This is a familiar spot for the Wild, which has tripped into a 0-2 hole in a playoff series for a fourth straight time.
The previous attempts to flip those early deficit into successful finishes went awry, as the Wild ended up getting swept by the Blackhawks in Round 2 in 2015, nixed in six in the first round by the Stars in 2016 and most recently overwhelmed by the Blues in the opening round of the playoffs in just five games only a year ago.
There’s still time to avoid the same fate, starting Sunday in Game 3 at Xcel Energy Center, but the Wild has quite a bit of work to do to make that a possibility judging by how its stint in Winnipeg went – a two-game sweep that finished with a lopsided 4-1 loss Friday at Bell MTS Place.
“We’ve been a great home team all year,” center Eric Staal said. “That’s what we gotta do. We gotta respond in Game 3 and get the job done on our ice.”
The Wild returns home with little to build off of after it sagged against the Jets Friday. Its start was fine, as the team put nine shots on net in the first. But that ended up being more than half of its total output for the entire game.
Winnipeg applied more pressure in the second, and the Wild didn’t have an answer.
Still, the team was trailing by only a goal in the third. A putrid push by the offense didn’t help close that gap. Instead, the Jets took over – scoring three times, the same amount of shots the Wild had the whole period.
“We just weren’t getting through the neutral zone cleanly,” winger Jason Zucker said. “I think that was the biggest thing. They were standing up on us and every time we got it in, we threw a guy on an island with one forechecker. We’ve got to find a way to hit guys with speed and get it in to get in on the forecheck a little better.”
Only three goals through two games is certainly disappointing, but it’s not surprising considering how disjointed the Wild looks trying to get up ice. The lack of execution is troubling. But not even being in position to generate looks might be more concerning, a problem the team can only hope gets remedied in the comforts of its home arena.
“We have to take care of business at home,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “That’s all.”
Here’s what else to watch for after the Wild’s Game 2 loss to the Jets.
-The Wild will have last change on home ice, and maybe that will help spark the Zucker-Staal-Nino Niederreiter line. The unit has combined for just nine shots in the series and zero points.
It’s mostly been tracked by the Kyle Connor-Mark Scheifele-Blake Wheeler line, so perhaps Boudreau will try to steer clear of that head-to-head battle in Game 3.
“All the matchups were hurting us [Friday],” Boudreau said.
-Staal said the physical nature of the series wasn’t stoking the offense’s woes, but the Jets’ hits are undoubtedly a factor in them being up in the series.
For the second straight game, defenseman Dustin Byfuglien leveled a critical check – upending captain Mikko Koivu to interrupt Koivu’s bid at a shorthanded goal. Overall, it ended up being a turning point in the action.
“You’re trying to score and you’re around the net and you know he’s somewhere, but you can’t really think at that point,” Koivu said. “I missed the first one there with an empty net, and the puck just got away from me. I got another chance and I tried to wrap it around, and he got me there. But I thought it was a clean hit.”
-It took a while for Game 3 to end, with scrums breaking out in the waning minute.
Wingers Daniel Winnik and Brandon Tanev fought. So did defensemen Nick Seeler and Ben Chiarot. Winger Marcus Folgino, defensemen Nate Prosser and Joe Morrow and Byfuglien were all tagged with two minute-minors and 10-minute misconducts.
“It tells me that enough is enough,” Boudreau said. “It's not a series until you get a hate on for each other, and I think that was created toward the end of the game. Not even the fighting, the chirping going on back and forth. It's a rivalry now.”