More adversity didn’t come as a surprise.
After all, this is the 2017-18 version of the Wild — a team beleaguered by bouts of injury, inconsistency and inexperience.
But after losing winger Zach Parise because of a fractured sternum, it got worse for the Wild on Tuesday night.
The team is on the brink of elimination after the Jets secured a 2-0 victory in Game 4 in front of 19,277 at Xcel Energy Center to go up 3-1 in the first-round, best-of-seven series.
“We have to win one hockey game,” goalie Devan Dubnyk said. “That’s all it comes down to now. We were going to have to win a game in their building anyway, so it’s going to have to be next game.”
Winnipeg center Mark Scheifele was responsible for both goals, the first a top-shelf finish off a Kyle Connor feed with only 28 seconds remaining in the first period — one of a few what-ifs on the night for the Wild.
Earlier in the period, while the Wild — also playing the series without top defenseman Ryan Suter (broken ankle) — was on a power play when center Eric Staal took a cross-check to the neck from Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey in the middle of the slot.
Staal fell to the ice and struggled to get to his feet before skating gingerly to the bench. No penalty was called.
“I’m the tallest guy on the ice,” Staal said. “He cross-checked me in the neck. There’s not much more you can say. Everyone saw it. I don’t know how no one with stripes saw it.”
If the cross-check was penalized, the Wild would have earned a glorious five-on-three opportunity.
Instead, the team failed to capitalize on the remainder of the power play and about only a minute-and-a-half after the Jets got back to full strength, Scheifele scored — with Morrissey earning the secondary assist.
“It cost us the game,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.
Morrissey called the cross-check on Staal a “complete accident” and explained he was trying to box Staal out.
“He’s a big guy, and my stick ended up getting up a little bit on him,” Morrissey said. “Would never try to do that to anybody. I’m not a dirty player.”
There were chances to erase the deficit; defenseman Matt Dumba’s wind-up off a two-on-one rush was kept out of the net by Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck’s glove. The Wild blanked on two power plays, while the Jets were 0-for-1. And winger Nino Niederreiter skated into the Jets’ zone alone before getting the puck knocked off his stick.
“It’s Morrissey that breaks it up,” Boudreau said. “He should be out of the game.”
Hellebuyck ended up with 30 saves for his first career postseason shutout in a terrific bounce-back performance after he was pulled in Game 3 — an accomplishment that was helped along by a Jets defense that kept the Wild to the perimeter before Scheifele added an empty-netter with 11 seconds left. Dubnyk finished with 26 saves.
“They did a good job of locking it down,” center Matt Cullen said. “I don’t think we did as good of a job as we needed to coming out of our end, getting pucks where we needed to get them.”
Parise’s absence is the latest hit to a Wild team that’s absorbed blows at regular intervals — from injuries to key players to the growing pains from their substitutes.
The group’s resiliency amid those challenges landed it in the playoffs.
Persevering now, however, will be the Wild’s most difficult test.
Because if it doesn’t, its season will be over.
“We’re just gonna bounce back,” winger Mikael Granlund said. “That’s what we do.”