Wild misses chance to pounce

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 19, 2011 - 6:36 AM

The Penguins were set up to be had, but the Wild showed once again a lack of fire at the start.

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If there ever was a time to play the powerhouse Pittsburgh Penguins, this was it.

Injured superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were back in Pittsburgh along with Tyler Kennedy and Brooks Orpik.

Stud defenseman Kris Letang was sitting the first game of a two-game suspension, stud goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was sitting on the Pittsburgh bench and the Penguins were playing the back end of a back-to-back.

The Penguins would be ripe for the picking, eh?

Think again.

The Wild traditionally belly flops when handed such opportunity, and Tuesday night it crawled out of Xcel Energy Center with throbbing red tummies after a 4-2 loss to the severely shorthanded Penguins.

Coach Mike Yeo, who spent five years as a Penguins assistant coach, has preached up-tempo, attacking, aggressive, fast hockey since he got here. In alarming fashion, the Wild again showed too many moments for Yeo's comfort where it needed to be checked for a pulse.

"What I want to see is an understanding of us that we have to start the game a certain way. If a team's going to come into our building, they should know they're going to be playing against the Minnesota Wild. And it should not be a lot of fun.

"I don't think that we made Pittsburgh feel that way in the first period."

In desperate search for a spark, Yeo broke up the highly-touted Wild first line to start the second period.

Devin Setoguchi, who tried to force pucks to snakebit Dany Heatley in the first period, was bounced to the second line with Pierre-Marc Bouchard promoted to the first.

"I didn't feel like we had any momentum or jump or life to our game at that time," Yeo said. "Was just looking for a spark. Didn't work."

Said Setoguchi, "Every team in the league does it. If it's not working, you try to switch it up."

After a scoreless first period, the Wild was chasing 46 seconds into the second. Greg Zanon coughed up the puck, and Chris Kunitz gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead.

After another in a string of disjointed power plays lately, the Wild had to kill four minutes worth of penalties when Brad Staubitz high-sticked Joe Vitale. With two seconds left in the first advantage, Jordan Staal gave the Penguins a two-goal lead.

Cal Clutterbuck answered with his third career shorthanded goal off a Mikko Koivu steal and feed, but the Wild could never get that tying goal in large part because of yet another ghastly power play.

At 3:38 of the third, James Neal gave the Penguins a 3-1 lead. Marco Scandella sloppily skated with the puck, then handed it right to Neal, who slid a soft goal through Niklas Backstrom's wickets.

The Wild got another chance to trim the deficit to one with a power play, but again the man advantage let the team down. Bouchard turned the puck over and Pascal Dupuis, his former carpool buddy with the Wild, scored shorthanded.

"We're not quick, we're not aggressive, and because of that, we're not tough to defend right now," Yeo said of the Wild's 3-for-23 power play.

The Wild's biggest concern is its lack of urgency at times, and that's been highlighted by flat starts against the Islanders, Ottawa, Edmonton and now Pittsburgh.

"Nobody comes to the rink and says, 'Uh, tonight we're going to come out flat,'" Zanon said. "It's frustrating for us because we know we can be a good team."

Setoguchi said it seems "it takes something to get us going," and the answer has "to come within the locker room."

It better, or the Wild could be in for some tough trucking ahead.

  • related content

  • Wild's Lundin itching to put on his skates

    Wednesday October 19, 2011

    A back injury has kept the 27-year-old defenseman from participating in anything. This is not how the former Apple Valley star wanted his Minnesota return to start.

  • Tuesday's Wild-Pittsburgh game recap

    Tuesday October 18, 2011

    1. Brent Johnson, Penguins: Backup goalie has a career goals-against average below 2 against the Wild, and he made 24 saves.

  • Postgame: Another flat start dooms Wild

    Tuesday October 18, 2011

    The Wild came out flat yet again, forcing coach Mike Yeo to look for any spark, including breaking up his top line

  • Devin Setoguchi (left), Deryk Engelland

  • PITTSBURGH 4, WILD 2

    Up next: 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Edmonton • TV: FSN (100.3-FM)

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