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The Wild Beat

Horrendous start headlines Wild's latest playoff demise

It’ll rank as just another shortcoming among many.

Since advancing to the Western Conference final in its inaugural trip to the postseason in 2003, the Wild has advanced past the first round only twice. Of its last 26 playoff games, the team has won just eight.

And after getting creamed 5-0 by the Jets Friday at Bell MTS Place, the Wild has been eliminated in five games in back-to-back years.

But this latest demise might be hard to forget, as the Wild was tagged for four goals in barely half a period of play – a horrendous start that sabotaged its chances of sending the series back to Saint Paul.



“It’s not the way anybody wants to end it,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “That’s what I told them after the first period. ‘You don’t want this be our epitaph for the season.’”

One game isn’t likely to influence how 2017-18 is remembered for the Wild, but the finish is no doubt memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Backed by a raucous crowd and on the brink of the franchise’s first playoff series win, the Jets were expected to be energetic from the get-go. Withstanding that push was going to be key for the Wild. Actually, a lead and strong debut by it was circled as key.

That never happened, though, with the Wild falling behind only 31 seconds after puck drop – a quick finish that spiraled into an insurmountable deficit that essentially nixed the Wild’s season before it was officially over. 

“Losing stinks no matter what,” center Eric Staal said. “It doesn't matter how.”

Here’s what else to watch for after the Wild’s Game 5 loss to the Jets.

-Veteran center Matt Cullen didn’t have an answer after the game on whether he is going to retire.

-This was a rough way for the series to end for goalie Devan Dubnyk, who had been solid through the first four games. He was pulled after surrendering four goals on 10 shots in just 11 minutes, 59 seconds into the first period.

“I made a mistake on the first goal not shifting my feet, leaning a bit, and it cost me,” he said. “But I felt good about my game still. It was fine. A couple strange deflections. But I understand [Boudreau’s decision to pull him]. If the building is going nuts, you need to change something and [backup Alex Stalock] has done a great job of coming in and doing that this year. Certainly not what I had in mind at all, but I understand and I was ready to keep going or not.”

-The Wild’s offense was sporadic at times during the regular season, but it completely disappeared at the end of this series – getting shut out for the final 141:37 of action. It was the first time the team was blanked in back-to-back playoff games since it lost three consecutive shutouts May 10-14 to the Ducks in the 2003 Western Conference Final.

“They definitely tightened up,” winger Charlie Coyle said. “They are a good team. We knew we weren't going to score six goals every game. It was up to us to kind of hold them and stay tight on them, and we didn't do that. That's how it ended up.”

Boudreau: Wild needs 'everybody on board' to stave off elimination

While the Wild could certainly use a few standout individual performances in Game 5 to stave off elimination, a by-committee approach is what the team feels will give it the best chance to persevere against the Jets Friday in Game 5 at Bell MTS Place after falling behind 3-1 in the first-round, best-of-seven series.

“I think when we’ve been successful, we’ve had the whole team playing well,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We’re not a team that can survive with eight players playing good and the rest just being mediocre. We have to have everybody on board. We have to have everybody going and when we have everybody going from the goaltender on out, we’re usually successful.”

The lineup the Wild will utilize to try to force a Game 6 back in Minnesota will be unlike any it’s used so far in the series. Defenseman Ryan Murphy will draw in, as will winger Kyle Rau. These changes were made to try to spark a Wild offense that came up emptyhanded in Game 4, as the Jets blanked the team 2-0.

In 21 games during the regular season, Murphy had two goals and three assists. Rau chipped in an assist in three games with the Wild.

“There's no guy more deserving than him, just based on how hard he works and the mentality he's had all season,” defenseman Nick Seeler said of Rau. “I grew up playing with him, and he's been the same way since he was s squirt. He's a competitor. He loves to compete. I can't say enough good things about him. I'm just excited for him to get this opportunity. I think he's going to do very well.”

The Wild is 11-8 when facing elimination and 4-6 all-time in Game 5s.

"We’ve played a lot of big games this year," center Matt Cullen said. "Obviously this is the biggest, but it’s on each guy right now to bring his best game. When we’ve been in these do-or-die situations throughout the course of the season, we’ve played some pretty solid games and I think we’re a group that will rise to the occasion."

Projected Wild lineup:

Jason Zucker-Eric Staal-Charlie Coyle

Nino Niederreiter-Mikko Koivu-Mikael Granlund

Marcus Foligno-Matt Cullen-Kyle Rau

Jordan Greenway-Joel Eriksson Ek-Daniel Winnik

Jonas Brodin-Matt Dumba

Nick Seeler-Jared Spurgeon

Ryan Murphy-Nate Prosser

Devan Dubnyk

Projected Jets lineup:

Kyle Connor-Mark Scheifele-Blake Wheeler

Nikolaj Ehlers-Paul Stastny-Patrik Laine

Jack Roslovic-Bryan Little-Joel Armia

Andrew Copp-Adam Lowry-Brandon Tanev

Ben Chiarot-Jacob Trouba

Joe Morrow-Dustin Byfuglien

Tucker Pullman-Tyler Myers

Connor Hellebuyck

Key Wild numbers:

0: Points from wingers Jason Zucker, Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle in the series. 

3: Goals by the Wild on the road in this series.

132: Saves for goalie Devan Dubnyk.

0: Goals for the Wild in the last 81:37.

2: Players making their playoff debut in Game 5 (Murphy and Rau).

Key Jets numbers:

11: Straight wins on home ice.

Feb. 27: The last time the Jets have lost in Winnipeg.

7: Goals at home in this series.

4: Consecutive games in which the Jets have scored first in this series.

2: Goals in Game 4 for center Mark Scheifele.

Latest on the Jets:

Defenseman Tyler Myers said he’ll be back in the lineup for Game 5 after missing Game 4 with a lower-body injury. Myers left Game 3 after colliding with winger Marcus Foligno. “I just remember it being an awkward play,” Myers said. “I haven’t put too much thought into it, trying to focus on tonight and trying to get back to feeling good again these past couple of days. I did that. Trying to get a win here.” With him back in the mix, the Wild said its approach to Game 5 doesn’t change. “He’s a good player,” Boudreau said. “But it doesn’t affect our game plan.”

Final, 4/20 1 2 3 F
Minnesota 1-4 0 0 0 0
Winnipeg 4-1 4 0 1 5

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