CHICAGO – The Wild surrendered the first goal in each of the three games during its recent homestand but rebounded to go 2-0-1.
Chasing the opposition was a bit harder, though, when the team returned to the road on the second half of a back-to-back.
Although it twice erased deficits to the Blackhawks, the Wild couldn’t overtake Chicago and fell 5-3 Sunday at United Center to open a three-game road trip with a rare regulation loss – just its second in the last 16 games.
“You can’t [rally] all the time,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “It’s going to catch up to you. It caught up to us tonight.”
The game was a particularly tough one for defenseman Matt Dumba, who finished a minus-3 and was ultimately demoted from the top pairing to the third unit.
Afterward, he discusses his recent struggles – which include a 14-game pointless skid.
“I still want to be there for my teammates any way I can,” he said. “Try to get up in the dressing room, try to make good plays defensively, hit and be vocal and try to bring those intangibles. Yeah, it’s a little frustrating when you sit down and look at it. But guys go through stuff like this. I’m not the first player to ever go through a slump. I’m not going to sit here and feel sorry for myself. I don’t want to dog on my teammates. I’ve just got to be better, plain and simple.”
Defenseman Ryan Suter said he can sense this funk is weighing on Dumba, but he’s confident Dumba will rebound.
“It is hard. But he’ll be fine, though," Suter said. "He just has to continue to work at it. It’ll turn for him. We’re trying to talk to him throughout the game, just putting positive thoughts in his head. He’s a good player. We know it. We just gotta get him back to the player that he can be.”
While the night was rough for Dumba, a few players had memorable offensive showings.
Center Eric Staal notched his 1,000th point on a first period power play marker.
Staal became just the 89th player in NHL history to reach the plateau and just seventh among active players. Usually known for his passionate celebrations, his reaction after this goal was tame – raising his stick before getting surrounded by his teammates.
“It's difficult sometimes to reflect in the middle of a season and a career,” Staal said. “Four numbers is a lot of numbers, and I'm obviously proud of that. I couldn't have got to this number or this level without a ton of help from so many people. That’s something I reflect on a lot in this kind of moment. It would've been nicer in a win but hopefully a few more left ahead of me for the next couple of years. It's nice to get that one out of the way.”
Winger Kevin Fiala was responsible for the rest of the Wild’s offense, scoring twice – the first of which came on a slick finish during a breakaway, as Fiala lifted the puck over goalie Robin Lehner.
In his last 12 games, Fiala has 11 points.
“I feel better and better and more confident, for sure,” he said. “I’m still young [at 23]. Hopefully I’m going to be even better and better, but I feel pretty good right now.”