The Wild is incapable yet again of keeping its foot on the gas.
After a nine-game point streak, the Wild has dropped three of four games. In two of those games, bluntly, the Wild was horrible – tonight in a 3-1 loss to Pittsburgh and last weekend in Nashville. In the other loss, the Wild coughed up a lead once again to its white whale, the Dallas Stars.
The Wild badly needs some good practice time. It has not had a single practice since Dec. 18 because of the three games in four days before the mandatory three-day break. It has three practices in the next four days starting Sunday, although Tuesday’s is an outdoor practice at Braemar on Tuesday (11 a.m., open to the public).
Tonight, against a kid playing his third NHL game (yes, I know Matt Murray was the AHL’s best goalie last year), the Wild managed six shots through more than half the game.
Check out the game story for all the details, but here’s a bunch of quotes from the postgame.
The Wild, which has lost to Pittsburgh in six of the past seven meetings, is now 1-7-1 in the past nine first-game-after-Christmas contests. It has been outscored 40-22 in those games and outshot by 77.
“Unfortunately it’s almost become a little bit predictable these games after Christmas,” coach Mike Yeo said.
“First period it seemed like we were defending OK, it looked like we were battling OK, but we couldn’t make a play, couldn’t make a pass. Just slapping pucks to people, not taking ice when it’s there. Didn’t seem to have the desire to want the puck in a lot of situations, and with that, they just took the game over from there.”
The Wild’s blue-liners were pretty bad all game.
“The execution from their defensemen was better than ours, but the execution from their forwards was better than ours, too,” Yeo said. “Puck support wasn’t there. There were a lot of plays where we just seemed to want to slap the puck to somebody else to give somebody else our garbage instead of settling it down, moving our feet and making a tape to tape play.
“They just had more urgency to make the plays, to jump on a loose puck, to win a battle.”
On the way the Wild has been playing, Yeo said, “We just have to pick up our game. We won a game going into the break, that’s good, but that the last four or five games, we have another level that we have to get to. And a lot of individuals I would say though that time have to bring a little bit more.
“This is a time of year where do you fall asleep and lose ground or do you make a push and gain ground? … These games are important.”
Devan Dubnyk was man stranded on an island for much of this game. He kept the Wild in the game and only down 1-0 despite being thoroughly outplayed through late in the second. Then, the Wild gave up two goals in the last 1:50, one after Jason Zucker made it 21 45 seconds after Eric Fehr beat Justin Fontaine to the net for a goal after Kevin Porter won a race with Ryan Suter to what could have been an icing.
Jared Spurgeon took a penalty (yes, a bad call) 15 seconds later and Patric Hornqcvist scored with 33.4 seconds left.
The Wild has a tendency of giving up back-breaking goals in the last minute of periods. It did that against Dallas off a Spurgeon turnover.
Dubnyk usually lauds the Wild for how good it is in one-goal games.
“We just have to find a way to be comfortable in a one-goal hockey game,” Dubnyk said. “Dallas game and tonight, just lapses at the end of a period that ends up being the story of the game unfortunately. Sometimes games aren’t going your way, you’re close. We are so good of finding a way to get one, but sometimes it’s important to make sure you don’t give them one, and we gave them two in the last two minutes.”
On the call on Spurgeon, which was basically a push that was called a cross-check, Dubnyk said, “I don’t understand that at all. Unfortunately it changes the course of the game, which is frustrating.”
Dubnyk said, “Everybody’s going to talk about the break, but they had a break, too. It’s not acceptable for any of us to play sloppy. It’s OK to be off on execution or some details, but those are the times you just have to go to work. Chalk it up as not our best game and we’ll get back at it.”
Suter said, “We were turning the puck over. Just couldn’t execute, couldn’t come out of our end, couldn’t come through the neutral zone. … After the first period, we should have been better, and we got worse.”
On three practices in the next four days, Suter said, “We haven’t practiced at all. It’s good when things are going well, but when things aren’t going well, you’ve got to bear down and practice.”
Zach Parise said, “That was pretty ugly. Just felt like we’ve been kind of playing like that for a little while now, but tonight was really bad. We just played slow. Puck movement hasn’t been very good, and it really was not good all tonight. We spent a lot of time in our own zone. There were a lot of turnovers. We had the puck a lot, but we just gave it back to them pretty much the whole game. Probably the easiest game they’re going to play all year.”
Lastly, Jarret Stoll received an illegal checking to the head minor penalty in the third period. He struck defenseman Kris Letang, who temporarily left the game but returned, up high. Letang shot his head back, causing the fans to think he was embellishing.
I don’t see Stoll getting suspended, but we’ll see Sunday.
“Going in, in my mind, I thought, ‘Keep my arm to my body and keep my elbow down,’” Stoll said. “I thought I did that. I thought I hit him on his shoulder. I have a lot of respect for him and I know he’s had some concussion problems in the past.
“I want to make sure he’s OK, but I didn’t think I got the chin or the side of the head. But maybe it looked like that. I’ve seen the replay a couple times, so we’ll leave it at that.”
Talk to you after Sunday’s practice. Monday at 4 p.m. at Tom Reid’s, I’ll be co-hosting a podcast with columnist Jim Souhan. Come on out.