Wild players were warned.
After studying the Red Wings Friday night in Winnipeg, coach Bruce Boudreau relayed to his team Saturday morning how Detroit — one of the NHL’s bottom feeders that had won just twice the past month — overpowered the Jets in the final two periods despite eventually losing 4-2.
“We have to be aware,” he stressed.
But the advance notice apparently didn’t sink in because the Wild was outworked, overmatched and underwhelming in getting stunned 5-2 by the lowly, rebuilding Red Wings in front of an announced 19,087 at Xcel Energy Center. Winger Tyler Bertuzzi did the most damage, recording his first career hat trick.
“That was the worst game that we’ve played since I’ve been here as coach,” Boudreau said. “Effort, compete, I don’t know where it was. I don’t know if they’re still tired from this road trip or what have you. But I’m really disappointed in tonight’s effort.”
After recently stringing together three straight wins for the first time since November, the Wild has now dropped two out of three to recapture the stop-and-go rhythm that makes it difficult to advance in its playoff race.
“Obviously it was one of those games where we thought we were going to come out here and throw the jerseys [on] because we’ve had a little bit of success recently,” Boudreau said.
The Red Wings were finishing off a back-to-back, but it was the Wild that was flat from the get-go, exuding a sluggishness it couldn’t shake since Detroit scored a goal in the first minute of each period.
Only 24 seconds after puck drop, a floater from the point by winger Gustav Nyquist was deflected in front by Bertuzzi.
With 3 minutes left in the first, the Wild evened it when winger Luke Kunin pounced on a puck that rolled by defenseman Niklas Kronwall and wired it by goalie Jimmy Howard for his first goal of the season.
It looked like that late lift carried over into the second since the Wild took the lead just 17 seconds into the frame on the power play — a one-timer from winger Nino Niederreiter off a Mikko Koivu setup that ended Niederreiter’s 12-game goalless skid.
But Detroit responded just 28 seconds later, with winger Thomas Vanek tying it when he put back his own rebound.
“There were multiple times tonight, kind of at critical times in the game, we went to sleep,” said goalie Devan Dubnyk, who totaled 32 saves.
Vanek, the former Wild forward and Gopher, then moved the Red Wings ahead at 15:10 when he walked into a shot from the slot.
Detroit ended the period with 21 shots; the Wild tacked on just one more after Niederreiter’s goal to finish with a measly two.
“If your best players aren’t your best players, you’re not going to win a game,” Boudreau said. “It’s as simple as that. When I look down and [Joel Eriksson] Ek’s line is the best line that we have out there, then we’re in trouble.”
The Red Wings added another goal 47 seconds into the third when Bertuzzi directed in a Dylan Larkin shot. Later in the period, at 8:38, Bertuzzi completed his hat trick when he went to his backhand. Howard made 16 stops.
“You really can’t take anyone lightly,” winger Zach Parise said. “Everyone’s a good team. If you don’t show up, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing in this league you’re gonna lose. That was a perfect example of that.”