With the playoffs around the corner, it was clear the Wild was in severe do-not-get-hurt mode during Sunday’s 7-3 regular-season finale drubbing by the Nashville Predators.
Players visibly bailed out of shooting lanes and dodged checks. For the Wild’s sake, the team better also hope that Ilya Bryzgalov was getting his first and only nightmarish game out of the way before the playoffs.
After the Wild built a 3-1 lead, Bryzgalov gave up three goals on three shots in a two-minute span and four total during a stunningly poor second-period display.
He was pulled after two periods, having allowed five goals on 21 shots.
“We were brutal in front of him,” coach Mike Yeo said. “It’s got to be a team effort. Bryz has done a fantastic job since he’s been here, and his teammates have done a fantastic job in front of him to give him that opportunity. That’s the mentality we have to have.”
The Wild gave up six unanswered goals and failed to hit what would have been the second 100-point season in franchise history. Former Badger Craig Smith overshadowed Jason Pominville’s second three-point night in three games with two goals and two assists.
Bryzgalov, who is 7-1-3 as the Wild’s starter with a 2.00 goals-against average and .916 save percentage, wasn’t seeing pucks well, slipped and fell out of the net before one goal and just looked checked out with the rest of his teammates. Bryzgalov has played 38 playoff games and won a Stanley Cup as Anaheim’s backup in 2007 but has also gained a reputation for playoff flops in Phoenix and Philadelphia from 2010-12. So even though Sunday’s game and performance meant squat in the standings, it was disconcerting to witness.
“I’m not worried about it,” Yeo said.
Wild players admitted afterward it was a hard game to play with the playoffs beginning Thursday at Colorado.
“You always have in the back of your mind, you don’t want to get hurt, you don’t want to take one off the ankle,” Pominville said. “Sometimes it leads to those results. It wasn’t pretty, it’s not the way we wanted to end it, but those things happen when you’re in and other teams are out.”
Erik Haula scored a goal and had an assist for his first career two-point game. The rookie finished the season with seven points in seven games since taking Mikael Granlund’s second-line center spot after he was injured March 31 in Los Angeles.
Yeo said Sunday morning that Granlund had another “good day” on the ice and the hope is Granlund will be ready by Game 1. Yeo made clear Sunday night he would return to his normal spot.
“He deserves it. He’s had a great season,” Haula said. “Whatever the role, I’m OK with it.”
Kyle Brodziak’s consecutive-games-played streak ended at 231 games Sunday when he missed his first game since Feb. 25, 2011, because of a lower-body injury.
“It’s silly to play him,” Yeo said. “He certainly could have played, but we just want to make sure we’re giving him every opportunity to make sure he’s 100 percent heading into Thursday.”
With Brodziak out, winger Nino Niederreiter moved to center for the first time in his NHL career. Since Dany Heatley also couldn’t play after leaving Sunday’s pregame skate with “lower-body discomfort,” the Wild went with seven defensemen and Jon Blum skated some shifts as a forward.
• Defenseman Clayton Stoner (knee) returned after missing 10 games.