In my game story, I wrote just how poorly the Wild played tonight, so there really is no use me rehashing everything on here.
But a couple thoughts before I dump a boatload of postgame quotes on here:
The Wild better play much, much, much better Sunday night at Florida than it did tonight. Thanks largely to Devan Dubnyk (whom I’d be shocked if he didn’t start Sunday against the Panthers), the Wild was able to salvage a point out of this game tonight against the defending Eastern Conference champs before losing in a shootout, 3-2.
The Wild outshot the Lightning 15-3 in a well-played third, brushed off an overturned Ryan Suter goal for Zach Parise incidental contact on the goalie and ultimately tied the score on a Jared Spurgeon goal with 2:39 left off a Charlie Coyle rebound. Coyle was solid again tonight, scoring a goal and assist. He has four goals in the past six games and now 10 goals in 37 games after scoring 11 in 82 games last year.
Matt Dumba also had nine of the Wild’s 32 shots tonight, the nine being a franchise record for a defenseman.
BUT, the Wild stunk the first period-and-a-half. Of course, the beat writers for the Lightning say that was the best 50-minute stretch the Lightning has played all season. And, the Panthers – America’s team and my old stomping ground -- are red-hot right now. They had an 11-3 December, they have won a franchise-record eight games and they did all this without former Minnesota Mr. Hockey, Gopher and #oneofus Nick Bjugstad, who is probable to return against his hometown Wild from 15 games away with migraines.
Heck, the Panthers are so good, they have spent the past two days extending everybody’s contract in the organization, from GM Dale Tallon to my old pal, coach Gerard Gallant, to probably the ushers in Section 107 and 123.
So, we’ll see if tonight was a wakeup call because as Parise astutely said afterward, “That’s not good enough.”
Coach Mike Yeo tried to shuffle the lines with Parise back today. Justin Fontaine was scratched. Yeo wanted to keep Charlie Coyle on the top line with Jason Zucker and Mikko Koivu, and with Jason Pominville playing poorly lately, he started him on the third line with Nino Niederreiter and Erik Haula.
Parise and Mikael Granlund started with Thomas Vanek.
That all lasted five shifts as Pominville and Vanek, who each had tough nights, swapped places. But then in the second and third, Yeo, like he was running a BINGO hall, kept calling out numbers to try to find a spark. Everybody played with everybody pretty much.
Yeo really rode guys like Coyle and Niederreiter hard late. Zucker, who didn't have the greatest of nights, got lost in the shuffle, only playing 12 minutes or so. The 3-on-3 was a mishmash too because the Wild got trapped in its own end a couple times, so some players really overextended their shifts -- Parise, Scandella and Stoll were out there for 1:25 at one point, Vanek and Granlund for 1:24 and 1:29 at one point, Coyle for 56 seconds.
Remember, there's only FIVE minutes in OT, so lots of guys got cemented to the bench.
On the first two periods, Parise said, “We couldn’t get in the zone clean and when we did, we weren’t strong on it, too quick with it and we’d just throw it away. It’s tough to generate anything, it’s tough to get any zone time when you don’t hold onto the puck.”
On the overturned goal (described in the gamer), Parise said, “There’s no point in my thoughts or venting my frustration.”
On the outcome, Parise said, “Bright side is we got a point, but two periods, that was not good hockey.”
“There’s a reason they went to the Cup Final and I don’t know if we had too much respect, but we were just flat. Yeozie tried switching up the lines and get something going and didn’t really get a spark until the third.”
What changed? “We forechecked a little better and got some loose pucks. In the first two periods, every time we forechecked, they just went d to d, cross ice or high flip and off they went.”
On why? “They played great and we didn’t have an answer until the third period. Once we found our game, it was good, but it took way too long.”
“They came out hard and it took us a little long to get to our game. you never want to play a game like that and have to chase and try to come back every time, but if we play like we do in the third period all the time, we’ll be a good team.”
On the changes in the third: “We took too long to do all that stuff.”
On all the line changes: “Sometimes you don’t know who’s going back out, but you just got to be ready. He’s trying to mix things up to create some momentum and create a spark and we finally got it in the third there.”
On Dubnyk: “He’s doing what he usually does for us, just a number of huge saves there to keep us in it. We can’t always rely on him back there. We’ve got to create some comfort for him back there, too. We can’t always just have him making all the big saves and playing catchup all the time. We have to play our game and score a few goals for him.”
On his goal (described in the gamer): “I just tried to read the goalie and luckily I read it the right way. I figured he was out of the net, so I tried to shoot it. I just looked back and it was in. I don’t know how it went in, but we’ll take that bounce. We needed that at that point.”
“We knew we had another level going into the third and we knew we were in the game. We defended well and that gave us a chance.”
On the issues early: “We weren’t completely on top of it. … Once we got our legs underneath us and started adapting to the pace of the game, we got ourselves going.”
On the overturned goal: “I had a feeling that was probably going to be the call. That’s the way it’s going right now and that’s what you have to live with.”
On changing the lines: “There was a lot going on – just trying to spark some guys and find something that was going to click. … Every game is different. Tonight we were just naming numbers.”
Spark guys or a couple vets? “This game I think as a group we know we weren’t at our best but the bottom line is we came into a building that’s --- these guys went to the Stanley Cup Finals last year. It’s a pretty darn good team over there. We knew we were going to face their best game tonight. We lost in a shootout. I think if we won in a shootout we might be feeling pretty good about ourselves. So we have to make sure we’re ready to start the game better tomorrow but it’s certainly not the end of the world.
Shootout? :I think the ice didn’t really help us there for a couple. But the 3 on 3 we’ve definitely practiced that more than the shootout so we’ve lacked a little bit of that.”
What’s up with Pominville struggling: “Yeah I would say so. For sure there’s another level to his game. But this is not to single him out. there were a number of us that were not completely on top of it tonight. But I know that there’s another level there.”
On Dumba: “I liked the way that he played especially in the third period. That’s what you want when you need a push. Especially on the road. It’s easy to try to play a safe game. We never want to be a safe team. We want to be smart, we want to be strong defensively, but we have to be aggressive. That was kind of the difference between the first period and the third period.”
Dubnyk starting tomorrow: “I don’t know.”
Unless they’re worried about some kind of injury, I don’t see how Niklas Backstrom starts.
I wrote about that in my game notebook in Sunday’s paper, so check that out please along with my Nick Schultz column.
Talk to you Sunday. Doubtful there’ll be a skate with a 6 p.m. ET game and back to back, so lineup decisions will likely be told to us by Yeo around 4 p.m. ET/ 3 p.m. CT.