Initially, the Wild felt encouraged and excited by what was happening.
But then it became disappointed and demoralized.
Such was the emotional rollercoaster that the team experienced as it monitored Colorado’s game against Edmonton.
The dramatic swing also described the trajectory of its own season, a second-half swoon that officially bottomed out Tuesday for its first playoff absence in seven years after the Avalanche eliminated the Wild from contention by defeating the Edmonton Oilers. The victory came after the Wild made a last-ditch effort to stay alive by surging past the Jets 5-1 in front of an announced 18,590 at Xcel Energy Center in its second-to-last home appearance.
After playing host to the Bruins on Thursday, the team will wrap up its schedule Saturday in Dallas.
“Too little, too late in the season in general,” winger Marcus Foligno said. “We had a lot of chances at home to play like this, and it catches up to you obviously. It’s such a hard league, and you never want your fate to be in someone else’s hands or some other team’s hands. It’s tough.”
Wild players were peeking up at the scoreboard during their game against the Jets, noticing the Oilers ahead 2-0 after one period. But by the time they exited the ice for good, the Avalanche was up 4-2.
Only an hour later, their destiny was sealed.
“If you miss it, you just get madder next year and you at least know what it feels like,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “You don’t ever want that feeling again.”
Players did their best to avoid that situation, or at least stall it, by using a three-goal, first-period outburst led by winger Zach Parise in his return to the lineup to sweep the five-game season series against Winnipeg.
Parise was back in action after sitting out the previous four games because of a lower-body injury, and the Wild’s leading scorer made his presence felt early.
Just 9 minutes, 4 seconds into the frame, the puck bounced off Parise’s stick and trickled down Jets goalie Eric Comrie’s back and into the net.
Only 3:12 later, Parise caught up to his own pass and buried it past Comrie for his first multi-goal game of the season. Parise is just two goals shy of scoring 30 for the seventh time in his career.
And with 1:52 to go in the first, center Victor Rask’s shot from near the goal line slipped through Comrie and ended Rask’s 15-game goal drought.
At 10:29 of the second period, a top-shelf shot off the rush by center Joel Eriksson Ek notched his career-high seventh goal.
With 3:47 left in the period, the Jets capitalized on a shorthanded backhander by defenseman Jacob Trouba. The Wild went 0-for-2 on the power play, as did the Jets.
Goalie Devan Dubnyk racked up 32 saves. Comrie gave up one more goal — a dribbler by Foligno at 15:11 of the third — and finished with 23 saves.
The result continued a recent up-and-down pattern for the Wild, inconsistency that chipped away at a strong first half that had the Wild sitting third in the Central Division when it paused for the All-Star break.
But the team won just once in its next 10 games.
A season-high eight-game point streak tried to reverse the damage, but follow-up losses to the Stars, Avalanche, Predators and Coyotes stung — setting up a rare scenario for the franchise: a pair of hollow games.
“They didn’t quit,” Boudreau said, “and I don’t anticipate them to quit on Thursday [against] Boston or Saturday in Dallas.”