The Wild’s woeful penalty kill might have turned a corner Sunday, escaping most of the minutes it spent shorthanded unscathed.
But by giving its PK reps to work out of its slump, the Wild limited its offensive opportunities and continued a cold spell that was hard to miss in a 4-1 letdown against the Canucks at Xcel Energy Center.
“Our penalty kill did a fabulous job, I thought,” winger Marcus Foligno said. “But it can tire guys out, and you kind of saw that in the third period. We had some looks, obviously, to theirs but for the most part, the jump wasn’t always there.”
After registering 43 shots Thursday in Calgary, the Wild was more tepid against the Canucks — boasting just three after one period and 12 after two.
Some of that drop-off can be explained by how much time the Wild spent killing penalties. The team committed eight infractions and snuffed out seven, getting burned just once by Vancouver in the second period.
“Some were dumb, really dumb,” coach Bruce Boudreau said of the penalties, one of which was for too many men on the ice. “That’s two games in a row guys aren’t paying attention on the bench. And we’re telling them not to go, and they still go.”
Still, the Wild had its fair share of power-play time to try to reboot its offense. But the unit couldn’t convert, going 0-for-5 — the 12th time in the past 18 games the Wild’s play with the man advantage has come up empty-handed.
“We’re a team when we’re going well. We get shots on net. We go to the net, like Marcus’ goal,” said Boudreau, referring to Foligno’s crease-crashing finish in the second that counted as his fourth goal in the past four games. “That’s how we score. We grind it out. But we don’t have enough guys grinding right now.”
Zucker, Pateryn return
Just four weeks after suffering a broken leg, winger Jason Zucker was back in the Wild’s lineup Sunday, returning from a fractured right fibula after missing just 10 games.
“They were fantastic from Day 1 and made sure that I had a quick recovery but made sure that we were on top of getting the surgery done as quick as we could, as well,” Zucker said, referring to Dr. Fernando Peña, who performed the procedure, and the Wild’s medical staff. “Those guys are magicians.”
Zucker ended up playing 16:12 against the Canucks, registering one shot and taking two penalties.
“I thought I played pretty bad, to be honest,” he said. “I felt OK as far as the leg goes. I thought that was all great, but that was not a good performance by myself.”
Defenseman Greg Pateryn also was back in action Sunday, making his season debut after undergoing core muscle surgery in October.
“I feel great,” said Pateryn, who played 12:27 — including 3:49 on the penalty kill. “No issues at all. I felt good on the ice. It felt good to get the timing back. I was just excited to be out there with everyone.”
With Zucker and Pateryn playing, the Wild scratched center Victor Rask and defenseman Brad Hunt.
Although Hunt has been a fixture on the power play, he was the odd man out on the blue line with the top-four locked in and Carson Soucy in the midst of a strong rookie season.
Boudreau said Rask has been playing OK, like others, but the team requires more.
‘We need people to excel,” Boudreau said, “and we’re pretty bland in that situation.”
T.J. Oshie (Washington), Quinn Hughes (Vancouver), David Perron (St. Louis) and Mitch Marner (Toronto) were the final players voted into the NHL All-Star Game by fans. Defenseman Ryan Suter was the Wild’s candidate to be voted in as part of the Last Men In campaign.