After a 2-0 loss to St. Louis on Thursday, Mike Yeo knew what was coming. The Wild coach anticipated a barrage of questions about his team’s sixth loss in eight games, as well as a sudden power outage that led to its third shutout loss in a week.
Yeo immediately deflected any suggestion that the Wild was struggling, working his hardest to emphasize the positive. His team played with determination and grit at Xcel Energy Center against a team that now has won six consecutive games behind an ultra-hot goaltender. But the numbers painted a grimmer picture, even if the attitude remained defiant.
The Wild has been shut out in three of its past four games. In its past six, it has scored six goals. Thursday, it outshot St. Louis 23-20 but was stonewalled by Blues goaltender Brian Elliott, who recorded his third consecutive shutout — all on the road — and broke a 45-year-old record in the process.
Things could have been worse. Yeo said defenseman Ryan Suter, who did not play in the third period and missed much of the second because of an undisclosed ailment, should be fine. He is hoping the rest of his team will be, too, as it seeks to get itself back on track toward making the playoffs.
Roman Polak scored his first goal of the season at 10 minutes, 37 seconds of the first period, and Andy McDonald added another at 9:30 of the third to extend Elliott’s winning streak to five games. He has not surrendered a goal in 189 minutes, 31 seconds. That broke Jacques Plante’s NHL record of 141:19 without allowing a goal on the road, set in the 1968-69 season.
Yeo’s postgame remarks seemed engineered to buoy the spirits of a team that is feeling growing pressure. He said the Wild has lost so often for so long that “it’s almost like we’re waiting for it to happen,” but he appeared determined to prevent that mindset.
“We have nothing to apologize for and nothing to feel sorry about,” said Yeo, whose team has won only once in six games in April. “Right through the lineup, we competed hard. We did a lot of good things. We made a couple of mistakes, but we’ve got nothing to hang our heads about.
“I’m not saying we can’t be better in some areas. One thing we’re learning is that the final push is the hardest.”
The Wild’s effort was far superior to its last game against the Blues, a 4-1 debacle on April 1 that began a string of five losses in its past six games. Once again, though, its opponent scored first, continuing another unhappy trend.
Polak found himself wide open in the slot and beat goaltender Niklas Backstrom, marking the seventh time in the past eight games that the Wild has failed to score first. That pained Yeo more than anything else. While he said the team remains positive, left winger Zach Parise
— who has not scored a goal in six games — admitted to feeling frustrated.
“It’s a collective thing,” he said. “We can all play a little better and limit our mistakes.”
Linemate Jason Pominville echoed Yeo’s emotions but said the Wild must find a way to score some goals, no matter how strong the opponent. Yeo also reminded them that if they are to reach their ultimate goal — which he referred to only as “the P word” — they must learn to deal with the kind of tension they are feeling and work their way out of it.
“If we think it’s intense and emotional and tough right now, where we want to get to, it gets a little bit more,” he said. “This is part of it, learning how to deal with it.”