Think about this:
At one point tonight, the Wild was up 1-0 while the Winnipeg Jets were trailing the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames were down 3-zip to the Boston Bruins.
Then, everything spun the other direction.
At the end of the night, the Jets rallied for a shootout win, the Flames rallied for a last-second overtime win and the Wild blew that one-goal lead and was unable to tie a game in a frantic final 30 seconds with its net empty before losing 3-2 to the Vancouver Canucks. To make matters worse, the Los Angeles Kings rallied to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning.
So, in total, that means, the Wild, which at one point today could have moved into the eighth spot if it beat Vancouver and the Flames lost in regulation, fell four points behind the Canucks and Flames, three behind the now-8th-place San Jose Sharks and into 10th in the West – one point behind the Kings.
For three weeks, almost everything went the Wild's play, both with its outcomes and in the standings. Tonight, not so much. Literally one minute after Calgary won in OT (TJ Brodie backhanded a puck from the right corner off the top of the net, then Rask and in with 2 seconds left for a fluke goal), the Wild fell behind 2-1 93 seconds into the third. Since 2011, Boston is 91-1-2 when it has a 3-goal lead. Yeah, doesn't seem like tonight was meant to be for the Wild.
The Wild, which hadn't lost in regulation since Jan. 19, was unable to extend its point streak to a franchise-record 11 games after 26-year-old defenseman Alex Biega, who was given the all-alone twirl treatment by his teammates comically to start warmups, scored what turned out to be the winning goal with 8:06 left.
Jordan Schroeder, for the second time in the game, set up a second Nino Niederreiter goal with 6:25 left to cut the deficit to 3-2, but the Wild couldn’t bury one in the final seconds with an extra attacker on. Eddie Lack denied Jason Pominville a couple times and Matt Dumba missed the net from point-blank range.
Coach Mike Yeo said he was shocked the Wild didn’t tie it because the Wild did everything right in terms of getting pucks and bodies to the net, but sloppy play previously in the game doomed the Wild.
During the Wild’s 10-1-2 stretch, Minnesota scored first in all the victories, so it bode well when Niederreiter scored for the game’s first goal 8:55 into the first.
Jason Zucker’s injury has wreaked havoc on the Wild’s offense and speed up front, but Schroeder, a former Canucks first-round pick, has supplied offense and speed up from the farm since Zucker’s injury.
A week after scoring his first goal as a Wild against Vancouver and a few days after scoring against Carolina, Schroeder set up Niederreiter on a great play coming off the bench. He skated in front of defenseman Jonas Brodin to take a breakout pass, flew down the right-wing boards with speed and centered for a driving Niederreiter.
But the Wild wasn’t sharp from there. The Wild lost pucks off sticks, passed pucks into skates and overskated pucks. It was alarming the way the Wild routinely coughed pucks up with reckless passes high in the offensive zone.
“They were defending hard and quickly, but we were not strong enough on the puck in the offensive zone,” coach Mike Yeo said. “I think in a lot of ways that was the place we needed to win that game tonight and we didn’t do enough.”
The Wild also began overpassing constantly, especially the Thomas Vanek-Mikael Granlund-Justin Fontaine line.
“We didn’t play the game we knew we should play,” Niederreiter said. “We had too many turnovers. Sometimes we tried to be too cute. We had to get more shots to the net and that’s exactly what cost us the game at the end.”
Instead of taking advantage of a team without top-2 defensemen Alex Edler and Chris Tanev by getting pucks deep against a blue line that should have been exposable, the Wild kept trying to make plays up top and routinely turned pucks over.
The Canucks capitalized several times in the second half of the first period by countering with speed and spending lots of time in the offensive zone.
The sloppiness cost Minnesota in the first minute of the second period. Poor management with the puck, then a bad pinch by Ryan Suter led to the Sedin Twins breaking out on a 2-on-1 against Brodin and scoring on a rebound.
The Wild went the first seven minutes in the period without a shot, couldn’t take advantage of a power play. Until late, the Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Pominville line didn’t generate much.
“The puck was bouncing a lot, but we didn’t do anything to help ourselves out or be creative,” Parise said of the team. “Everything was on the wall. Not a lot of creativity in our game. …
“I felt the ice was pretty bad. It was bouncy. It was tough to get through the neutral zone. Just every time you felt like you had [the puck], it was rolling on the side. I don’t know if they were feeling the same thing, but it was one of those games where you couldn’t get anything clean, it felt like.”
Pominville also said, “It was a weird game. They play tight. Not a lot of room. A lot of chipping pucks in and not that many rush opportunities. You had to grind it out and try to stay patient and obviously they got the better hand.”
Yeo said he knew it would be a tight-checking game and without Edler and Tanev, he knew the Canucks would do a good job and have a mentality to protect the inexperience D and play a strong game in front of them.
They defended really well all night.
“They were playing tight through the neutral zone,” Yeo said. “There weren’t a lot of clean entries,” although Yeo felt the Wild retrieved pucks well but “didn’t generate anything whatsoever after that.”
As I called it on Twitter, a ton of one-and-outs.
On this being such a colossally bad night for the Wild in the standings, Yeo said, “There’s a lot of hockey left,” adding if a few weeks ago you said the Wild would take two out of three on the Canucks – a team it’s chasing – in eight days, the Wild would have been happy with that.
“There’s still a lot of season left,” Yeo said, although he said there were some breakdowns on each of the goals against that much be corrected by Wednesday.
That’s it for me. Devan Dubnyk wasn’t happy with the winning goal, feeling he was interfered with by Alex Burrows and then taunted by the agitator right after. You can read those quotes in the gamer. Hard call there for the officials on the contact and eight days ago in Vancouver, Dubnyk got the benefit of a questionable incidental contact call that went against Vancouver and wiped out a big Canucks goal.
The problem on this shift was the play in front of Dubnyk as the fourth line and defensemen Marco Scandella and Jared Spurgeon got trapped in the zone for more than a minute and got dead-legged. As I said to my colleague next to me 10 seconds before the goal, “This will be a goal or a penalty.”
Yeo subtly mentioned after that the Wild deserved more than the one power play that it got. And there was undoubtedly blatant obstruction let go and a slash on a Vanek breakaway.
But at the end of the day, the Canucks played better tonight. The Wild was sloppy and it ultimately was doomed by poor puck management and constant turnovers at both blue lines. And the Wild was credited with only seven hits!
But as Yeo said, there’s a lot of season left.
“That’s going to happen,” Parise said of the bad night in the standings. “We’re not going to win every game the rest of the season and the other teams aren’t going to lose every game. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it’s going to be.”
That’s it for me. Check out the game notebook as well because I wrote a little on the price of trades right now and one of the things that may inhibit the Wild’s ability to do something substantial.
Talk to you after practice Tuesday in Calgary.