While it’s crawled back into the Western Conference playoff race, the Wild hasn’t had too many letdowns – dropping just four games in its last 11 overall.
But that split would be even more flattering if the Wild didn’t fall apart late in two of those losses, a meltdown that happened again Thursday in a 4-3 shootout rally for the Rangers at Xcel Energy Center.
“We know that if we play a certain way, we can win,” winger Ryan Donato said. “We know if we let up at all and change from that and get too comfortable, then it can go the other way. It’s easy as that. We just got to make sure we continue to do the right things and don’t get lazy.”
That’s certainly how the Wild looked in the third period ahead 3-1.
And by sitting back, it opened the door for the Rangers – who had been attentive and pesky all night – to pull even.
The last goal, with 1 minute, 6 seconds remaining by Mika Zibanejad, was the heartbreaker – a finish that was reminiscent of another late-game crumble last month to the Panthers that left the Wild with no points even though it, again, had a lead minutes before regulation expired. It fell 5-4.
This time, the Wild was fortunate enough to snag one but two would have been better – especially since the team it’s chasing in the Coyotes lost earlier in the night.
Instead of moving within two of a playoff spot, the Wild is three back.
“We battled but if we fall asleep at all, they’re too good,” Donato said. “They got too good of players. Obviously, you see things can change pretty quick. For us, we gotta be mentally strong and finish out the game.”
Despite an unflattering finish for the entire team, there were a few individuals who stood out on the Wild.
-Defenseman Jonas Brodin had a goal and assist in 23 minutes, 57 seconds – the second-highest ice time on the team, behind only fellow blue liner Ryan Suter (24:09). His goal was his second of the season and first since Nov.19 in Buffalo.
Brodin now has 22 assists, tying his career best set in 2017-18, and he’s just one point from matching his career high of 25.
“He was great,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “He was outstanding. His skating really came to the forefront today I thought.”
-Winger Jordan Greenway also had a two-point night, scoring in the second to put the Wild up 3-1 and assisting on Brodin’s tally. He’s only one point of tying the 24 he registered last season.
During both plays, Greenway used his size to be a factor – a strength of his that has showed up inconsistently this season. But when it has been noticeable, Greenway’s been at his best.
“He played really good,” Boudreau said.
-Donato was also visible, getting the Wild’s first goal and coming close to scoring another on a breakaway in the third.
Not only did he earn ice time in overtime, but he also participated in the shootout – losing the handle before he could get a shot off on net.