His words were chosen carefully, and delivered in a measured tone. Still, there was no mistaking just how serious — and how irritated — Wild captain Mikko Koivu was in the minutes after his team’s 6-5 overtime loss to Nashville.
The Wild made it exciting Saturday, rallying from a 5-3 deficit midway through the third period to tie the score on Thomas Vanek’s goal with 48 seconds left. But Mattias Ekholm quieted an Xcel Energy Center crowd announced at 19,017 with an unassisted goal at 1 minute, 45 seconds of overtime, taking the puck behind the Wild net and beating goalie Niklas Backstrom.
That ended a night in which the Wild was outshot 44-27, pulled starting goalie Darcy Kuemper and failed to sustain high-level play on either end.
While the Predators played the aggressor throughout, the Wild spent most of its time chasing — and often falling short. That mirrored the larger picture of a team skating on thin ice. The Wild now is winless in three consecutive games and has won only five of its past 13, leaving the captain in distress.
“We can talk and say all the right things,’’ said Koivu, who tallied an assist on the Wild’s first goal. “But at the end, it’s got to be happening on the ice. We’ve got some good parts of the game, but we can’t keep it for 60 minutes, and we’ve got to find an answer for that. We’re chasing these guys, and we need points.
“That can’t happen. With five goals, we should be able to win a hockey game, and we’re not doing that right now. The bottom line is, we’ve got to be better.’’
The Wild’s goaltending continues to be problematic, as Kuemper exited early for the fourth time in his past five starts at home. Kuemper, who missed his last start on Tuesday because of a stomach ailment that idled him for two days, appeared a bit sluggish in giving up three goals on 14 shots.
Coach Mike Yeo replaced him with Backstrom after the first period. But Yeo spread the blame for the loss, saying the Wild has not played well enough in front of its goalies. The Predators attempted 78 shots, firing pucks at the net from any and all angles and repeatedly getting pucks behind the Wild defense.
The Wild struggled to generate any consistent offense, failing to register a shot on goal for the final 12:23 of the first period. After the first of Zach Parise’s two goals gave the Wild a 2-1 lead, the Predators scored twice in the final 6:02 of the period, with Craig Smith giving them a 3-2 lead with a shot that deflected off Kuemper’s glove.
Marco Scandella tied it in the second period on a power play before Nashville scored twice in the first 9:05 of the third. Though the Wild caught goalie Pekka Rinne — one of the NHL’s best — on an off night, Yeo said the track-meet feel of the game spelled trouble.
“We’re not hiding from this,’’ he said. “We’re not going to try to paint a pretty picture. We know this is not good enough. We’re the ones that got ourselves into it, so we need to get together here, play together, play the right way and get ourselves out of it.’’
As Koivu said, the Wild has discussed that before. Putting those words into action is another task for a teamthat has admitted its frustration about its inconsistent play. For two days, Yeo had stressed the importance of a home game against a Central Division rival, only to see the Wild fall short again — leaving it even more frustrated.
“These teams we’re chasing in our own division, those are the teams you’ve got to beat,’’ Parise said. “When you don’t, all of a sudden that gap gets even bigger. That’s what we’re staring at right now.’’