The first 10 minutes of the third period.
If the Wild could score in that time frame, it felt a boisterous reaction from the home crowd would ensue and another tally — the game-tying one — would be inevitable.
But that window closed without a goal celebration.
And although the Wild did eventually convert, the clock lit up in zeros before the team could strike again — confirming a 3-2 loss to the Penguins on Monday at Xcel Energy Center that left the group once again puzzled by the scoring woes that dominated a difficult December.
“That is the reality, and it is frustrating,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “You can only be positive in the next practice and build them back up and go at it again. That’s the only thing you can do.”
With more losses than wins the past month, the Wild closed out the 2018 portion of its schedule primed for a fresh start and the most obvious area in need of a tuneup is the sputtering offense.
Amid a 4-8-1 December, the Wild racked up only 30 goals — a drop-off from the 45 it registered in 13 November games and the 35 it managed through 12 contests in October.
This lack of execution, however, isn’t a result of fewer pucks on net. The team actually amassed more shots in December (430) than any other month so far (370 in October and 415 in November).
Overall, the Wild ranked 22nd in goals at 110 and 19th in goals-per-game at 2.89 after Monday’s game.
“It’s the way it is for us right now,” center Charlie Coyle said. “You get your chances, and it doesn’t go in. Rebounds are coming out to the left of you, and you’re going to the right. It’s just little things like that. A bounce here or there, and it’s a different story. But we gotta stay positive through it. We’ve gone through it before, and it’s gonna be tough to crawl out of this. But we’ve got the team to do it, so we know we can do it.”
What looks like it could help ignite more production is the power play, which has delivered at a 23.2 percent efficiency — good for 10th in the NHL.
But time with the man advantage has been tough to come by; the Wild has received zero looks in three of its past eight games and had just one chance Monday, an opportunity it did capitalize on via captain Mikko Koivu’s goal.
Its 13 power plays in those eight games is the fewest in the league, four behind the next- lowest Dallas Stars.
“That’s a frustration for us right now,” winger Zach Parise said. “I don’t know what to say. I don’t know if we’re not doing a good enough job drawing them. I don’t have an answer for that, but it’s frustrating when you work and you work and you work and you’re just not getting the calls. I’m not saying that’s the reason we lost [to the Penguins]. It’s not an excuse, but it’s kind of been a common theme for us just not drawing enough power plays.”
While the Wild has acknowledged playing more on the inside rather than the perimeter may result in more hooking or tripping infractions, a string of non-calls against the Penguins certainly seemed like they had the potential to be penalized.
They weren’t, though, and that shifted the microscope back over to the Wild’s inability to score on its other chances — an ongoing issue that looks like it’ll need to get addressed for the team to start to win consistently.
“We gotta stay positive through it all,” Coyle said, “and keep pushing through it.”
• The Wild recalled defenseman Ryan Murphy on Tuesday from the Iowa Wild. He had three goals and 10 assists in 27 AHL games.