You could sense the angst inside Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday night.
Quiet early, restless in the middle and electric late, the fans’ reaction mirrored the roller coaster of a game that ended with another Wild loss, this time 4-3 in overtime to the Dallas Stars.
The Wild coughed up two one-goal leads, but then pushed hard in the third period, got an early Mikko Koivu tying goal, took the period’s first 12 shots … and got nothing further despite a 17-4 shot advantage in the period.
Not being able to capitalize resulted in the Wild’s 10th loss in 11 overtimes or shootouts this season. Three of those have come against division rival Dallas, with John Klingberg burying his second OT dagger against Minnesota.
“Everyone keeps saying it’s going to be hard to get out of this, and it really is,” said center Erik Haula, who scored a goal and assist. “It wasn’t enough again. We weren’t good enough to win.”
The Wild, which has a game in hand on seventh-place Nashville and three on eighth-place Colorado, gained a point on each in the Western Conference wild-card race. Both lost, meaning the Wild pulled within two points.
But the Wild, which has powerhouse Washington arriving next on this homestand, can hardly take solace in that when it has lost six consecutive home games (0-3-3), six consecutive overall games (0-4-2) and 11 times in the past 12 games (1-9-2). Its last home victory was Dec. 28 — 43 days ago. It’s last overall victory was Jan. 21 — 19 days ago.
“If things are going reasonably well, that’s a game you probably, despite only getting one point, you still feel reasonably good about,” coach Mike Yeo said. “But that’s pretty tough right now.”
Klingberg, the star defenseman, buried Jamie Benn’s pass by Darcy Kuemper after a 70-second Thomas Vanek shift. Vanek disregarded making one line change, then did so after turning over the puck 20 seconds later. He threw a puck to the bench thinking defenseman Mike Reilly would continue into the offensive zone. The rookie went for a change.
That led to an odd-number attack into the Wild end because that’s when Vanek decided to change. Vanek, not the fleetest of foot, would seem a risk in 3-on-3 overtime.
“We’ve got time to talk about all those things, but tonight is not that time,” Yeo said.
Haula and Justin Fontaine scored first-period goals, and Vanek, fresh off his first healthy scratch since his rookie year, had two assists.
But by the 4:01 mark of the second, Jason Demers tied the score by banking a puck off Nate Prosser’s chest. Later, Patrick Eaves scored a power-play goal.
The Wild has been outscored 10-2 in the past four second periods. Yeo said this deflation has been common lately because the fragile team has “a shift in your mind where you go from, ‘Let’s go win this game,’ to, ‘Oh boy, I hope we don’t lose it.’ ”
Playing against the West’s most explosive team, the Wild outshot and outchanced the Stars without injured defensemen Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin. But the Wild, normally stingy, has allowed 17 goals in the past four games. In five of the past six games, the Wild has allowed at least four.
“It’s very easy right now to find negatives. It is extremely easy,” Yeo said. “But nothing easy is going to get us out of this. … We’re not all about moral victories. We’re not all about just trying to point out the positives and deflect against what’s real, but the truth of the matter is that’s the only way out of this.
“The fight we had in the third period, that was great. That hasn’t been there for us lately. We went after it.”
The Wild didn’t get it though.
“For the most part we played a good game, but right now it’s got to be a perfect game for a win,” Vanek said.