Wild: Lone letdown extends slump

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 23, 2006 - 10:15 AM

A territorial advantage and big edge in shots went for naught, aided by a gaffe that goalie Manny Fernandez said cost the Wild a victory.

DETROIT - Eight now, and counting.

The Wild came to Detroit hoping for a new result on the road. They left feeling the same old frustration.

In a 3-1 loss to the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena, the Wild gave as well as it took when it came to scoring opportunities.

But the Wild couldn't make up for one killer mistake.

The backbreaker of the evening came at 9 minutes, 10 seconds of the second period. The teams had traded first-period goals. The second period began with the Wild controlling the action, much like Detroit had in the first.

The Wild was on a power play when the puck was cleared out of the Red Wings' zone. Goalie Manny Fernandez came out of the goal and attempted to backhand the puck behind the net to a teammate. Problem is, he hit the back of his own net, and the puck stopped. Detroit's Johan Franzen swooped in and backhanded the puck to Daniel Cleary, who beat Fernandez high for a shorthanded goal.

The Wild never recovered.

"I cost us the game tonight, bottom line," Fernandez said. "I have to be sharper. A puck comes down ... I have a forechecker coming hard. If I freeze it, I get [a penalty]. If I try hard against the boards, there's no saying where it goes -- it might go over the boards. So I tried to go backhand, and it jumped, so ..."

So the Wild's road losing streak, already a franchise record, was extended to eight games.

The Wild skated hard, forechecked well. It outshot the Red Wings 35-25 and had at least as many scoring opportunities as Detroit.

"I thought our plan was good, the guys worked hard, we had our chances," Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said. "[Dominik] Hasek was good."

Certainly when he had to be. Hasek, now a career 6-0-2 vs. the Wild (2-0 this season), made the saves when he needed to, particularly in the third period, in which the Wild outshot Detroit 14-9.

For the second consecutive road game the Wild skated well enough to have a chance to win. But, unlike their loss in Vancouver -- when the team felt it had a goal unfairly called off -- this time the problem was a couple of key mistakes.

And Fernandez knew it.

"Those are things you have to look out for," Fernandez said. "If you turn it over, make a bad play, they'll be all over you. And that set the tone, I think, right then and there. I don't know, it seemed like it took our wind right out and changed the momentum of the game."

The Wild continued to work hard. But Detroit took advantage of a bad bounce to make it 3-1 with less than 2 minutes left in the second period, when Kris Draper's slapshot from the point caromed off a Wild player to Niklas Lidstrom. He skated between the circles and scored on a slapshot at 18:13.

The Wild will have to try to end its road woes Tuesday night in Toronto or Wednesday in Detroit. Friday's game was the first of three in six games vs. the Red Wings, now 2-0 vs. Minnesota this season.

The teams meet again tonight at Xcel Energy Center.

"We needed to get some goals on the power play to try to get some confidence there," said Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who set up the Wild's only goal, by Stephane Veilleux, in the first period.

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