For the most part this season, the Wild has escaped almost every game despite a 20-minute stretch where the team’s abysmal.
Not tonight in a 2-1 home loss to Buffalo.
The Wild didn’t look ready to play in the first period, had little life and energy even by the coach’s words and saw its three-game consecutive shutout streak vanish 3:16 in after Jonas Brodin’s attempt at putting a rebound out of harm’s way instead nailed Ryan O’Reilly’s right skate head-on.
After an awful first period, the Wild was outstanding in the second period but could only beat Robin Lehner on one of 15 shots, proving its 13.7 percent shooting percentage the first month of the season was very unsustainable.
Even with 15 shots, the Wild was maddening the way it tried to overpass or simply couldn’t get shots off odd-man rushes. Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter went back to back rushes being way too unselfish instead of just letting her rip.
In the third, even after Mikael Granlund tied the score at 1-1 with his second goal in two games, the Wild, in a perfect assessment by Bruce Boudreau, looked like it was playing for the tie.
And let’s be honest: the Wild should never, ever, ever play for overtime. It’s 1-10 in two years in 3-on-3, and the one win came on the road at Carolina.
The Wild stopped driving the offensive zone, stopped getting pucks deep and couldn’t penetrate the middle of the offensive zone. Of the 18 Wild shots that were blocked tonight, 12 of those were in the third period. It’s a big reason the Wild, searching for the tie after 2010 second-round pick Johan Larsson burned Minnesota with the go-ahead goal, didn’t get a shot on goal in the final 6:07.
So, two points tossed in the garbage can, and as Boudreau said, these were two points the Wild wanted with two games in an 11-day stretch and one in the next nine.
“I told the guys before the game, I said, ‘When you only have two games a week you have to, as the saying, make hay when the sun shines,’” he said. “You've got to get points or you look up in a week and you play three games in 11 days and you think you're doing OK but teams are passing you by because they're playing five and six and getting points in them. Especially now we have four games in a row on the road. It would have been a nice game to win and go on the road with a win. But it didn't happen. Give Buffalo credit. They played well. They played as well as they had to and that's the way things go.”
As all Wild fans know, the Wild’s an aggravating team. Yes, it felt the losses of Zach Parise, Erik Haula and Marco Scandella tonight (of course, the Sabres were without Jack Eichel and Evander Kane and played the final 2-plus periods with five defensemen because Zach Bogosian injured his knee), but the fact this team usually plays one period a game where it’s just absolutely awful is irritating the coach.
“Sometimes it's a frustrating team,” he said. “It can play so good one period and not show up for the (next) period.”
After bemoaning the first period, Boudreau said, “The things that we did in the second period we didn't do in the third period quite frankly. We didn't get it behind their D. We didn't forecheck. …To score in this league we have to play on the inside. I don't think we had a lot of second chances.”
He said, “you have no idea how frustrating it is” that the Wild don’t get shots off on odd-man rushes and don’t crash the net for rebounds.
“We talk about it in between probably every period about just funneling pucks to the net and going to the net. Like [GM Chuck Fletcher] just told me now, for the last four years we're a team that doesn't get a lot of second chances. We're a team that when we score scores on the rush. And that's a hard way to win it in if we don't want to get down and dirty and score those grungy goals.”
He didn’t pin blame on Nate Prosser for the pinch on the Larsson winner.
“Pross is playing his off-side there [because of Scandella’s injury] and he's not used to it,” Boudreau said. “He tried to do the right thing. He tried to get it deep and he didn't get it by the guy. So I'm not going to come down too hard on him for trying to do the thing that he was supposed to be doing. It didn't work and sometimes it doesn't work. But it wasn't like an error of omission where he ... read the play wrong or didn't do the way we want him to do. That's what we wanted him to do but it didn't get done.”
As usual, please read the game story and game notebook.
That’s it for me. Talk to you after practice Wednesday. I’d think the callups stay on the roster for Wednesday’s practice, but it wouldn’t shock me if they’re reassigned temporarily Thursday to save cap space for a day because there’s no practice Thursday.
I’m leaving town Thursday sadly for a family matter. My editor will cover Friday’s practice and I’ll meet the team in Denver.
If you can, please join Jim Souhan and moi at Hell’s Kitchen at 4 p.m. Wednesday for a taping of the Russo-Souhan Show.