Minnesota Wild's desperation gives way to devastation

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 3, 2011 - 7:23 AM

The Wild's playoff hopes took a big hit with a blowout loss to the Islanders.

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UNIONDALE, N.Y. - The Wild is fighting for its playoff life.

When you can drop from sixth to 10th in the Western Conference with one loss to Chicago, it emphasizes how vital every point is. So desperation was absolutely critical Wednesday night at Nassau Coliseum against the New York Islanders.

The Wild was trounced 4-1.

"We were just bad," Cal Clutterbuck said.

"We weren't responsible at all. We weren't good," Kyle Brodziak concurred.

"Right from the get-go, I don't know where the energy level was," Andrew Brunette said. "Not making proper decisions, not making proper reads, puck handling, all the things that don't win you hockey games, we seemed to do pretty well tonight."

Now, these weren't yesteryear's Islanders with Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier and Denis Potvin manning the ice and Billy Smith tending the twine. This was a young, scrappy bunch with the NHL's third-worst record and Al Montoya in the cage.

Playing the role of spoiler, the Islanders, 7-3-2 in their past 12, did some serious damage to a Wild team that has lost three of four and is 2-3-1 without captain Mikko Koivu.

Blake Comeau scored twice, Frans Nielsen had three assists, Kyle Okposo had a goal and an assist and Montoya made 33 saves. John Madden ended Montoya's shutout bid in the third.

"There's no excuse to get what we got out on the ice," said Wild coach Todd Richards, whose team fell to 11th in the West after Anaheim beat Detroit later Wednesday. "We weren't good in a lot of areas. Players that we need to be good weren't good, and at this time of year, when games mean that much ... it's disappointing."

Niklas Backstrom, for the second consecutive game, wasn't sharp, and despite the Wild getting outplayed dramatically in the first period, Backstrom didn't help matters when he had to be yanked 41 seconds into the second after allowing an awful goal.

Matt Martin took a harmless shot. Backstrom dropped it. And Comeau made it 3-0. It was similar to Backstrom dropping a puck before Chicago's second goal Monday.

"It's a rebound, and it shouldn't be there. I can't give up a rebound like that," Backstrom said.

Koivu's loss to a broken finger has deeply affected Brunette and Miettinen, who have been skating with Matt Cullen. Brunette has no goals and one assist in the six games Koivu has been out; Miettinen no goals and three assists -- those coming in one game.

"We're just not finishing, and this hockey team needs us to produce," said Brunette, who has no goals in 10 games. "I think we've been creating. It's not working right now."

For the third-lowest-scoring team in the West at its most critical juncture, the Wild must find a way to jump-start Brunette and Miettinen.

"We need these guys to score, and we're going to have to switch lines [Thursday against the Rangers]," Richards said.

The Wild had lots of chances in the first period and some prolonged forechecks. But after either hitting Montoya's chest, overskating rebounds or shooting wide, the Wild would let the Islanders fly out of the zone.

"They must have had six odd-man rushes in the first 10 minutes," Madden said.

"We were getting beat back into our zone," Richards added. "We got caught standing and watching and they were skating by us."

Finally, with three seconds left in a power play, Comeau buried a tic-tac-toe goal into an open cage. Later in the period, Okposo surprised Backstrom with a backhand shot through the wickets.

"Guys were up and ready and knew the importance of the game," Madden said. "We knew this is must-win game for us. Every game is a must-win game for us. I think we came out a little nervous, threw pucks away and didn't play our game."

Brodziak said: "It makes [Thursday] night even that much bigger. We've got to stop the slide now."

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