Points weren’t usually among the parting gifts the Wild doled out last season to visitors.
But the team has morphed into a much more gracious host.
After the Sharks were the latest to get comfortable, treading water until they pounced for a 4-0 win Tuesday in front of an announced crowd of 18,870 at Xcel Energy Center, the Wild has lost as many home games in regulation this season (six) as it did all of last.
And the team’s knack for falling behind seems to be a reason why.
“It’s difficult to get the building going when you’re down 1-0, down 2-0, down 3-0,” center Eric Staal said. “You need one. You need one to get it energized.”
The Wild dropped to 10-6-2 in St. Paul and of those eight setbacks, it surrendered the first goal in six of them — an ill-advised recipe for trying to duplicate the prowess the group had in 2017-18 when it went an impressive 27-6-8 on home ice.
Tripping into an early hole, however, isn’t a problem limited to home games; this was the 23rd game the opposition capitalized first, and while the Wild was resilient earlier in the season, its pluckiness has faded to position it 11-11-1 in rally mode.
“The reality is you give up the first goal [in a] majority of the games, it’s a tall task to continually have to climb your way back,” Staal said. “I think any team is better when they have the lead and force the other team to make mistakes.”
This misstep was unique because the Wild could have easily been the one setting the pace.
It had the better opportunities early — including a shot off the post by Staal — and since every line had a turn testing the Sharks, hemming them in their own zone, it seemed like it would only be a matter of time before someone delivered.
Jason Zucker was at the helm of a few odd-man looks, defenseman Jonas Brodin blanked on an open net and Zach Parise and captain Mikko Koivu couldn’t connect in tight.
“They look like wide-open chances,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Then you’d turn around to the other coaches and say, ‘Did that not go in? How did that not go in?’ That seems to be something that’s happening on a regular basis.”
This was a nonissue just days ago when the team outscored the Montreal Canadiens and Florida Panthers a combined 12-2 for two decisive success stories. But one goal the past two games siphoned the optimism out of that start, as the Wild ended its homestand 2-2.
“Right now, the shoulders are slumping, and guys are starting to feel sorry for themselves a little bit,” Boudreau said.
And that lack of execution left the door open for San Jose to take over in the second period, which it did in a breezy 29 seconds.
Logan Couture buried a behind-the-net feed from center Lukas Radil at 9 minutes, 49 seconds and then on the very next shift, Tomas Hertl sprung captain Joe Pavelski for a breakaway at 10:18.
Only 51 seconds into the third, the Sharks scored five seconds after their power play expired when Couture tucked a shot between goalie Devan Dubnyk and the near post. The Wild didn’t receive a single opportunity with the man advantage.
Radil deposited a Nino Niederreiter turnover into an empty-net goal with 2:15 to go.
“It’s too hard in this league to continually play from behind,” Staal said.