Wild encounters more bumps in the road

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 27, 2006 - 11:06 PM

Minnesota lost its 10th consecutive game away from home as the Red Wings scored 16 seconds into the game and weren't threatened.

DETROIT - The coaches didn't mince words before the Wild's latest road degradation, a 3-1 loss to the Red Wings that was a laugher for the first period and a half before the Wild ultimately succumbed to a 10th consecutive loss outside the Twin Cities.

"We need better goaltending," assistant coach Mario Tremblay said.

"We need the goalie to make the big saves so we can win a game on the road just to get us started," head coach Jacques Lemaire echoed. "We've been having average goaltending, there's no doubt. On the road, that's what we've been getting."

This was all an indictment of Manny Fernandez, of course. He hasn't won on the road since Nov. 11 and has a 3.48 road goals-against average and .891 road save percentage.

But the only way backup Niklas Backstrom could have won Wednesday was if he did so by his lonesome.

By no stretch was Backstrom great, but his teammates were awful the first 30 minutes, and as a result limped back to Minnesota to begin a crucial five-game homestand Friday against Columbus.

"If anything is positive, it's that we're going back home," Lemaire said. The Wild has won five in a row at home and 14 games overall.

It's always something on the road, and there was a new low Wednesday. It took the Wild a remarkable 16 seconds to fall behind 1-0.

Kirk Maltby got a piece of Johan Franzen's shot from the bottom of the left circle. Emblematic of the Wild's bad breaks away from Xcel, the puck deflected off Backstrom's pad, defenseman Keith Carney's skate and in.

"Unfortunate break," Carney said. "That cost us the game tonight. That first shift really sets the tone."

The Wild took seven minutes even to get a shot on goal, didn't take a shot on its only power play of the period and spent six minutes in the box.

Not exactly an inspired jump out of the gates after blowing Tuesday's game late in Toronto. Although, the Wild didn't arrive in Detroit until 2 a.m. Wednesday because of stitches to Mikko Koivu's ear and a refueling issue that delayed the departure out of Toronto.

Things imploded in the second. The Wild graciously allowed Detroit to come through the neutral zone uncontested. Pavel Datsyuk was allowed to cross the blue line uncontested. Henrik Zetterberg was allowed to stand in front of Backstrom uncontested.

Guess the result? A Datsyuk-to-Zetterberg goal for a 2-0 lead. Detroit made it 3-0 by seven minutes in when Backstrom surrendered a cheesy, bad-angled goal to Franzen by not being tight on the post.

From there, the Wild picked up its play dramatically, but Dominik Hasek, 7-0-2 all-time against the Wild, was stifling with 31 saves.

"It took four whacks at [the puck] before our one goal [by Pavol Demitra]," Lemaire said.

Lemaire was pleased with Wednesday's effort, calling the game "a good recovery" from Toronto. Still the road woes continued.

Said Carney: "We've had a lot of solid efforts on the road and nothing to show for it. It's very frustrating. We battled back. We worked. It obviously wasn't enough."

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