Wild losing head games, too

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSOMRUSSO@STARTRIBUNE.COM , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 19, 2012 - 8:05 AM

Coach Mike Yeo is running out of ways to try to motivate his team as the ugly nosedive continues.

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The Wild's Greg Zanon tripped Patrik Berglund of the St. Louis Blues' while on a a breakaway, drawing a penalty shot, in the second period Saturday.

Photo: Tom Gannam, Associated Press - Ap

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ST. LOUIS - Mike Yeo has tried every psychological ploy in the book to try to resuscitate his dying hockey team, so Saturday afternoon the Wild coach turned to bribery.

If the Wild could somehow, someway upend the St. Louis Blues, Yeo promised to look like "a donkey" during Sunday's NBC telecast against the Boston Bruins and wear the ugliest tie in his closet.

That extra incentive didn't work. Not even close.

Playing without injured captain Mikko Koivu, the Wild took a season-low 13 shots as the Blues skated to a simple 4-0 win at Scottrade Center.

The Wild, spiraling uncontrollably, lost for the 23rd time in 28 games (5-17-6), 12th time in 15 games (3-9-3) and seventh time in a row (0-5-2).

"It's frustrating. All of us are frustrated," said Matt Cullen, who hasn't scored since Jan. 10. "It's probably pretty apparent. You probably see it on the ice. Guys are trying to work through this and trying to turn it.

"It's so frustrating and guys want to win so badly, and that's never been in doubt. It's not happening right now. But we have to keep working. That's it. We have to keep working and try to persevere."

Ken Hitchcock's Blues are firing on all cylinders -- 18-0-3 in their past 21 at home with seven shutouts. They are the NHL's best defensive team, yielding 1.86 goals per game. The Wild is the NHL's second-worst offensive team, scoring 2.14 goals a game.

So when the Blues built a 2-0, then 3-0 lead in a one-sided second period, the game felt like a 15-0 stranglehold.

"We try to do many things right," defenseman Jared Spurgeon said. "The other team gets one bounce going their way and we sort of, I don't want to say panic, but get away from our game."

Forty minutes in, the Wild was being outshot 26-10 (the 10 were hardly shots to make Brian Elliott quake in his skates). The Wild was outshot 17-3 in the second, going shotless for 18 1/2 minutes at one stretch between the second and third.

In each of its previous two games, the Wild registered nine shots through two periods.

"It was all our execution," Yeo said. "The guy making a pass couldn't make a flat pass or couldn't hit the guy on the tape. And when we did hit the guy on the tape, we couldn't receive it. We turned puck over after puck. It made for not a very fun period."

The Wild wasn't done in by David Backes or David Perron or T.J. Oshie. It was cooked offensively by Ryan Reaves, Barret Jackman and Vladimir Sobotka.

Sobotka hadn't scored since Nov. 22, Reaves since Jan. 13, 2011.

That was nothing. Jackman had the NHL's longest goal drought. He hadn't scored since Jan. 7, 2010 -- a span of 150 games.

It was the 16th time in 28 games since Dec. 13 that the Wild scored one goal or fewer. What's worse, Koivu sounds doubtful to play against Boston with the undisclosed injury, so you know NBC is just salivating that Wild-Bruins is the featured national game to end Hockey Day in America.

Most disconcerting, the Wild looked dangerously close to giving up.

"That worries me big-time," Yeo said.

Motivation, suddenly, is day-to-day.

"Playing the Stanley Cup champions [Sunday], a team that's sitting there waiting for us. That should give us a pretty good opportunity to see what we got as far as our makeup," Yeo said. "Do we have the ability to come to the rink ... and look forward to that challenge or do we hang our heads and feel a little more sorry for ourselves?"

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