The Wild’s five-game winning streak came to an end tonight with a 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers, who as coach Mike Yeo said Thursday, is a better team than the one that went to last year’s Stanley Cup Finals.
The No. 1 team in the East that clinched the Metro tonight is from top to bottom deep and well-balanced. They’re fast and skilled and big and have dangerous guys on every line. Their top-4 is as good as it gets on the blue line and in goal, there’s King Henrik. And when Lundqvist’s off or hurt, there’s Cam Talbot.
Just a very good team, and tonight the Rangers won their league-high and franchise-record 26th road win.
Yet, this game was very winnable for the Wild.
The Wild rallied from a 2-0 first-period deficit to tie the game on Thomas Vanek’s eighth goal in the past 12 games 5:53 into the third period. But on the very next shift, speedy Chris Kreider flew into the Wild end and skated through Matt Dumba’s attempted check behind the net. When Kreider skated free, Ryan Suter picked him up.
Dumba went to the front of the net to cover J.T. Miller, but when he saw Chris Stewart didn’t cover for Suter and pick anybody up, Dumba left Miller alone. That brief moment of not boxing out led to Miller scoring the go-ahead and eventual winner on a redirection of Ryan McDonagh’s point shot. The former Minnesota. Mr. Hockey had two assists.
Evening from the press box.
On Friday, Rachel Blount will cover practice so I can write my Sunday column and conduct a live chat on startribune.com/wild, so please join me at noon armed with questions and permission from your employer/teacher/parent.
I’ll also be hosting a podcast at O’Gara’s in St. Paul on Friday night at 6, so please join or listen to souhanunfiltered.com. Jim’s on vacation, so I’m flying solo with a couple Minnesota United players.
Tonight, I’m not going to repeat everything I wrote in my AWFUL gamer (I need some colorful locker-room quotes to save the gamer, and that, well, that didn't happen). I seemed to lose my desperation level, too. Save, send, move on to another day. As players say, the good thing about pro sports is there’s usually another game. I’ll get to move on to another article.
Still, please give that a read for all the ins and outs of tonight. It’s a lot on the sloppiness of tonight (the slow start, the lack of disciplined by taking five minors in 11:06 of the second period and the bad shift the shift after the Vanek goal) and maybe why. The Wild’s now got a five-point cushion with five games left. The Jets were bumped from the top-8 tonight by the Kings.
The officiating tonight was a big sore spot in the Twittersphere and by the crowd here.
“I don’t dispute those calls one bit, but I do think we did some things along the way to warrant a couple more power plays,” Yeo said of the second-period penalties. “But they saw it differently.”
I’ll tell you what though, referees Chris Lee, who seems to do every Wild game lately, and Dan O’Halloran were the least of the Wild’s problems.
Linesmen Derek Nansen and Ryan Galloway were at the heart of a lot of the booing and Bronx cheers, and it became a huge storyline late.
It started in the first period when the linesmen threw Mikko Koivu out of the circle four times, including twice on a power play.
But tonight, there were some questionable offsides calls and some dubious icings or waved-off icings. There was one waved off in the first period where there was no explanation. A clear icing, Marco Scandella goes to play it and they wave it off. There’s just no reason on video.
The one that I think caused the genesis of the Wild problems tonight?
Now, all this is my opinion. But in the second period, Nansen waved off an icing with Ryan Suter basically on the puck. The unbelievably late wave-off meant Suter couldn’t even make a play. He was just under pressure immediately and it created a mess.
It was very clear to me that Suter was angry the rest of the game. A couple times, he didn’t help retrieve pucks for the linesmen on actual icings, a common courtesy by players. He barked at them a few times.
I think they had long memories. With Devan Dubnyk pulled with 1:54 left for an extra attacker, the linesmen twice waved off icings on bang-bang plays or near ties … with Suter the one chasing.
A number of players were talking about the feuding with the linesmen after the game. There was also one icing where it looked like the Rangers got away with changing a few players.
Yeo said he was frustrated and probably got “too caught up in all that stuff. This time of year and even more so in the playoffs, whatever it is, we’re not going to change it. Frustration, it doesn’t help us. We can disagree all we want, but there’s still a game that has to be played.”
I waited for Suter after the game, but I was told finally he was unavailable. But players were very ticked because besides the fact that the non-icings ate up close, it also expended energy as players twice had to skate the length of the ice because of no whistles.
Again, these are arguable ones though. I will say the Rangers hustled on both chased and made them close judgment calls, and the linesmen in the NHL are more often right than wrong.
The Wild’s penalty kill gave up a goal in the first period, but Dubnyk obviously wanted that Rick Nash one back. He scored from the bottom of a faceoff circle by whipping a puck on net that ricocheted in off Dubnyk’s hand.
“The puck flipped up on his blade and he just went to shovel it across,” the goalie said. “It hit me on the inside of the hand. If that pucks stays flat, it’s probably not coming that high and there’s nothing in the way to get hit.”
In the second and early in the third, the Wild killed five penalties, including a double minor that turned into a 48-second 5-on-3. Just huge blocked shots in the second. Mikael Granlund had a memorable one from the ice. Marco Scandella at the end of the second. And Kyle Brodziak, back in the lineup after taking needles in his neck since sticking up for Jared Spurgeon last week and fighting Dion Phaneuf, on the 5-on-3. His stick snapped, so it was basically a 5-on-2, but he twice put his body in harm’s way to foil shots.
“Frustrating loss, Yeo said, “but it’s a group that cares about each other and is playing for each other. Brodzy’s a guy that’s been sacrificing himself all season long as far as his physical game, sticking up for teammates, the way he blocks shots. … The lift that gives the rest of the bench, that’s a huge momentum builder.”
Please join Friday’s chat. Rachel’s on for the daily coverage Friday. I’ll be back with you Saturday. We’ll see if the Wild can rebound vs. the Wings.