So much focus was paid to the Wild's feeble power play this week that we almost forgot: The Wild's penalty kill has been lousy, too.
The Wild reminded everyone of that fact Thursday night when it gave up two power-play goals during a 3-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks at Xcel Energy Center.
Despite giving up 16 shots, the Wild was cooked like a duck by Anaheim's trifecta of stars. Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan and Ryan Getzlaf each scored goals into wide-open cages. Elder statesman and future Hall of Famer Teemu Selanne assisted on all three.
"Three incredible players, and they hurt us tonight," defenseman Justin Falk said of Perry, Ryan and Getzlaf. "We didn't give them much, but when they had their chances, players like that, they're going to finish it off."
Jared Spurgeon and Matt Cullen scored for Minnesota, which fell to a 3-3-3 -- a fitting record for a franchise that perennially claws for that eighth and final playoff spot.
During three days of practice, the Wild worked to improve its power play, which entered 3-for-31 with no goals since Oct. 11. The Wild connected twice on five chances Thursday but was done in by a penalty kill that's been beaten eight times on 31 chances (74.2 percent success rate).
That's fourth worst in the NHL.
"On PK, it starts with me," goalie Niklas Backstrom said. "We have to be better. Our special teams, our PK, they're not good enough. We have better PK today, we're going to win the game."
Perry's goal came after Lubomir Visnovsky's initial pass got by Mikko Koivu. Clayton Stoner challenged Selanne, but he got the puck down to Getzlaf. Nick Schultz stepped up on Getzlaf, but he got the puck over to Perry. With Backstrom on the other side, last year's 50-goal scorer and NHL MVP didn't miss the yawning cage.
On Getzlaf's goal, Falk didn't cover the backdoor on Selanne's goalmouth feed.
"You saw when we did it right, we were effective with it," Schultz said. "A couple times we got away from it, that's all it takes for them. They see an opening and it's in the back of your net."
The Wild also gave the Ducks too many power-play chances (six). The two goals came off careless penalties. First, Darroll Powe held non-offensive threat George Parros near the Wild blue line. Second, Kyle Brodziak tripped Luca Sbisa behind the play 150 feet from his net.
Then, after Cullen cut the deficit to 3-2 with 6:06 left, Guillaume Latendresse flipped the puck in the crowd with 4:52 left. Seven seconds after killing that penalty, Cullen tripped Ryan with 2:45 left.
Any thought of a comeback was doused.
On the power play, the Ducks directed every puck to the paint and outnumbered the Wild down low -- something coach Mike Yeo has been trying to get the Wild to do on its power play, which still lacked urgency and symmetry despite two goals.
"I thought we looked a little bit, I don't want to say intimidated, but we were on our heels on our PK," Yeo said. "We've been scored on against lately, and next thing you know you start playing cautious. I don't feel we have the same pressure, the same aggressive mentality that we had earlier."
The Wild's scored two or fewer goals seven times in nine games. Yeo said the Wild lacks a "belief."
"We don't have that feeling on the bench yet that it's going to come," he said. "When you have that feeling, it's amazing just how a guy finds a way to make a play. That game was a play away from us. ... When you're a winner, you want that opportunity. We're not quite there yet."