After hearing all week how good of a home team it was, the Wild fell on its face tonight during a 3-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks.
“Probably because we’ve spent all week talking about what a great home team we are and we tried to talk our way through that second period,” coach Mike Yeo said.
After a great first 16 or 17 minutes in which the Wild left a bunch of goals out on the ice but still led 1-0, the Wild got sloppy in the final few minutes of the first, wasted that good effort by giving up the tying goal and then somehow didn’t come out with any juice whatsoever in a horribly-played second period.
The winning goal was technically allowed in the third period, but this game was destroyed in the second.
The one very good piece of news I have for you this evening: I’d be very surprised if Zach Parise, who has missed eight games since spraining an MCL on Nov. 5, doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving by practicing with the Wild for the first time since the injury Thursday.
That doesn’t mean he’ll come to the rescue this weekend, but reinforcements are getting close. We’ll see if Justin Fontaine is able to return though. The Wild’s lack of depth was obvious tonight. Yeo basically cut his forwards to a group of eight or nine in the third period as the Wild tried to battle back from a one-, then a two-goal deficit.
In the third period, Chris Porter played four shifts, Christoph Bertschy three, Erik Haula two and Kurtis Gabriel.
Ryan Miller was real good with 31 saves. He made four in an 11-second span in the final seconds of the third after Charlie Coyle made it 3-2 with 1:20 left. Jason Pominville, now without a goal in 20 games and on the ice instead of Jason Zucker or Nino Niederreiter, hit the crossbar on a wraparound.
Just can’t buy one.
In the first, the Canucks, who had won five times in the previous 18 games and twice in the previous 10, kept coughing up pucks, icing pucks, falling down, breaking sticks and couldn’t handle the Wild’s forecheck, especially by the Zucker-Mikko Koivu-Niederreiter line.
There was one sequence when Miller denied Zucker and Koivu and Niederreiter missed a net. That would have been a huge goal.
But Thomas Vanek scored his team-leading ninth goal on a power play (Vanek has 5 goals and 2 assists in 8 games without Parise) set up by Koivu (seven-game point streak, two assists tonight), but then the Wild got sloppy starting with Matt Dumba, who has struggled noticeably lately, turning the puck over twice on one shift inside two minutes.
That gave the Canucks a little legs, and finally Vanek gave the puck away in the neutral zone, Pominville fell in the neutral zone, Mikael Granlund didn’t cover his man and eight seconds after that turnover, Wild killer Radim Vrbata scored the first of his two goals with 27.9 seconds left in the period.
Then, … the ugly second.
“The second period was not even close to what it needs to be,” Koivu said. “All the credit to them playing a good road game, but the second period, that’s not us.”
Said Yeo, “We’ve got to be better. We’ve got to understand the situation, last minute of the period for sure. But it’s a 1-1 hockey game and you’d think that we should come out with a little more attitude to start the second period than we did.
“What happened was that we came out and played with half speed, half intensity, made hope plays, just threw the puck to them. We weren’t really willing to work and play honest and try to create. Mentally we were not sharp. Things that we draw up on the board and talk about, then we come out and we’re not ready.
“The intensity part is the main thing, because when that’s not there everything else is following suit.”
Ryan Carter took a high-sticking minor – fans on Twitter said it was a phantom high-stick (I didn’t see it), and if true, that’d be the third bad call in four games that ended up with a power-play goal against for the Wild. On the power play, Henrik Sedin sent a cross-slot pass intended for a teammate in the left circle. Granlund picked it off in the slot, didn’t have Vrabata tied up and Vrbata made it 2-1.
“We were still in good position, tie hockey game going into the second, and our second period wasn’t even close to good. I think that’s what killed us,” Coyle said.
Then, in the third, with the Wild pressing for the tying goal, Ryan Suter pinched in, Jared Spurgeon moved left to cover his spot and didn’t notice Jannik Hansen cherry-picking when nobody covered for Suter. The Wild didn’t score, and Daniel Sedin got the rebound and found Hansen for the breakaway goal blocker-side on Devan Dubnyk.
The Wild fell to 8-2 at home.
“Tonight was one of those nights, because we have been good at home, we just expected a win, but we didn’t put in the work,” Vanek said. “It is disappointing because for the most part, we have been a solid home team. But after the first, we got away from it, tried long plays and were pretty sloppy for the most part.”
Yeo wasn’t pleased with anything or anybody after. This morning he also said what a lot of coaches say this time of year: He’d almost prefer to be on the road because of the distractions right now. Family members of the Wild have flooded the Twin Cities, and Yeo said he warned his players that preparing for games doesn’t begin when they show up to the rink.
Yeo brought it up again in his postgame comments.
“This is part of the process, but I just want to see us show some maturity,” Yeo said. “I want to see us show attitude that we’re not going to be satisfied being a team that stumbles or finds our way into the playoffs. We’ve got to demand more. At the beginning of the year, it’s easy. But right now you have to be on top of your game. These are important points and it’s an important time to build your game and to trust your game and to trust your teammates. Every time you are out there, you’ve got a shift, you’re either showing them that you’re trying to do things the way we want to do them or you’re not, and it’s amazing what one does to the rest of the group. If you go out and do things the right way, that’s contagious. If you go out and you do things not the right way, then that’s contagious too.
“It’s one game we lost, but we’ve got to bear down here and collect ourselves. There’s a lot of distractions this time being home. You’ve got family, you’ve got whatever, but we’re professionals and you’ve got to find a way to make sure you’re prepared mentally.”
Added Coyle, “We kind of gave it to them. We weren’t even close to playing our game, losing battles, no sense of urgency, all that stuff.”
Total opposite of Saturday’s win over Nashville.
“It’s a totally different story,” Coyle said. We win that game because of our hard work, and we came out and played our game. I don’t know if we expected a team lower in the standings and didn’t expect a game as good as Nashville, but we can’t afford to take a shift off, take a period off, take a game off. It’s going to come back to bite us like that.
“I don’t know if it was that goal at the end [of the second] and that put a damper, but it shouldn’t matter. It’s a tie game, playing at home, second period, we should be up for it. We should be able to play our game and get our work done, and we didn’t do that.”
That’s it for me. Happy Thanksgiving everybody. Enjoy your day with family and friends.
I’ll tweet from Thursday’s practice and blog afterward. Like I said, I’d suspect we see Parise on the ice with the team for a real practice.
Not a good game by the Wild. The team should be happy it has back-to-back home divisional games coming up starting with a 3 p.m. game vs. Winnipeg Friday. Otherwise, Yeo may skate the players into the ice as a Thanksgiving offering Thursday.
Can’t afford that though with the two games coming up. The Wild will needs it legs, and a ton more energy than it demonstrated tonight.