest of the period in its zone. It went 15 minutes at one point without a shot, had two in the period until the last three minutes and barely could connect on two passes in a row.
Overtime: Dany Heatley's lapse in judgment (documented in game story, read it there) led to his slashing minor on Ryan Kesler and Sami Salo's winner after the Wild again couldn't even get up the ice in overtime.
So started well, fizzled late, but still got three out of a possible four points on the road trip.
And with no games until Thursday, that's one big reason Mike Yeo went to the coaching handbook and stressed every feasible positive humanly possible after this one. No way he was going to hammer them for 3 out of 4 points on a road trip and let negativity overtake a week of practice.
But the Wild has to get better. It's blown 3 leads this season when leading after two periods to lose in overtime/shootout after doing that once all of last season. It's power play is still a big problem, going 3 for 31 this year (25th in the NHL, YES, THERE ARE 5 TEAMS WORSE!!!!) and 0 for its last 18 (although to be fair, Setoguchi's goal came two seconds after a power play, so that was basically a PPG). Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Jared Spurgeon has struggled on the point -- Spurgeon bigtime. It's time to go back to Matt Cullen there full-time. One big reason why the Wild's power play was sizzling to start last season was Cullen and his shot at the point.
The Wild doesn't have a goal from the power-play point this season. To clarify, I meant this in the context of the power play. Greg Zanon has scored from the point this year. I'm just talking about how I feel a big weakness on the Wild power play has been from the point, something Mike Yeo will mention in Monday's paper.
Faceoffs -- huge problem. Has won 48.1 percent, 22nd in the NHL. Today, it lost 36 of 57 and that 37 percent finish was 31 percent after 2 periods and 29 percent after 1. If you're starting every possession by chasing the puck, you're defending a lot. Yep, Captain Obvious -- I've been covering this game a long time.
It's not only the centers. Cullen lost 10 of 12 draws today. There were a few times where he tied up his man and the puck was laying right there for linemates Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Cal Clutterbuck to battle for that puck. Vancouver kept coming away with it.
Still, as bad as the third period was in my opinion, Wild easily could have taken this one. Cory Schneider came up large on a Bouchard chance after his puck-handling gaffe to begin with, then had three big saves on a Wild second-period power play to rob Heatley and Setoguchi.
Like I said above, Johnson was very good with Brett Bulmer and Kyle Brodziak. That line spent much of the game in the offensive zone and Johnson's puck support was tremendous, especially in his own zone a couple times when Spurgeon got himself into trouble. He had a beauty assist on Brodziak's goal after drawing two guys and losing Keith Ballard.
If Guillaume Latendresse comes back Thursday, Johnson deserves to stay, and sorry, but if Staubitz is going to get limited shifts and take penalties on most of them, he's got to be the one who comes out. You can't play seldomly and kill momentum like Staubitz did tonight in the second period with penalties on back-to-back shifts.
Justin Falk -- very impressive. It's not easy to be scratched the first seven games and come in, play on the top pair with Marek Zidlicky and log 22 mostly good minutes. Very impressive indeed.
The Wild normally would have flown home tonight with such an early game, but it stuck around town for its annual rookie dinner -- where the rooks buy the vets dinner. Sunday will be a travel day only, so barring news Sunday, it's a travel day for me, too.
I'll be back with you after Monday's practice.