DALLAS – “Rock bottom,” Ryan Carter called it. “Embarrassing,” is the way Zach Parise described one of the worst losses in Wild history. “It’s not fun.”
“We just got dominated. Just completely outplayed,” Thomas Vanek said.
“Just weren’t even close to good enough … obviously. I think the score told you that,” added captain Mikko Koivu.
Yes, it did: Dallas Stars 7, Wild 1. And believe it or not, the Wild may have gotten away with a little of its dignity still intact because in a game the Wild looked like a bunch of traffic cones (no offense to traffic cones) facing a race car, it almost felt like the Stars let the Wild off the hook.
The score could have been worse, yet the Wild still equaled its largest margin of defeat on the road in team history.
“They outskated us, they outcompeted us, they outdesired us, and it hurts,” Carter said.
As long as Carter’s making up words, the Wild was outeverythinged in what defenseman Ryan Suter called “one of those freaking nights.”
The Stars have won eight of nine and had been off since Wednesday. The Wild played the night before, a mechanical problem resulted in a change of aircraft, then a white-knuckle flight through a storm before a late landing at Love Field and near-3 a.m. arrival at the team hotel. The Wild was bound to be running on fumes, but it’s not the first team to play back-to-back against a rested, soaring opponent. And, after a disappointing first 37 games it is sitting in 11th place in the West. The Wild no longer has the luxury to explain away efforts like Saturday’s.
“No excuses,” Koivu said.
The Wild has laid many smelly eggs over the years during 23 losses in Dallas, but Saturday’s was as bad as it gets. It was an absolute clinic with the Stars skating through the Wild. Parise said it’s been a “common theme” lately: “No energy,” he said. After a 1-0 first-period deficit, the Wild regrouped in the locker room and admitted how lucky it was to escape only down one.
“We talked about it in here to come out with a little more energy, which I thought we would,” Vanek said. “It was quick 2-0, then 3-0 and we were cheating in the offensive side to get back in the game. You look up and it’s 5-0.”
That 1-0 deficit became 5-0 in 6 minutes, 12 seconds.
“It was just bang, bang, bang and we were chasing all night,” Suter said.
In a five-goal Dallas second period, Vanek scored the Wild’s lone goal. Darcy Kuemper, making his third career start in the back end of a back-to-back, was pulled for the fifth time since Nov. 13. The Wild’s fate was obvious early. But it was a softy scored by Colton Sceviour that opened those second-period floodgates.
There were two-minute shifts by players running around their own zone. There were turnovers and flat-footed defenders and players turned into pretzels. Whatever the Stars wanted to do, they did.
Coach Mike Yeo wouldn’t dissect the game afterward, instead saying, “We’re not going to sit around wallowing in this one.”
Parise agreed, saying, “We can’t dwell on it, but man, we have to learn something from it because that’s bad. That’s ugly.”
Vanek said the Wild can’t overreact: “These are the games that you have to forget about, really. We lost our share, but most of those losses were late losses and nothing like this. It was a night where we didn’t have it, which is unfortunate because it’s a team that’s chasing us. Now we’re chasing them.”
For half a game, humiliated players slumped over the bench. After the game, humbled players packed up in a quiet locker room. But with critics now scrutinizing everybody, Suter said, “The biggest thing is we have to stick together. The guys in this room have to stick together because it’s us in here. … We have to stick together and know that when we play — and we saw it the other night [against Toronto], when we play, we’re good. We just have to play.”