There are two conflicting ways to look at both the Wild’s 1-0-3 homestand and its 2-1 shootout loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The glass-half-full fan will say the Wild at least collected points in all four games during the season’s most critical juncture and picked up a hard-earned point Saturday night against a goaltender who looked virtually unbeatable.
The glass-half-empty fan will say the most important thing this time of year is victories, not inching your way to the playoffs one shootout loss at a time, and Saturday, the Wild didn’t bury its chances and coughed up an extra point despite having a two-goal advantage in the skills competition.
Even players inside the Wild dressing room didn’t exactly know how they should feel about picking up five of a possible eight points before hitting the road for three games.
“It’s weird,” said Zach Parise, who set up Jason Pominville’s tying goal and scored his league-leading 37th career shootout goal. “I mean, yeah, we did lose three. But those are big points for us at the same time. But unfortunately it’s still a loss and you still have that losing feeling. It’s too bad because we played pretty decent in a few of the games we lost.”
The Wild is 7-0-3 in its past 10 at home and is five points ahead of eighth-place Dallas and ninth-place Phoenix. It had the better of the chances during an exciting hockey game Saturday, but Sergei Bobrovsky reminded Wild fans exactly why he won the Vezina Trophy last season. Red-hot with a 16-5-2 record since Jan. 4, Bobrovsky made 32 saves and committed highway robbery umpteen times.
“Glad we don’t have to play against that goalie again this year,” coach Mike Yeo said of Bobrovsky, who made 39 saves during a shootout victory at Minnesota last April. “He seems to really enjoy playing against us.”
In the first period, the Russian goalie they call “BOB” committed larceny on Matt Moulson and Kyle Brodziak, then Mikael Granlund, Parise and Jonas Brodin in the second. His biggest heist may have been on teammate Nathan Horton’s near own-goal late in the third.
“I’m almost sick of talking about it. He’s so good every night,” Blue Jackets forward Ryan Johansen said.
Finally, on a set play after a faceoff, Ryan Suter and Parise tried to catch the Blue Jackets sleeping. They barely missed connecting on a breakaway, but Parise beat out the icing to set up Pominville’s 25th goal early in the third.
“You try to draw things up, but 90 percent of the time it doesn’t work,” Parise said.
In the shootout, Parise and Mikko Koivu gave the Wild a 2-0 lead, but Darcy Kuemper, who made 28 saves through overtime, gave up consecutive goals to Artem Anisimov, Mark Letestu and Johansen. Johansen’s goal originally was disallowed because the officials felt he scored off a rebound of Kuemper’s poke-check, but video review overturned the call.
“Bottom line is I had two chances before that to finish it,” Kuemper said. “You’re up 2-0, you just need to make a save. I was sitting on the pre-scout a little too much, and they changed up their moves and beat me.”
It was the first time in the NHL this season a team led 2-0 in a shootout and lost.
“You would certainly like to close out the game, but at the same time, what I don’t want is Kuemps to start thinking about that as a negative,” Yeo said. “I thought he played really well, too.
“You lose in a shootout, and it paints an ugly picture. I’m actually happy with the way our guys battled. We generated some great, quality chance. We defended hard. … Our guys put a lot into this game.”