ST. LOUIS – How the Wild finished October is the same epitaph it will hang on the entire month, a mashup of touch-and-go execution and untimely breakdowns that has fanned frustration for a previously savvy, veteran club.
Most recently, this reality manifested itself as a 2-1 loss to the defending Stanley Cup champion Blues on Wednesday in front of an announced 18,096 at Enterprise Center that wrapped up a winless two-game tour of the Central Division.
Overall, the Wild is a grim 4-9 with only eight points — the team’s second-fewest ever for October behind the seven it earned from a 2-7-3 showing in its inaugural season in 2000-01.
“Flip the page and flip the calendar,” winger Zach Parise said. “Let’s start over in November.”
If the Wild can’t fix its fissures, more of the same could happen in the next month. And the month after that and so on.
Its road record is ugly, a paltry 1-8 after this latest setback, and repairing this is likely necessary for any chance at a turnaround.
And despite the outcome, the team’s performance in St. Louis may offer optimism for such improvement.
“This was one of our better games throughout,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.
After falling behind on a goal from Sammy Blais 6 minutes, 52 seconds into the second, the Wild retaliated instead of retreating — which is progress, especially on the heels of getting wiped out 6-3 by the Stars on Tuesday in Dallas after the Wild blew a three-goal lead.
At 8:43 of the second, winger Mats Zuccarello converted for his first goal with the Wild when he finished off a give-and-go with center Eric Staal.
Only a few minutes later, the Blues appeared to retake the lead on a shot from center Ryan O’Reilly, but the Wild challenged to determine if the play was offsides and it was.
But a good break, cleaner play in its own end, and offensive pressure weren’t enough to swing the stalemate in the Wild’s favor.
Instead, a defending miscue ruled against the team.
“When you’re not winning, it’s the one mistake you make that always ends up costing you,” Boudreau said.
Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo was left alone near the back post to deke out goalie Devan Dubnyk before wiring the puck into the net only 1:39 into the third.
Dubnyk, in his first start in more than a week after suffering an upper-body injury from a fall in the crease, finished with 24 saves. Jordan Binnington had 35 in the other net.
“It was a good play by [Pietrangelo],” Dubnyk said. “Sometimes in games like that, the margin is small. It’s unfortunate for us.”
The Wild had plenty of chances at an equalizer but couldn’t capitalize, a dry spell that Zach Parise is enduring personally. He is goalless in his past five games and has only three goals (and no assists) this season.
“It’s been very frustrating,” Parise said. “I feel like at least the last couple games I’ve been getting some looks and making plays and setting guys up. Just not going in. It’s always a hard time when that’s happening.”
Maintaining perspective could also help the Wild.
While its itinerary, rife with road tests and matchups against the NHL’s best, has been rigorous, eventually it will start to include more games at home (where the Wild is 3-1) and clashes with teams near it in the standings.
And when that happens, how the Wild responds will either give credence to the struggles it’s shown so far or start to distance it from them.
“This team is capable of putting a couple strings together with a lot of wins,” Boudreau said, “and that’s what we’re going to need because we’re behind the eight ball a little bit.”