Zach Parise didn’t make it to Game 4 because of a fractured sternum. Eric Staal luckily avoided a fractured neck on a cheap shot. Mikael Granlund left the game briefly to have a cut on his chin repaired.
The Wild was battered, bruised and bleeding Tuesday night. And now it finds itself on the brink of an offseason vacation, too.
Game 4 was a real kick in the gut for an organization that continues to spin its wheels in the postseason.
“You can’t feel sorry for yourself,” goalie Devan Dubnyk said.
No, but the Wild certainly was seething over events that contributed to a 2-0 loss to the Winnipeg Jets that reduced its margin for error to nil.
The Wild trails 3-1 as the series moves back to Winnipeg for Game 5. Winning three consecutive games — two on the road — against one of the league’s toughest teams with a depleted lineup feels like staring up Mount Everest.
Wild players battled hard in Game 4, but their inability to finish scoring chances and a bizarre no-call in a situation that could have altered the game doomed them.
A knock-down-drag-out series turned nasty in the first period when Winnipeg’s Josh Morrissey cross-checked Staal in the neck without drawing a penalty.
The Wild was on the power play when Morrissey nailed Staal between the circles. We can only assume both referees somehow didn’t see it because the NHL has a serious problem if another player can whack an opponent in the neck with his stick in plain view and nothing happens.
Staal said a referee apologized to him.
“I’m not looking for an apology,” Staal fumed. “I’m in the middle of the game. Why would I want an apology? It’s frustrating. That wasn’t a good play.”
The league undoubtedly will review Morrissey’s actions to determine if discipline is warranted. Let’s save the suspense. It should be, even if it was unintentional, as Morrissey told reporters.
“I’m sure he’s going to say he didn’t mean to, but you still have to be aware of your stick,” Staal said. “They should have saw it.”
A penalty would have given the Wild a 5-on-3 advantage. Instead, the power play yielded nothing and, to add insult to injury, Morrissey assisted on Mark Scheifele’s goal with 28 seconds left in the period. That’s all the scoring that Winnipeg needed.
“I thought it was a pretty evenly matched game,” Staal said.
Moral victories mean nothing in the postseason, but the Wild was dealt another setback before the game with news that Parise suffered a broken sternum on a hit late in Game 3.
The injury apparently happened when Parise was sandwiched by two Jets players after batting a puck with his hand. The hit came with about four minutes left in the game. Parise took only one shift after that.
Parise talked with reporters postgame and showed no indication that he was injured. His absence was deflating because Parise had regained his form after back surgery and his loss meant another important player was absent from the lineup.
Not having Parise and No. 1 defenseman Ryan Suter against a superior opponent is hardly ideal. That’s not an excuse, just reality.
“It seems to kind of never end this year with the injuries,” Dubnyk said.
The physical toll of this series has affected both teams. The buildup to Game 4 focused on Marcus Foligno’s collision with Winnipeg defenseman Tyler Myers that resulted in Myers suffering a leg injury that knocked him out of the game.
The Jets cried foul and suggested that Foligno’s hit was dirty. Wild coach Bruce Boudreau sounded incredulous that the play became an issue.
Foligno dropped to his knee to block Myers’ shot from the point, lost his balance and dragged Myers down along the boards. The Jets accused Foligno of punching Myers in the knee as they fell, which Foligno denied.
Jets coach Paul Maurice was upset that the NHL declined to discipline Foligno after reviewing the play. Boudreau called Maurice’s response “gamesmanship.”
That set the stage for more nastiness Tuesday night. These teams really don’t like each other right now.