Since I’m sure most of you Wild fans are miserable after tonight’s 6-3 loss to Dallas after the Wild held a 2-0 lead, we’ll start with a little humor.
But in the second period with the Wild up 2-0, the Wild game ops trolled Stars defenseman Jordie Benn so to speak by showing him skating on the ice at the end of a TV timeout and comparing his red beard to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’s Yukon Cornelius.
They could be doppelgangers.
The crowd found it hilarious, well, until Benn scored seconds later that very next shift to spark the Stars comeback with three second-period goals in the final 5:01 of the period (the goals were 4:30 apart, with Vernon Fiddler and Tyler Seguin scoring 59 seconds apart, the last coming with 30.6 seconds left to eerily silence the stunned arena).
After the game, Benn was laughing about the whole thing when questioned by reporters.
"He's one good-looking guy, that's all I know,” Benn said of Yukon Cornelius, which Benn said happens to be his nickname with his teammates. “When they threw it up on the Jumbotron, I wanted to laugh, but we're not at home, so I was kept it to myself. It was funny.”
Asked about the fact he scored the very next shift, Benn said, “Everyone’s like, ‘Way to stick it to them.’ I was like, ‘Stick it to them?’ I thought it was kind of funny. Whoever put it up there is a pretty smart guy. I thought it was pretty funny.”
There was no laughing in the locker room down the hall after tonight’s latest loss – the Wild’s third of the season – the Stars, the NHL’s and division’s top team. The Wild will have one more crack at trying to win in Dallas on Jan. 9. In an NHL where the first two rounds of the playoffs typically will be against division rivals, the Wild may not have Chicago to only worry about anymore.
The Wild hasn’t shown the ability to beat the Stars yet, and this is a team with a ton of firepower, as it showed tonight with guys like Jordie’s bro Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza, Patrick Sharp and John Klingberg.
What started out as an awesome day for Jared Spurgeon – a four-year, $20.75 million extension and the game’s opening goal with the ink still wet on that contract – ended miserably for the top-pair defenseman.
Spurgeon’s penalty for tripping Jamie Benn (I felt he embellished, too) led to Fiddler’s tying goal with 90 seconds left in the second with the Wild two seconds from killing the minor. Then, 59 seconds later, Spurgeon’s giveaway to Benn resulted in Seguin’s goal point blank with Devan Dubnyk.
Stunned silence in the arena.
I was pounding the keyboard when the score changed, but fans and one media member also said Spurgeon didn’t hustle back on Cody Eakin’s empty-netter, one that was the flukiest empty-netter I’ve seen. The thing was heading well right of the net until the lofted puck fell on the ice and turned amazingly to the left and slithered over the line before Spurgeon could get there.
Regardless, Spurgeon obviously wasn’t happy with his game. He said the penalty on Benn was a tough call because he was turning back up ice and they clipped skates. The turnover he said he has to be harder getting the puck cleared.
He wasn’t in the mood to really talk a ton about the extension afterward, but he said, “You look at the guys in the room. We’ve come together as a team and the guys they added, just the feeling we have around here and the commitment the guys have to each other, I think we’re ready to win and I think this year we’re pushing toward that. It’s exciting to be a part of the Wild and I’m thankful they gave me the opportunity to stay here.”
Please read the Spurgeon sidebar on the extension, but GM Chuck Fletcher made clear that with four defensemen locked up at almost $21 million, Matt Dumba yet to be extended and Mike Reilly and Gustav Olofsson developing, he “absolutely” could use some of this depth in an eventual trade down the road to fill a lack of depth elsewhere. He specifically brought up the Wild’s lack of depth at center.
The Wild had firm control of this game until a penalty-free game was changed by Mikael Granlund getting a matching roughing minor with Patrick Sharp even though Sharp retaliated to a Granlund check on John Klingberg and then Granlund skated away from the whole thing.
Coach Mike Yeo felt it changed the complexion of the game because Mikko Koivu’s interference penalty soon after meant a 4-on-3 instead of a 5-on-4. The Wild did a great job killing the power play, but the Stars gained life and the Wild didn’t gain momentum from the big kill.
“That’s something that we should build momentum off of,” Yeo said.
Then, the wheels came off.
The one bright spot of the game was Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter. They each had a goal and assist and were plus-3, pretty impressive in a 6-3 loss. Coyle’s goal was his first in 11 games, Niederreiter’s his first in 16.
“Both Charlie and Nino were right from the start of the game on top of it, so that’s a good sign for us,” Yeo said.
Niederreiter said, “It was definitely happy when that went over the line, but at the same time, I would feel a lot better if we won.”
-- Tonight was the second time this season the Wild had no power plays in a game, the second time in team history at home (March 6, 2007, vs. San Jose) and 10th time overall (the other eight were on the road).
--The Wild had to swap insurance defensemen. Gustav Olofsson was recalled in case of injury or illness, but before the recall was even announced, Olofsson got sick and Mike Reilly replaced him. Reilly, who has yet to make his NHL debut, was scratched for the fourth time. He did skate in warmups for the first time.
-- If you didn’t see, the Wild unveiled its alumni jerseys for the Feb. 20 game. The link is here.
The Blackhawks’ alumni jerseys haven’t been unveiled yet.
I feel like there’s so much more not in here, but I’m not feeling the greatest right now. I’m going to try to get some shuteye before Tuesday’s morning skate.
If you want hear a pretty cool podcast, check this one out here. Lots of Jared Spurgeon and Wild talk, but Trampled by Turtles lead singer Dave Simonett popped in and joined the show.
Dave will be joining me when I fill in for Paul Allen on KFAN Thursday morning from 9-noon. Also joining me is Super Troopers soon-to-be 2 actor and writer Erik Stolhanske and Fox Sports North’s Anthony LaPanta.
Talk to you Tuesday.