The Wild dropped its first home game of the season tonight to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the biggest concern after the game was the status of Zach Parise, the Wild’s leading scorer and heart and soul.
Parise didn’t emerge for the third period after sustaining what coach Mike Yeo called an upper-body injury. There were two big collisions I remember with Parise tonight. One came his first shift when he was bowled over from behind by Robert Bortuzzo. The other came 5:44 into the second when he was cross-checked the ice by Blake Comeau in the slot. Comeau received an interference penalty on the play.
So perhaps the injury stemmed from one of those two hits.
Yeo didn’t reveal the seriousness or nature of the injury postgame. He said he hoped to have a better update after practice Wednesday and said “I sure hope not” when asked if he felt it was serious. The Wild does leave after practice for a trip to Ottawa and Montreal (it’s actually a 3-game trip that also goes to Parise’s old home, New Jersey, but the Wild returns to Minnesota for a day-and-a-half after the Canadiens game), so the hope obviously is that Parise is on that charter to Canada’s capital.
The Wild is already without defenseman Jared Spurgeon (who was sorely missed tonight) and left winger Matt Cooke.
For the first time this season, the Wild had a good amount of trouble playing “fast hockey” in the first two periods. Playing against a team that plays a very similar style when it’s going well, the Wild had trouble getting out of its zone, iced pucks and couldn’t get through the neutral zone.
“They played the way we usually play – on their toes, their D were keeping pucks alive, they were on us, they were quick, they were getting pucks behind us and they made it tough on our D and wingers to break out,” Jason Pominville said. “That’s the way we play when we’re going well.”
The Wild showed so many examples of frustration, the biggest display coming when Nino Niederreiter, after fouling up two rushes on one shift, cracked his stick over the boards and slammed the bench door shut.
The Wild’s breakout was convoluted the first two periods. It didn’t help that Spurgeon was missing and Jonas Brodin missed the last part of the first period with an injury and clearly was playing hurt the rest of the game. Just look at how he couldn’t shoot. Remember, he was already playing hurt and seemed to hurt something else in the first period.
But Yeo said, “The start was not good enough for us. No excuses. I have a couple thoughts maybe why.”
He’s expand on that later in his presser.
“It just seemed really tough to try to build any kind of momentum. Things just started to unravel a little bit because of our execution. We just couldn’t get any rhythm whatsoever and it started to lead into a little bit of frustration and we really started to get away from our game.
“I don’t know that we were completely ready to execute at the speed that we need to execute at and I don’t think we were ready to battle at the level we needed to battle it. But you’ve got to find it.
“They were able to find out game better than we were.”
Yeo’s reasoning, which he repeated wasn’t an excuse, was that after playing six games in nine nights, the Wild decompressed the past two days and “didn’t amp it back up.” He said the other reason was “we’ve been listening to everybody tell us how good we are at home and maybe we thought it was just going to happen to us. We know that it’s not good enough.”
Ryan Suter, whom I thought was about the only guy playing well tonight for the most part (offensively, the only time the Wild came close to scoring was when he set it up; and he set up the Niederreiter third-period shorthanded breakaway goal), said something similar.
“We took for granted just being at home, Suter said. “We’ve had a lot of success here, and we just came out flat and we thought we just had to show up to get the win.”
Thomas Vanek again was coughing pucks all night. Two turnovers partially led to two goals. He has four shots in his past seven games. Matt Dumba was also a well-earned minus-3. But there were several players that just weren’t good enough again.
Jason Zucker-Mikko Koivu-Charlie Coyle was the only line again to routinely generate chances, although I thought Coyle was off. Just before Pittsburgh’s first goal with 53 seconds left in a scoreless first, Suter came oh-so close to setting up a Zucker goal. That would have been huge. A shift later it was 1-0 Pittsburgh.
The big controversy of the night came with 3:06 left when Koivu scored. The goal was disallowed by referee Francois St. Laurent – replays showed Marcel Goc punched the puck from the other side of the goal line and out.
The NHL Situation Room in Toronto initiated a review, and then after two or three minutes of St. Laurent talking to Toronto, he announces no-goal because it was a non-reviewable play because he ruled incidental contact on Thomas Greiss (Mikael Granlund, aided by Kris Letang and Paul Martin, was on Greiss).
OK, debatable depending on your point of view or fandom. But then why the heck were they reviewing a non-reviewable play for two minutes. It should be as simple as Toronto calling and the referee saying, incidental contact, goodbye.
The Wild has gotten the benefit of I believe three incidental contact wipeout goals by opponents in recent home games. Earlier this season, Niederreiter was pushed onto Semyon Varlamov by Jan Hejda and a Coyle goal was wiped out by the ref. So the Wild has been aided by this incidental contact rule and hurt. I still think this should be a reviewable call. The game is too fast. Too many bodies crash that crease. Clearly, the refs need help because we continue to see night after night in the NHL questionable incidental contact calls throughout the league.
Regardless, Wild was outplayed for the most part, had trouble for the first time at home this season and paid for a bad first two periods.
“They play a lot like us and they were better than us tonight,” Suter said. “We couldn’t get pucks in. We were turning pucks over early. When we have success, we’re playing in their end, getting pucks behind their D and making them try to keep up with us and it was vice versa tonight.”
“At the end of the day, it's our fault. We should have come out for 60 minutes. We only showed up for 20,” said Niederreiter.
Rachel Blount is covering practice Wednesday as I fly to Ottawa, so follow her on Twitter (@blountstrib) for real-time Parise update.