Short players, and urgency, Wild falls again

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 18, 2011 - 1:52 AM

A lackluster effort brought a late tie and a second shootout loss in a row.

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For the Wild's sake, hopefully Mikko Koivu, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Devin Setoguchi, Guillaume Latendresse and Casey Wellman have been flooded with "get well soon" cards and chicken soup.

The announced crowd of 18,209 at Xcel Energy Center got to see what life looks like without those five injured forwards all at once Saturday night.

It's fairly unsightly.

The Wild should feel fortunate Niklas Backstrom had its back against the worst team in the Eastern Conference, or there's no chance it would have stolen a point from a 2-1 shootout loss to the New York Islanders.

"We had no business being in that game after two periods. We got one point because of him," an edgy coach Mike Yeo said of Backstrom, who made 35 saves. "The last game [against Chicago on Wednesday] was a shootout loss that felt like a win. This was a shootout loss that felt like a loss."

Frans Nielsen's Koivu-like forehand-deke-backhand shootout goal proved to be the winner after Matt Cullen, Marek Zidlicky and Dany Heatley were stuffed by Al Montoya. Decimated by injury and dressing a lineup more emblematic of the Houston Aeros, the Wild's winless skid hit three games (0-1-2) for the first time this season.

Of course, the optimist would remind that the point in the standings at least kept Minnesota atop the NHL and Western Conference standings by a point.

But Yeo was in no mood after a terrible performance was masked in the third period by Cal Clutterbuck's tying goal.

"Fancy plays and soft plays and just things that are completely uncharacteristic of us when we have a full lineup, let alone when there should be more urgency and desperation in our game," Yeo said.

Down so many top-six forwards, the Wild needed to outwork the Islanders, not outskill them. But the only consistent physical tone was set by the third line of Colton Gillies (five hits), Warren Peters and -- in his NHL debut -- Jarod Palmer, who was arguably the Wild's best forward Saturday night.

The line combined for 10 of the Wild's 21 shots, and as Yeo said, "As far as I'm concerned, they turned the game around."

Peters credited Palmer, the Fridley native, who had six shots.

"He threw pucks at the net, kept it simple and carried the momentum of our line," Peters said.

In what would have been a dream, Palmer had the potential overtime winning pass from Nick Johnson slide off his heel.

"Wish I had it back," said Palmer, who said his body was tingling all night.

The Wild was outshot 15-2 in an excruciating-to-watch second period. The Wild trailed 1-0 on Andy MacDonald's goal, but it felt like 10-0, and much of the sellout crowd serenaded the Wild with boos as it left the ice.

"We weren't skating, we weren't anticipating anything, we weren't making hard plays and we spent way too much time chasing the puck," center Kyle Brodziak said.

Clutterbuck said that with this many injuries, "We just have to work that much harder. We didn't work nearly hard enough in the first two periods considering the circumstance. The guys that are here on a regular basis, we have to pick it up."

Yeo said Bouchard was close to playing, but a team down five forwards who have all played top-two-line roles with a three-road trip against all divisional opponents on the horizon is not ideal.

But maybe that's the remedy, Yeo thinks. The Wild is 2-3-2 against the East, rarely playing them with "the right emotion, the right desperation," Yeo said.

"We're going into Vancouver [Monday]. We're going to know how we're going to have to play that game."

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