NASHVILLE – Desperate times call for desperate measures, so Sunday, the Wild won’t work on X’s and O’s or systems at practice.
Andy Ness, the team’s part-time skating and skills instructor, will be called in on a rescue mission to aid a team that suddenly couldn’t shoot a stability ball into Lake Calhoun.
During a 3-0 loss to the Nashville Predators on Saturday night, the Wild was shut out in consecutive games for the first time since April 2013. The Wild has scored three goals during a four-game losing streak and 25 non-empty-net goals in the past 15 games (1.67 per game).
So, it’s time for an all-skills practice.
“It’s just a matter of feeling the puck and shooting some pucks in the net,” said Wild coach Mike Yeo, the key phrase there being “in the net.”
“It’ll be a good mental break for us.”
The Wild followed an impressive victory at Dallas seven nights earlier with four clunkers. No victories. Barely any goals. And slump-busters almost nightly. The Predators were winless in five games, outscored 21-10 in that stretch, and had no regulation victories since Dec. 28.
“Two games, no goals. The fact is you can’t win the hockey game if you don’t score,” said center Mikael Granlund, who has no non-empty-net goals in the past 26 games. “We all need to take a deep breath. It is frustrating. We haven’t played that good lately. I felt tonight we had a little better game. We just need to get better and need to change this track … quickly.”
One month ago in Nashville, the Wild fell behind 46 seconds in. Saturday, the Wild trailed 86 seconds in when Jared Spurgeon lifted Eric Nystrom’s stick right into a Shea Weber shot. Ryan Suter called it the type of “cheesy goal” the Wild needs to start scoring.
“Lifted it the wrong way, I guess,” Spurgeon said. “That’s the way things are going.”
It was the eighth time in 10 games and fourth in a row that the Wild surrendered the first goal.
“We’re chasing all game, every game right now,” Yeo said.
The frustration Saturday was that the Wild had plenty of Grade-A chances but again made a backup goalie, this time Carter Hutton, look like a combination of Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur. Hutton made 29 saves, 25 during some one-sided play by the Wild in the first and second periods.
The Wild registered only four shots in the third, but it had 10 others blocked as the Predators went into prevent mode after Roman Josi’s power-play goal 6:14 in gave the Predators a 2-0 lead that felt like 10-0.
Oh, and the Wild’s overhauled power play that featured rookie Mike Reilly on the top unit and Mikko Koivu and Thomas Vanek on the second? Squat on three tries, including no shots on a must-score one late in the third.
The Wild’s power play on the road is now 6-for-63. Overall, the Wild is 1-for-29 the past 15 games and 0-for-21 the past 10. The Wild has 22 power-play goals all season. To put that in perspective, NHL leading scorer Patrick Kane has points on 24 of the Blackhawks’ 32 power-play goals.
“You’re always worried when you’re not scoring,” Suter said. “But we’re still in a really good place. We control our destiny. We control basically everything.”
Still, Suter added: “Something’s got to change [within the room]. I don’t know what it is. Something’s got to change, though, so we don’t have to go through this every year.”