COLUMBUS, Ohio – The trend of third-period meltdowns didn’t continue for the Wild, but that’s because it didn’t have the chance to persist.
Rather than establishing a lead to practice protecting it, the team was mostly in chase mode and ultimately failed to catch up to the Columbus Blue Jackets — falling 4-2 Thursday in front of an announced 15,210 at Nationwide Arena. It was the Wild’s fourth loss in six games, a rough patch that hasn’t triggered the panic button but still has it looking to recapture its identity.
“We’re a hard-working team. We battle, and I don’t know if we’ve been doing enough of that lately,” winger Jason Zucker said. “Especially letting teams come back on us in the third period when we have the lead is unacceptable, especially when we’ve been such a good third-period team this year. We need to shore that up a bit. We need to be better and take care of the puck a little more.”
After scoring the first goal, the Wild surrendered four straight — including three in the second period — to trip into a hole it couldn’t climb out amid a 23-save performance by Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.
Devan Dubnyk had 25 stops for the Wild in what ended up as his fourth straight winless appearance, a tough stretch in which he’s posted a .847 save percentage.
“He’s gotta fight his way out of it,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “He’s our No. 1 goalie, and he’s gotta be the guy who does it.”
The Wild looked ready to atone for that 4-3 collapse to the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday based on how the game started.
Just 7 minutes, 46 seconds into the first period, the team capitalized on a Blue Jackets turnover. Center Eric Staal picked up a Bobrovsky clearing attempt and set up winger Mikael Granlund for a successful shot.
That edge, though, didn’t last long. Columbus tied it at 13:18 when winger Markus Hannikainen put back a loose puck, a goal that started to shift momentum in the Blue Jackets’ favor.
They started the second period on the power play and used the advantage to move ahead, with winger Cam Atkinson converting on a one-timer from the right faceoff circle at 1:05.
Columbus finished 1-for-2 on the power play, while the Wild was 0-for-1.
A brief 3:29 later, Columbus doubled its cushion on a deflection by center Riley Nash.
Later in the period, at 11:24, the Blue Jackets capped off their offensive outburst on a slick wrister by winger Artemi Panarin.
Before the period expired, the Wild inched closer on winger Zach Parise’s wraparound with 7:54 remaining.
Parise’s goal was his team-high 12th and it extended his season-long point streak to six games — a run in which he’s scored five times.
But the tally didn’t spark more production.
“We are not a team that can be a cute team,” Boudreau said. “We’re a grind-it-out, blue-collar group. We’ve got guys that think they can make those plays, and I’m sure they can. But we don’t score off the rush much. Like Zach’s goal, that’s the kind of goals we get as a group.”
A mostly drama-free third period for the Blue Jackets followed.
It was the type of vibe the Wild wanted the opportunity to implement, to show that it corrected the flaws that have popped up in the final frame when it’s trying to transform a lead into a win.
Debuting that progress, however, will have to wait.
“It was just too much for us to overcome,” Parise said.