Goal droughts don’t tend to sting as much when chances are being created because players hold that up as proof they’re still doing what it takes to score.
But after getting shut out 4-0 Tuesday by the Sharks at Xcel Energy Center, the Wild seemed to take little solace in its collection of missed opportunities – emphasizing its lack of execution amid a string of close calls.
“We had our looks early,” center Eric Staal said. “I had a couple I'd like to cash in on, and I think it's a different game the other way.”
After rounding out its last road trip with just two goals in two games, it looked like a return home recalibrated the Wild’s offense since it accumulated 12 goals through the first half of a four-game stint in St. Paul; one of those games featured a season-high seven tallies.
But that production has waned ever since; the team was limited to just one goal last Saturday by the Calgary Flames, and it was even less effective Tuesday despite 26 shots on net – a handful of which were dangerous.
“It's a little frustrating,” winger Jason Zucker said. “But at the same time, it was something that we felt if we kept going the same way we're going to keep getting chances and keep pushing back. Then we were down two.”
The Wild has two more chances to rediscover its scoring touch before the league pauses for the holiday break, starting Thursday in Pittsburgh against the Penguins, and don’t be surprised if the team rolls out new lines that game to try to spark the offense after coach Bruce Boudreau scrambled the team’s look against the Sharks.
“I didn’t think at the end of two [periods] that we were generating enough,” he said. “That’s why I switched the lines around maybe hoping to find lightning in a bottle a little bit.”
In his first game back from a lower-body injury that cost him four games, captain Mikko Koivu logged a second shy of 13 minutes and put two pucks on net.
“His shifts were pretty short in the first period,” Boudreau said. “As time went on, I thought he got better. I thought he was pretty determined. I thought he was the most determined guy today.”
Although this two-game test before the break isn’t enough time to catapult the team into a much more comfortable position in the standings, it’s still important for the Wild to generate momentum because the need for a lengthy win streak only seems to increase amid its current hot-and-cold pace.
“We’ve got to start playing 60 minutes and not 45 or not 50 and not 52,” Boudreau said. “To win and to win consistently, that’s what you’ve got to do. And obviously at some point pretty soon, we’re going to have to put a run together of five or six or seven games together.”