SUNRISE, FLA. – In a game where youngsters Jonas Brodin, Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund were arguably the Wild’s best three skaters, the Wild earned a 79-second two-man advantage in the third period of a tie game Saturday night.
Mike Yeo deferred to the veterans, as most coaches would do. But Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Dany Heatley and Ryan Suter just couldn’t get it done, shanking shots, turning pucks over and once nearly icing it.
It was proof positive of how the Wild is gripping its sticks into sawdust.
Failing on such a golden opportunity (actually its second 5-on-3 of the game) would prove costly as the Wild, which scored five goals on its 1-2-1 road trip, fell 2-1 in a shootout to the Florida Panthers.
“Two 5-on-3s, you don’t score, you don’t deserve to win the game,” said a bristling Parise, who didn’t score on 21 shots on the road trip – including eight Saturday.
Jonathan Huberdeau and Brad Boyes scored in the shootout, while Parise and Koivu were stuffed by Tim Thomas as the Wild fell to 3-3-3 (nine out of a possible 18 points).
Coach Mike Yeo, who in search of offense mixed up his top three lines, told his team after the game, “We’re not a .500 team. We’re not built to be .500. We’re a better team than that. … I mean scoring chances on the season, we’re close to 2-to-1. So we could sit here and argue we deserve to be better, but the bottom line is we’re not.”
The Wild can’t ask more from Josh Harding, who made 21 saves. He leads the NHL with a 1.11 goals against average and has given up seven goals in seven appearances. Yet he’s only 3-2-1. The Wild has allowed a league-low five 5-on-5 goals (one by Harding) and league-low 21.8 shots per game.
“We’ve got to score more,” Suter said matter-of-factly. “Everyone has to contribute offensively. Everyone has to pick it up. Defense, offensive guys, everyone. When the goalie holds it to one goal against, you’ve got to get those wins for him. It’s a damn shame.”
Even Yeo opened his postgame news conference with, “Familiar script? I’m disappointed for our guys because they’ve been playing their tails off and we’re playing great defensively … we’re generating chances, but we’re not winning games. And you can tell that guys, it’s in their heads a little bit. You can see it on the 5-on-3, you can see it in the shootout.
“Guys are playing their tails off and they’re not getting rewarded. … It’s something that’s in our heads and we have to find a way to get it out.”
After a scoreless first period, Brodin scored on a second-period power play. But with the Wild clinging to a 1-0 lead, Zenon Konopka was dinged for tripping Marcel Goc off a faceoff.
On the ensuing power play, 2013 first-round pick Aleksander Barkov redirected Tomas Fleischmann’s slap pass for a goal. The Wild’s 29th-ranked penalty kill has allowed at least one power-play goal in eight of nine games.
As usual, the Wild had enough scoring chances to overcome it.
But Thomas made 30 saves, and the Wild hit four posts.
“I don’t have any answers. I don’t know,” Parise said. “You just keep shooting and know and hope that it’s going to go in for us soon. But we’ve got to do something a little better. What that is, I’d like to find out sooner than later because it’s killing us right now.”