DALLAS – Rope-a-dope hockey won’t cut it.
Two measly shots in a period doesn’t strike fear in anyone.
Being careless and turning over pucks like handing out Halloween candy is a terrible strategy, too.
The Wild’s playoff experience will be short-lived if it follows the script of Thursday’s Game 1 debacle, a 4-0 loss to the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center.
The Wild began the series as heavy underdogs, perhaps as much as any playoff team. That label seemed appropriate as the Wild stole a page right out of the Twins’ offensive playbook.
The Wild didn’t register a shot on goal for more than 11 minutes, set a franchise playoff-low with only two shots in the first period and could have played 12 periods and probably not scored.
The Wild looked like it was hanging on for dear life against a Stars team vastly superior in talent.
One game doesn’t make a series, but the Wild looked overmatched in every facet.
“We’ve got to understand that we can play with these guys, we can beat these guys,” goalie Devan Dubnyk said. “There’s no reason to think otherwise. We’re going to have be better than we were.”
A whole lot better.
The Wild certainly missed Zach Parise’s and Erik Haula’s offense, but the Stars played without stud forward Tyler Seguin and managed just fine.
Seguin is expected to return for Game 2.
Coaches typically love when outsiders describe their team as underdogs. It gives them a psychological drum to bang in the locker room.
Wild interim leader John Torchetti practically spit on the idea that his team doesn’t stack up against the Western Conference’s top seed.
“That’s just saying that people don’t think we can win,” he said before Game 1. “We’re a pretty good hockey team. We’ve got a chance to prove it to ourselves.”
Instead, his team did the exact opposite.
The Stars dictated everything, keeping the pressure on the Wild defense and Dubnyk.
The Wild rarely sustained any pressure, passing was sloppy and the puck basically lived in the Wild’s end for long stretches.
The Stars were the NHL’s highest-scoring team this season. The Wild can’t afford to get into a track meet with them, but offense can’t be optional, either.
The top line of Charlie Coyle, Mikko Koivu and Jason Zucker combined for two shots. Two.
That kind of disappearing act isn’t acceptable.
“We’ve got to get more from everybody,” Torchetti said.
The Wild had trouble maintaining control of the puck long enough to make Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen feel uncomfortable.
The power play offered little hope, either. The Wild managed zero shots on its first two power-play chances. Shocking, right?
The Wild needed a strong first period to build some confidence after closing the regular season with five consecutive losses. The period started slow and turned into a disjointed mess.
The Wild finished the period with more penalties than shots. The Wild killed off three penalties, but the parade to the box put the players on their heels.
The Stars’ first goal, fittingly, came on a Wild mistake. Ales Hemsky picked Jarret Stoll at center ice and fed Radek Faksa between the circles. Faksa waited to get traffic in front of Dubnyk and fired into the net. Goal. Ballgame.
Seriously, a one-goal lead felt the way.
Jason Spezza padded the lead when he fired a shot over Dubnyk’s shoulder for a 2-0 lead that felt like 20-0.
Dubnyk kept the game within striking distance until late in the third with some clutch saves. He saved a goal with a gutsy poke check to deny Hemsky on a breakaway.
Dubnyk played like Superman the second half last season. He needs to be even better in this series if the Wild can’t somehow generate more offense.
Two shots in a period and no goals for the game will make for a fast playoff exit.
Chip Scoggins email@example.com