Mike Yeo did his best in the postgame to calm down the masses after the Wild’s 3-2 shootout loss tonight to the Detroit Red Wings.
The message after the second period was “that’s not the type of game we need to be playing right now and going into the playoffs. We need to be better than that. But I also don’t think it’s the end of the world here.
“… The third period was a much better indication how we need to play. The guys responded.”
Where do things stand? The Kings beat Colorado, so the Kings are back in a playoff spot and four points behind Minnesota for the top wildcard spot. The Jets, Monday’s opponent, also won but was knocked back to ninth. However, a win over Minnesota on Monday in regulation, and they’ll be two back. Wild win in regulation, Wild's in because even if Wild went 0-3 and Winnipeg went 3-0, Wild has the regulatio overtime tiebreaker.
Zach Parise tied the score with his second goal of the game, a power-play goal, his team-leading 10th and team-leading 32nd overall in the third. That puts him fourth on the Wild’s all-time list for a single season behind Marian Gaborik (42 and 38) and Brian Rolston (34).
Since Feb. 22 (20 games), the Wild leads the NHL with 29 third-period goals and has allowed a league-low eight third-period goals.”
It was a very testy postgame presser, and as Yeo indicated, this is the problem with the shootout. You get that extra goal, it’s all cheery. You don’t score that extra goal, it feels like a loss and you bring up things like the Wild’s second consecutive mediocre first 40 minutes and a 1 for 6 power play that, yes, scored the tying goal, but went 0 for its first 3, including a shotless 48-second 5-on-3, and went 0 for 2 with a chance to win the game after Parise tied it.
The shootout went eight rounds, and unfortunately for the Wild, captain Mikko Koivu, tied with Parise for second all-time with 39 shootouts goals, didn’t play because of a scratched cornea. He lasted all of warmups, but Ryan Carter played in his place. The Wild knew about this and was expecting it to be resolved, Yeo said.
Yeo said he expects Koivu to be “absolutely fine” for Monday’s regular-season home finale against Winnipeg. It sounds like this happened off the ice.
The shame of not winning the shootout is Thomas Vanek scored an awesome around-the-world goal where he moved his blade 360 degrees around the puck and then roofed a beautiful goal over Jimmy Howard’s left shoulder. Here it is.
But Riley Sheahan, who scored a goal in the game and drew a penalty that led to Gustav Nyquist’s power-play goal, tied the game in the shootout. This was Round 4. Prior, Parise and Pavel Datsyuk didn’t score, Charlie Coyle missed. Nyquist scored but Jason Pominville tied it before Tomas Totar missed.
After Vanek, Nino Niederreiter, Henrik Zetterberg, Chris Stewart, Stephen Weiss, Mikael Granlund, Niklas Kronwall and Justin Fontaine missed before Darren Helm ended things by tucking a shot inside the post. Dubnyk got it with the inside of his left pad, but his pad was over the goal line.
The takeaways from tonight:
1. The Wild wasn’t nearly good enough or desperate enough in the first two periods.
“We just didn’t play well. They were better than us for the first two periods, no question,” Parise said. “We started to play a little simpler, a little smarter in the third and that’s when we started to feel a little better about how we were playing.”
“We didn’t play well early on,” Ryan Suter said. “We started to play our game in the third. That’s kind of been a trend lately. We have to be better.”
2. The power play continues to let this team down. It was 1 for 6 tonight and ranks 28th in the NHL at 15.6 percent.
With Koivu out, Mikael Granlund took his spot on the No. 1 unit. That also, at least early in the game, caused the Wild to move Pominville down and put Matt Dumba on the power with Suter.
On the 5-on-3 for 48 seconds, no shots on goal, Dumba missed the net and had one shot blocked. Pominville and Granlund each swung and missed at cross-crease passes to the backdoor.
My issue is the second minor came 72 seconds into the first power play. Yet, despite the long shift, Yeo and assistant coach Andrew Brunette didn’t substitute for any of the players on the ice.
Yeo explained it was because he used his timeout. But I do think some were gassed (Pominville fanning on shots has been a trend). Monday morning quarterbacking, of course.
Nevertheless, everybody was defensive about the power play after the game.
Parise: “It’s not going to do any good for me to say anything. It wasn’t good enough. We’ve got to practice it.”
Suter: “We had a tough time breaking into the zone. It’s been a struggle all year. We have to get it going. It doesn’t do any good to talk about the past chances. We have to focus moving forward. Doesn’t do any good to question all these different plays. We have to practice is it more for sure and we have to be better at it.”
Told Parise also said they need to practice it more, Suter said, smiling, “We’ll leave it at that.”
Yeo said, “Of course a player’s going to feel that and we’ve come in here and I had to answer 10 questions for the power play. We were down a goal, we got a point. We’re not happy getting one point in games here.
“We lost in a shootout. So would we be asking the same questions if we scored one more goal in the shootout? I don’t know. We gave ourselves a chance to win a hockey game. We weren’t perfect. I’m not going to deny that. … Of course, the players, it’s human nature …
“We’ve spent considerable amount of time on our power play. I will say that for sure. I will also say that because of that we’ve also lost other areas of game in that practice. Some of best times our power play has been at its best, we haven’t practiced it. That’s not the issue.”
On the power play, Yeo said, “Depends how you want to spin it. We go into a game and a guy who’s usually out there [isn’t there] and we haven’t had a chance to practice or prepare. I’m not making excuses but, … you can look at it that way or you can look at it that they scored the goal that tied the game up for us.”
Optional practice on Easter Sunday, and I don’t think Parise, Suter and most the big-minute guys will be there.
3. Koivu’s late absence threw the team for a loop. Guys were in different spots, and that affects not just the lines, but positioning, guys knowing where other players will be in the offensive zone in terms of puck support, guys knowing where players will be on breakouts and in their own zone, Yeo’s matchups.
Erik Haula likely played himself out of the lineup again.
Yeo was not happy with him.
He started in Koivu’s spot between Nino Niederreiter and Chris Stewart. It was a tremendous opportunity after being scratched Thursday.
By the second period, Charlie Coyle took Haula’s spot and Haula moved between Vanek and Justin Fontaine. He took the game’s first penalty for the Wild and it resulted in Nyquist giving Detroit a 2-1 lead.
By the third, he was on the fourth line with Kyle Brodziak and Jordan Schroeder and he was eventually benched.
“I thought he looked tired tonight, I’m not sure why,” Yeo said.
4. Still, as Yeo said, if the Wild win the game, everybody’s happy and there’s a different tone and different line of questioning afterward.
Of course, there’s tension because the Wild wasn’t up to snuff against a desperate Red Wings team in a game that arguably should have been the easiest of the remaining games.
Now, the Wild has four games left of the season and faces a very desperate Jets team on Monday. Then, it hits the road for three in a row to end the season at Chicago on a second of a back-to-back, at Nashville and St. Louis.
So, the Wild’s not making it easy on itself by losing two in a row for the first time since Jan. 19-20, albeit this one by getting an important point.
“I’m not worried,” Yeo said. “It’s not like we were that bad. Let’s not paint that picture. We played a pretty darn good hockey team tonight and we knew they were going to play their best game. …
“Their lives were at stake. We’ve seen ourselves do it to other teams.”
Dubnyk, too, said, “We’re fine. We’ve been playing at a really high level for a long time and that’s going to happen. It’s a long season. It’s strange for us because we have been playing so well. It’s not how we want to play. I don’t think anybody in here is worried. We’ll be fine.”
That’s it for me. Standings are squeezing. Wild better get its act together because Monday is a huge game. Talk to you after Sunday’s optional and enjoy your holiday. I'll be on Rosen's Sports Sunday on Ch. 4 if you're up late.
By the way, check out the bottom of rhe Pominville/Vanek game notebook because there's some news on some Wild prospects, including Mario Lucia and Stephen Michalek.