PHILADELPHIA – The Wild could not have tripped into the Christmas break in a worse way.
With Mike Yeo’s stated goal last week to enter the three-day holiday hiatus “feeling good about our game,” the Wild scored four goals in three consecutive losses, the latest being a 4-1 defeat Monday night to the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Wild, the NHL’s 29th-ranked offense, has scored nine goals in a stretch of eight losses in nine road games (1-7-1) and 22 goals in the past 15 games overall.
“I’m not going to try to paint a rosy picture and I’m not going to make any excuses,” Yeo said. “Flat out, we need to better. It’s every one of us, it starts with me.
“This is not us. There’s no way we can accept this. It’s not us and we have to fix it. With that said, this is the same group that will fix it. I have no doubt. Am I worried? No. Ticked off? Yeah, that we’re in this funk. But I also don’t have any doubts that we’ll fix it. This is the same group that raised the expectations, this is the same group that got us to a point where we were in a good spot and this is the same group that’s going to get us out of it.”
From Oct. 22-Nov. 23, the Wild reeled off a 12-2-1 run to climb to fifth in the West. It has since gone 5-9-1 and slipped to ninth in the West.
The road swing out east began with the team divulging that its backbone, Josh Harding, didn’t accompany the club as he altered his treatment for multiple sclerosis. It ended with its first-line left wing, Zach Parise, being sidelined by a lower-body injury.
It sounds like he is hampered by the foot injury sustained at the start of the Wild’s plummet 15 games ago.
“Good time for the break,” center Kyle Brodziak said. “We need to dig deep. It’s a good time to have a few days to reflect and try to reset our mind.”
For a team as crippled as the Wild admits it is mentally, things could not have started worse. The Flyers scored on their first shot when defenseman Luke Schenn blew a shot by Niklas Backstrom 1:52 in.
Ten seconds into an ensuing power play, Claude Giroux began a tic-tac-toe that Wayne Simmonds finished.
But the Flyers took penalties 20 seconds apart. With nine seconds left in the Wild’s 5-on-3, Jason Pominville connected with Mikael Granlund, who one-timed a shot perfectly. It was the Wild’s first goal on seven two-man advantages this season.
But as was the case for the Wild Sunday in New York, the second period was dreadful. The Wild could have tied the score on a power play to open the period, but it didn’t register a shot. In fact, the Granlund goal was the Wild’s only shot on five power plays.
At the point the Wild had a 17-8 shot lead, it trailed 3-1 on Giroux’s deflection. That rattled the tight team; the Wild was outshot 19-4 during a 27-minute span.
“The break comes at a perfect time,” Yeo said. “It’s pretty much all between the ears with us right now.”
Harding, 18-5-3, is expected to rejoin the Wild Friday in Winnipeg. Backstrom is 2-8-2 and gave up 12 goals on the road trip. Of course, the Wild has scored six goals in his past eight starts.
“We have to get back to being the team we were not too long ago,” Pominville said. “We can’t wait for something else to happen. We have to use this break to really reenergize.”
Yeo, in the last year of his contract, is feeling the heat now.
“I’m not worried about that. I don’t care,” Yeo said. “I believe in this group and I believe we’re going in the right direction. I believe this is the group that’s going to get it done. We’ll keep hammering away at it.”