The best revenge if you feel one of your teammates has been victimized by a dirty hit is to make the assailant and his team pay for the major penalty that follows.
The Wild did the opposite Tuesday night after Anaheim Ducks star Corey Perry knocked rookie Jason Zucker from the game with a late, blindside blow to the head.
The Wild’s power play failed dramatically on the ensuing five-minute major the same way it failed dramatically on a 90-second 5-on-3 in the first period. The missed opportunities predictably haunted the Wild when the hottest team in the NHL rallied with two goals in the third period to hand Minnesota a painful 2-1 loss.
“After [the major], I think it’s fair to say we were a different team,” said coach Mike Yeo, whose team had a 22-7 shot advantage and complete control of the game through two periods. “We looked like a team that went from going for the throat to all of a sudden being a little bit weary of what we were losing.”
Tough-guy minor-leaguer Patrick Maroon tied the score early in the third period, and the Wild was on its heels until defenseman Luca Sbisa scored the winning goal with 3 minutes, 4 seconds left.
The Ducks improved to 12-1-2 in the past 15 games, ended the Wild’s six-game home point streak and knocked Minnesota from the top spot in the Northwest Division.
Zucker’s health is the chief concern. The Wild won’t update Zucker’s status until seeing how he feels Wednesday, but he was down on the ice for several minutes early in the second period.
After Zucker sent a pass to the blue line, Perry nailed the unsuspecting player near the corner.
Perry was given a five-minute major for interference and game misconduct. Zucker’s head was the principal point of contact, so Perry, who has a telephone hearing with the league Wednesday, should face a suspension. He was suspended four games in 2009 for elbowing Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux in the head.
“I didn’t change my path of direction,” Perry said. “I was committed. I tried to let up. It’s hard. It happens so fast. It’s unfortunate.”
Perry said he sent an apology to Zucker through a locker-room attendant. “I don’t go out there looking to hurt guys. That’s not the way I am,” he said.
Earlier in the game, the Wild fanned on shots and missed nets on a slow-moving 5-on-3. It drew another advantage, and late in that disjointed power play, Devin Setoguchi did score his sixth goal.
Still, fans were restless at the start of the five-minute major. It didn’t help when the Wild spent the first 90 seconds fumbling the puck and coughing it up. “We couldn’t even get out of our end,” Setoguchi said.
The Wild eventually got four shots on Jonas Hiller, but Setoguchi said, “The power play’s got to be better. That’s the story of the game.”
Said Yeo, “We looked like a power play that hasn’t had any practice time, and that’s because we haven’t had any practice time.”
The Wild also felt Torrey Mitchell scored 2:27 into the game with a backhand under the crossbar. But referee Jean Hebert never made a signal, and video review ruled no-goal even though a wobbling puck appeared to hover inside the goal line.
“The disallowed goal, the major, and we take a penalty or two there, you feel the life being taken out of you a little bit on the bench with the momentum,” Mitchell said.
Yeo said the Wild just has to look ahead to a home-and-home with Colorado.