The Wild’s four-game road trip isn’t off to a good start after the Wild followed Saturday’s overtime loss in New Jersey with a 6-3 loss in Brooklyn to the Islanders.
The Wild saw its 1-0 lead on Zach Parise’s 300th career goal extinguish almost instantly, and then like often happens to Darcy Kuemper, goals started entering the net in bunches after looking real good early.
Not sure why this is, but he has proven time and again to be fragile. Whether it’s coincidence or not, John Tavares’ tying goal snipe off a 2-on-1 (that there’s no chance he could have stopped) seemed to shell-shock him because he was not close to the same goaltender after the fact.
Facing a defenseman that has scored seven times in 195 career games, Kuemper gave up the go-ahead goal from the side wall 34 seconds later. Then Johnny Boychuk (monster game with a goal, plus-2, five shots, five hits, six blocked shots) gave the Islanders a 3-1 lead.
On Kuemper’s propensity of giving up goals in bunches (often late in games), Boudreau said, “It has to stop. We’re not putting Kuemps in – not to throw him under the bus, but I mean we plan on playing him a few more games than we’ve played him in the past, so sometimes we need that superb goaltending job.”
Asked if the Tavares goal maybe caused the others because he couldn’t get it out of his head, Kuemper said, “I don't think one had to do with the other. It was just three scoring plays and unfortunately the puck found its way into the back of the net.”
Kuemper looked real sharp early and he said, “I didn't feel particularly bad. I didn't feel bad at all. I had a good start to the game and just too many pucks found the back of the net.”
Want to know how bad it was in the second? The Wild outplayed the Islanders, yet were outscored 3-2 (Parise added 301).
“I thought we had a great second period, a lot of good chances, a lot of good zone time,” Parise said. “That's where we have to find what was the difference between what we did in the second and what happened in the third, what went wrong for us. And learn from that and try and make sure that doesn't happen again.”
In the third, the Wild was terrible. Not sure if it was playing the night before, but you could tell quite early the legs and life it played with in the second was gone. The Wild didn’t have a shot in the first 6:57, had one shot through 15:55. By that point, it was 5-2 Isles.
“I don't know,” Parise said. “I guess it's something where we'll have to watch a little video and see what happened. It just felt like in the third period we threw a lot of pucks away. It felt like we weren't breaking out clean. We weren't coming up together. I don't know if it's something they did differently or if we just didn't handle the puck very well. It's one of those where we'll have to check and see.”
One issue? The Wild couldn’t get shots through. The Islanders finished with 23 blocked shots compared to the Wild blocking 11. The shot attempts tonight: Wild 71, Islanders 53.
“We get the lead,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Nobody would have stopped the first goal. Second and third goal, I think, were stoppable pucks. Puts you behind the eight ball. It wasn’t necessarily the [Islanders] goaltending that was the factor. I think after the second period we had almost 50 shot attempts at the net. They were blocking everything, we weren’t blocking too much.”
Like I said, there were signs the Wild just didn’t have it in the first seven minutes of the third, but Alan Quine made it 4-2 6:29 into the period after Jonas Brodin flubbed a shot.
Then, Boudreau said, “We make a bad play defensively at that point. We should have stuffed them before they got to the blue line, and we didn’t. And the guy gets to walk inside the top of the circles and good shot. And then you could feel the players sage after that, and they score another goal. … Can’t seem to finish. We get some great opportunities. We don’t finish.”
The Wild’s fourth line, which was mostly Teemu Pulkkinen-Zac Dalpe-Chris Stewart (Joel Eriksson Ek saw some shifts there), had a rough night. Pulkkinen and Stewart, downgraded to the line in the first place because of a poor night in Jersey, were minus-3s. Dalpe and Eriksson Ek, playing his second game, were minus-2s.
“It can’t happen,” Boudreau said of the minus-3 night for the line. “When that happens, you’re going to lose. And when you’re going back to backs, you’ve got to use them.”
Stewart fell on the knife, saying, “At the end of the day, the fourth line, you shouldn’t get scored on … once let alone three times. It’s unacceptable. Being the veteran on that line, I didn’t get the job done.”
Boudreau threw all his lines into a blender, which you can read more about in the game. He called the Parise-Mikko Koivu-Mikael Granlund line a superstar line, but bemoaned the job many players did, saying you can’t win when five forwards and two D are playing well.
Parise, stuck on 299, joined Dave Christian and Phil Housley as the only other 300-goal scorers born in Minnesota. He tied a career-high 10 shots, hitting nine with 27:23 left in the game. He was robbed a bunch.
The second goal, he didn’t even know it went in. Video review showed the goal just got behind Thomas Greiss.
“I had no idea really,” Parise said. “We were lining up getting ready to take the draw. ... I was standing behind the net and one of the linesmen asked me, 'Did that go in?' I said, 'No. I don't think so.' It really caught us off guard. I didn't see it cross and hit the back of his leg. It was once of those that surprised us.”
On finally scoring two goals after being blanked in the first five games, Parise said, “It's been like that every game since the start of the season. Tonight it went in. That's pretty much the only difference really. They just crossed the red line tonight.”
On playing with Koivu and Granlund, Parise said, “Mikko is good in our zone so we didn't spend a lot of time there. He was good at draws. In the offensive zone we won a lot of draws. With Granlund he put probably four or five on a tee for me tonight. He's a really good set up guy. We have played well together before. They are both really good players.”
Vs. his dad’s old Islanders, Parise’s 20 goals and 44 points in 48 meetings with them is his most in both categories against any opponent.
The Wild’s now 0-1-1 on the trip. It heads to Boston and Buffalo next.
“Still another two games on this road trip. We could still salvage it,” Stewarts said. “And we’ve got to come out ready to play. You can see it in spurts. We can dictate. We’ve been showing the team we can be, but not for 60 minutes. You can’t win in this league without playing 60 minutes.”
Early flight to Boston. Talk to you after practice.