As the old cliché goes, maybe the Wild started reading its own press clippings – or in this new world, tweets – during the second intermission tonight.
Just when everybody was lauding how good it was defensively (six goals allowed in six games before tonight), just when national media folks arrived at MSG to do Darcy Kuemper features, just when folks like me were digging up stats that lauded how good this team is (was?) at even-strength (20 goals for to four goals allowed this season … through 40 minutes tonight), the Wild caved shockingly during a 5-4 loss to the Rangers.
Up 3-0 because of three second-period goals despite injuries to Zach Parise, Erik Haula and Jonas Brodin and in spite of a horribly bad power play, the Wild gave up five goals in the third period (first time it allowed five in a period since Jan. 2004 and fourth time in history) to succumb.
The Wild was so bad, it couldn’t even escape with an overtime loser point to gain some solace in tonight’s third-period display.
Let’s put tonight’s third period in perspective?
-- The NHL’s supposed best defensive team, which had given up six goals in 400 minutes of hockey this season entering the third period, gave up one fewer in 20 minutes.
-- The Wild, in a league known for the dirty goal, possesses a power play that hasn’t even been able to shoot a puck off somebody’s skate or butt and in the net in 420 minutes of hockey this season. Yet in 20 minutes, the Rangers managed five goals.
-- Kuemper, who had given up four goals in 340 minutes of hockey (five starts and two periods) this season, gave up five in 20 minutes tonight.
-- And the Rangers rallied from a 3-0 post-second-period deficit to win for the first time since Feb. 21, 1992, coincidentally against the North Stars.
Evening from the press room at MSG.
Just a stunning loss tonight, and frankly, it’s hard for me to put total context yet on exactly what transpired because most the third period was spent reworking my file-at-the-gun gamer and only looking up when the goal horn sounded.
But as coach Mike Yeo said, no excuse for this loss.
Ahead 3-0 after two, the Wild had to know the Rangers would push. They were at home and booed off the ice after the second period. There was a lot of predictable talk from the New York leaders between periods and the Rick Nash-Derick Brassard-Mats Zuccarello line absolutely took over, helping create four of five goals.
Kuemper wasn’t good at all, but the Wild didn’t push back, lost races to pucks and started to play on its heels rather than its toes (at least at even strength).
The Wild saw its 3-0 lead turn into 3-2 by the 4:48 mark of the third. However, Jason Zucker, elevated at times in the second period to the first line and power play because Zach Parise sustained an ugly cut on his face, answered with his team-leading fifth goal 47 seconds later.
As Ryan Suter said, that should have settled things down.
But every time Kuemper came out of the net tonight, you had to hold your breath. There were three or four near disasters all game. Finally, he coughed up the puck, Carl Hagelin hit the post and Brassard got the goal right back for the Rangers.
The Wild ate almost the next 10 minutes and looked like it may survived until rookie Anthony Duclair, the third third-round pick by the Rangers in 2012 who lit up the Q last year, caught a stretch pass from Matt Hunwick and beat Kuemper coming down his off wing. Just a bad goal. Handcuffed Kuemper, squeezed under his arm and dribbled in.
The crowd went nuts as the kid they call Duke tied it. The Wild was stunned and just 37 seconds later and with 3:11 left, Zuccarello got a pass from Brassard and scored the winner.
“We got loose alright,” Yeo said, bristling. “I thought we started to get loose last game [against Tampa Bay[ and it didn’t hurt and tonight it did.”
On Kuemper, Yeo said, “He’s got to do what our team has to do. We have to push this behind us, but we have to learn. I mean, this is twice already this year where we’ve blown third-period leads (at Anaheim, one-goal lead). That’s usually a time where we should be at our best. You want the puck on your stick in those moments, but we didn’t respond very well tonight, no question.”
Yeo said what he didn’t like is the Wild should have known the Rangers would push, but even when they scored early, there’s lots of hockey left and the Wild responded poorly. The response should have been the Zucker goal, but the Wild again was on its heels.
There were some near goals. At one point, I think before Brassard scored to make it 4-3, Zach Parise stole a puck from Ryan McDonagh and tried to feather a pass to Mikael Granlund on a 2-on-1. McDonagh actually got his stick on it and Henrik Lundqvist had to make maybe his best save of the night. That would have been a huge goal.
“We got the game in our hands there [up 3-0, then 4-2,” Yeo said. “These are learning times for us right now. There’s a certain way that we have to play, and if we play that way we’re an effective team, and if we don’t, then the result that you saw in the third period is what will come around.
“We started backing up, letting them beat us to loose pucks. We’re a pressure team, we’re an aggressive team. We want to dictate play. We just let them come at us.”
The Wild plays the Bruins Tuesday night, and Yeo said, “Part of it is being able respond after something like this. It’s a good test for us [Tuesday].”
Yeo said most frustrating is the Wild did a good job through two periods dealing with a bunch of stuff. After a scoreless first, Chris Kreider got booted after he sent Brodin flying face-first into the yellow dasher between the ice and the end boards. In the waning seconds of the first period, Brodin stopped short in front of Kreider at the goal line, but the big Rangers forward dangerously shoved Brodin on the top of the numbers and downward five feet from the end boards.
Brodin after the game said it was a hand injury and one of his fingers was wrapped and swollen.
The Wild’s power play couldn’t convert for at that point the third time in the game. Two minutes in, the Wild’s No. 1 unit failed to even get a registered shot despite being in the zone for two minutes.
Then, scarily, Parise took Marc Staal’s stick to the face after Mikko Koivu lifted Staal’s stick with his. Blood poured on the ice. It was an awful seen, and Parise was lost for most the rest of the period but returned with lots of zippers from his right nostril toward the right part of his upper lip.
He was getting treatment after the game, so I never saw him.
But after the failed first major, Justin Fontaine set up Nate Prosser and Matt Cooke 55 seconds apart for a 2-0 lead.
Then, in a disgusting hit, John Moore did a fly-by on Erik Haula. Moore actually looked to slow down so he could extend his elbow right into Haula’s face. Moore was assessed an intent-to-injure match penalty, which requires an automatic review from the NHL’s Department of Player Safety, and new head honcho Stephane Quintal was at the game. Haula was hurt. He never returned. Yeo didn’t have an update after the game, but obviously Kyle Brodziak will likely be playing Tuesday in Boston.
On this major, the Wild didn’t score either to push its season-long power play futility to seven games and 24 straight (4 tonight). The Wild had never gone past four games to start the season without a power-play goal.
“It really could have been the difference,” Suter said. “Had some good looks. Just can’t get it to go. I think it’s going to be an ugly goal. It’s got to be an ugly goal for us to get it going.”
Suter, on the loss, said, “That’s a bad one. I thought we played a good two periods and we just sat back and they picked us apart. They were getting pucks in deep and we just weren’t executing routine plays.
“It was just one of those periods you don’t want to be a part of. You just have to learn from it and move on. Doesn’t do any good to sit and sulk about that.”
Suter said the goals came in bunches and it was just tough to get the momentum back because the Rangers kept getting pucks deep and “we couldn’t get a handle on it. That’s what happens when you sit back.”
Cooke said, “Up 3-0, we got lax within our game. We’re disappointed in ourselves. We know we let that slip away. For 46 minutes or whatever, we played pretty dang good hockey. This one’s on us.
“You know it’s happening and someone’s got to lead the way, pull the reins and turn the cart the other direction. Didn’t happen tonight.”
Kuemper said, “That’s on me. You don’t let in five goals in the third. You just don’t do that,” Kuemper, looking shell-shocked, said after the stunning loss. “Yeah, it happened.”
Wild lost 30 of 47 faceoffs tonight and was outhit 23-10. One shot in 3 games for Vanek.
OK, I have to get out of here because it’s almost midnight ET and I have a a.m. wakeup call ahead of me so I can motor to JFK and catch up to the team in Boston.
Don’t know as of this moment yet if the Wild’s having a morning skate. Obviously Niklas Backstrom (I’m assuming he starts) will need to get some shots from somebody, but we may not get health updates until late if Yeo doesn’t talk til 5 p.m.
If for some reason Brodin or another defenseman can’t play, the Wild will have to call up a defenseman.
That’s it for now. I’ll watch the third period over again Tuesday and try to get a better idea of what happened. Also, I’ll be on NESN at about 5:45 p.m. CT.