Here’s one guarantee after Sunday’s nationally televised game at Xcel Energy Center: Wild-Devils won’t be on NBC Sports Network again.
These two teams could meet in the Stanley Cup Final and NBC would probably find a way to farm it off on another entity.
In a quiet arena maybe because of a season-ending Vikings hangover, the frigid temperature outside, the mind-numbing display fans were forced to sit through or all of the above, the Wild fell to the injury-riddled Devils 2-1, one night after beating the conference-leading Stars in Dallas.
“I mean, seven shots after two periods in your own rink against a team that, no disrespect to them, but they’ve got a lot of guys injured, a lot of minor league players, it’s not good enough. It’s not,” said former Devils captain Zach Parise, who scored the Wild’s goal. “We want to catch Chicago, we want to catch St. Louis. We can’t come out and play like that.
“You can play a team well like we did Dallas and win a game and then come here and do this, that’s not pretty.”
Parise called it an “ugly, uneventful game.” Goalie Darcy Kuemper said, “I’m sure it was a boring game to watch.”
In a game that featured 20 combined shots the first 40 minutes, few consecutive passes and lots of yawns, maybe it was no coincidence NBC Sports Network’s feed mysteriously (if only temporarily) died early in the third.
It’s a shame because that’s when the teams that couldn’t do a thing the first two periods combined for three goals in a span of 6:26. Adam Henrique’s shot deflected off Jonas Brodin’s stick, fooling Kuemper. Parise scored 1:44 later, but after a neutral-zone breakdown, Jon Merrill sailed a shot over Kuemper’s glove for the winner.
Much of the first 40 minutes was spent in the neutral zone, perhaps fitting from two franchises previously coached by Jacques Lemaire. But you’d need a master’s degree in “exaggeration” to unearth a legit scoring chance.
Maybe Mike Reilly, but his shot hit the side of the net. Maybe Jason Zucker, but he didn’t get a shot off on a short break. Maybe Nino Niederreiter, but his ill-advised attempt at a spin-o-rama ended with him losing the puck.
The Wild’s lone power play? No shots but four turnovers.
“We had shot opportunities that we decided that there might be a better play, and then we try to make four more passes to get the puck back to the same spot to try to shoot it again,” coach Mike Yeo bristled. “You have to understand that, especially against a team like that, you can’t be content to stay on the outside, and you have to create off the shot, and quite often one shot leads to three others.”
Yeo said though it is driving him “nuts” that the Wild, 1-for-22 on the power play the past 12 games, draws “one power play a game right now. It makes no sense to me whatsoever. It’s night after night, it doesn’t matter where or who we play against, and it doesn’t matter who’s officiating, it’s a consistent thing.”
The most exciting event that occurred between 6:30-8:45 p.m. came during pregame warmups. That’s when Reilly’s teammates gave him the time-honored “Welcome to the NHL” moment. The rookie defenseman was playing his first NHL game in his home state in front of family and friends one night after his NHL debut.
He led the Wild onto the ice, but teammates halted in the tunnel as Reilly skated one lap all by his lonesome.
“They actually tried to take my helmet away from me to go on the ice for a quick twirl without the bucket on, but I ended up getting it,” Reilly said.