As much as he appreciated the consecutive victories his team recorded last week, Wild coach Mike Yeo didn’t allow himself to get overly excited. “I don’t know how much momentum we have going,” he said when asked if his team was on a roll. “We’ve won two games.”
That’s where the mini streak ended after Monday night’s 3-1 loss to Columbus at Xcel Energy Center. The Wild played energetic, urgent hockey from the second period on, but too many missed opportunities — and All-Star goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky — stalled its quest to further distance itself from a wretched month. Bobrovsky stopped 25 shots and shut out the Wild over the final 41 minutes, 17 seconds, dropping it to a 2-4-4 record over its past 10 home games.
Goaltender Devan Dubnyk absorbed his first loss with the Wild, stopping 20 shots in his third game since the team acquired him last week. His teammates didn’t lend him much support. The Wild hit crossbars, whiffed on point-blank shots and couldn’t get its sticks on fat rebounds, and Zach Parise lost control of the puck on a penalty shot in the second period.
Parise scored the Wild’s only goal, on a beautiful deflection during a first-period power play. Neither he nor Yeo was interested in playing woulda-coulda-shoulda, not on a night when two desperately needed points were lost.
“How long can we use that excuse?” Parise lamented when asked about the near-misses. “We had some good chances. It’s just a matter of capitalizing on them.
“Yeah, we had some posts. I missed a penalty shot. We missed a breakaway. We’ve got to put those in.”
Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards, who coached the Wild from 2009 to ’11, defeated his former team for the fourth time in a row. His team did exactly what Yeo predicted, clogging the neutral zone and employing a highly structured defensive game.
The Wild aggravated Yeo early by not getting pucks deep and committing too many turnovers against Columbus’ consistent pressure. Brandon Dubinsky rifled a wrist shot past Dubnyk at 7:57 of the first period, and Parise answered with 1:17 remaining in the period with his tip-in from the slot.
In the second period, the Wild sharpened up and spent much more time in the Blue Jackets’ zone. But the puck rolled over Parise’s stick on his penalty shot, earned when David Savard mugged him on a breakaway, and an apparent goal by Ryan Suter was waved off. Officials ruled the play was dead before Suter’s shot, when Columbus touched the puck after a delayed penalty.
That penalty — called on Savard for high-sticking Jason Zucker — gave the Wild a four-minute power play, which flamed out. Richards said his team was revived by killing the penalty, and James Wisniewski scored the winner on a power play at 5:35 of the third when he was left alone low in the right circle.
“We’re getting some good zone time,” Suter said. “We’re just not finishing. We just have to bear down.
“It will turn. It has to turn. The law of averages says it does.”
Law or no law, Yeo and his team stressed that the Wild still has to create its own luck. The coach listed several shortcomings he wants to see corrected Tuesday at Detroit, urging the Wild to give better puck support, take more shots, create more second-chance opportunities and win more one-on-one battles.
“We’ve got to find a way to score more than one goal,” Yeo said. “There were a lot of pucks bouncing tonight, but I’m not going to place the blame on that. We had some opportunities. We just have to find a way to cash in.”