In getting blitzed during its first three games on the road, each Wild loss happened the same: the hard way.
Mistakes were self-inflicted and progress was sabotaged, a hodgepodge compilation that came up short every time.
Returning home didn’t change this.
It only added the latest installment to the trend.
The Wild was overrun 7-4 by the Penguins on Saturday in front of an announced sellout of 19,157 at Xcel Energy Center, sinking deeper into an 0-4 funk that continues the worst start in franchise history.
This was also the first home opener the Wild dropped in regulation in franchise history after going 14-0-4.
“We have to figure it out quick or it’s going to be a long year,” defenseman Jared Spurgeon said.
Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby was dynamic, scoring a goal and assisting on another, while goaltender Matt Murray pocketed 29 saves — a familiar script for the Wild, which has been stymied by the opposition’s stars at each stage of this young season.
What was also similar was how the Wild came undone: by taking multiple steps back after finally lunging forward.
Take the second period.
Only 28 seconds after falling into a two-goal hole, the Wild cut that deficit in half on the power play when Jason Zucker deflected in a Brad Hunt shot through traffic at 3:54.
That unleased a wave of momentum for the Wild, but it was curtailed by a Jordan Greenway hooking penalty.
On the kill, Patric Hornqvist grabbed goalie Devan Dubnyk after a Dubnyk save, and that started a melee. Dubnyk punched Hornqvist repeatedly, and both players were dinged for roughing.
“I wasn’t overly upset,” Dubnyk said. “I was completely calm. He kept grabbing my mask, so that’s the way it is.”
Hornqvist received an extra two, with Adam Johnson serving the minor.
And after an abbreviated Wild power play, Johnson — who’s from Hibbing and played at Minnesota Duluth — exited the box and buried the rebound off Dubnyk’s blocker at 11:11 to reinstate Pittsburgh’s two-goal cushion and secure his first career tally.
A quick 1:47 later, Kris Letang lifted a puck top shelf to make it 4-1 before the Penguins tacked on a fifth at 13:39 when Joseph Blandisi one-timed in a pass from Johnson to cap off three Pittsburgh goals in 2:28.
Alex Stalock came on in relief after that, totaling 10 saves. Dubnyk exited with 18.
“Defending’s got to be our forte if we’re going to win,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.
The Wild retaliated on a shot by Spurgeon that trickled by Murray at 16:46, and the team finally scored more than two goals in a game when it punched in a pair in the third.
Hunt converted on a one-timer at 15:23 before winger Luke Kunin capitalized only 21 seconds later.
But the gap was still too wide, with Jake Guentzel having already scored on the power play at 10:48 and a Sam Lafferty empty-netter sliding in with 1:11 to go.
Pittsburgh finished 2-for-4 with the man advantage; Hornqvist directed in a feed from Justin Schultz at 14:54 of the first period. That lead doubled 3:26 into the second when Crosby turned in the highlight of the night: a rising backhander over Dubnyk on a breakaway.
Overall, the Wild has given up 21 goals — tied for the most in the NHL.
“Every year you got to build that confidence, individually and as a team,” captain Mikko Koivu said. “You don’t get anything in this league. I don’t care if it’s Game 1 or Game 82. You got to earn every single point in this league, and we’re not doing that right now.”