For Wild, a whole lot of nothing going on

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 11, 2011 - 3:53 PM

A sleepwalking Minnesota team surrendered two quick goals and spent the rest of the night with no answer to the Predators.

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NASHVILLE - Thursday night's game against the Nashville Predators began at 7:07 p.m.

By 7:15, the Wild should have conceded the two points, flown to Dallas early and rested up for Friday's game that might be even tougher.

All the Wild did the remaining two hours of a dreadful 4-0 loss was waste a bunch of energy that it'll need to beat the Stars in an arena in which Minnesota hasn't won since George W. Bush's first term as president.

At the launch of a crucial four-game trek, the Wild hit the snooze button and never awoke. The start was so astonishingly bad, the game was basically over before the full cast of players got a chance to let loose a bead of sweat.

"It's really disappointing," goalie Niklas Backstrom said. "It was the biggest game of the season, and it's over after 15 minutes."

The Wild gave up three goals in the first period -- two in the first 4:01 -- and then had to swim upstream against the Western Conference's second-best defensive team.

"We didn't have a lot of pushback," coach Todd Richards said. "We had a couple plays here or there, but not nearly enough at this stage of the season."

The Wild, now 11th in the West, looked jacked during warmups, but when Joel Ward and Nick Spaling scored 48 seconds apart, the Wild's balloon popped so piercingly, it could be heard all the way to Lynchburg.

The dejected Wild couldn't make a pass cleanly, couldn't register a shot from inside the faceoff circles, couldn't make a proper read inside its zone.

"The whole first period, we were just scrambling, couldn't find any groove. I don't know what happened," center Kyle Brodziak said.

The Wild, playing again without injured Mikko Koivu and Cal Clutterbuck, had six shots through the first half of the game and 19 total in the game. Predators goalie Pekka Rinne recorded an easy 20th career shutout.

"They just swarmed us, and we didn't execute. Then they just shut it down," defenseman Greg Zanon said.

The inattention to detail in the Wild's zone in the first period was mind-boggling.

Zanon took a needless interference penalty on a line change. Six seconds after the penalty expired, Ward scored after an impatient Brent Burns gave Nashville the zone with speed. Less than a minute later, Jared Spurgeon lost a wall battle and Spaling stepped inside Martin Havlat for a tap-in.

"[The Predators] were really ready, they were focused, they were determined, they battled hard, they didn't give up anything,'' Backstrom said. "They played a good team game shift after shift."

How about his team?

"It's hard to say right after a game. I'm pretty emotional. I'll probably choose my words wrong," Backstrom said.

Since returning from the All-Star Game, Burns has been a completely different player. His defensive game and decision-making have been erratic. That didn't change Thursday.

"We need him out on the ice playing at his best. He wasn't at his best tonight," Richards said. "We didn't have a lot of guys at their best tonight."

Burns did create what looked like a gimme for Antti Miettinen. But Miettinen, who has no goals in 13 games, rocket-launched the puck into the sky 5 feet from a yawning net.

A minute later, Martin Erat made it 3-0.

"It was a bad miss on my part," Miettinen said.

Most disturbing was the Wild's lifeless locker room afterward. Unless Koivu and Clutterbuck return to provide a jolt, this road trip could get ugly.

"I don't know if we're waiting for those guys," Richards said. "We need somebody to step forward. I'm not saying go out and score three goals [Friday] night. But just be a leader."

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