EDMONTON, Alberta – Zach Parise hung his head, Jordan Greenway stood up from the bench and Ryan Hartman skated down the ice.
Wild players reacted in different ways to having the season nixed only 11 seconds into overtime Friday night in a 5-4 loss to the Canucks that expelled them from the NHL’s Edmonton bubble. But the stunning fashion in which the team was eliminated from the best-of-five play-in series reverberated around the group in the aftermath.
“There’s never anything intelligent you can say in those situations,” coach Dean Evason said. “We just said how proud we were of them, how we battled right from the first day of training camp and even obviously before the pause. Proud of how we conducted ourselves, how we prepared, how we came here and obviously gave everything we had.
“It’s obviously a very disappointing end. Someone’s obviously got to lose in overtime, but to have it that sudden it was a bit of a shock with that first shot. But very proud of the group.”
Parise mentioned the rollercoaster vibe of the playoffs, starting with a Game 1 victory on Sunday and then a spiral of losses the next three, and Friday’s Game 4 had that gamut with the Wild establishing three leads before Vancouver rallied each time — the last one, a tying goal by Bo Horvat with 5 minutes, 46 seconds left in regulation, the most significant.
“It just feels pretty sudden,” Eric Staal said. “The experience, it was fun, it was competitive. Any type of playoff hockey is what you love to do and why you love to play. The results stink. We will try and move forward and prepare for next season.”
Alex Stalock started every playoff game for the Wild and even though he finished with a .897 save percentage and 3.03 goals-against average in the tournament, the team was encouraged by his effort.
It remains to be seen if the performance affects the hierarchy next season, since Stalock and usual No.1 Devan Dubnyk are both under contract for 2020-21.
“Alex was great,” Evason said. “Competed his butt off and gave us a chance every night. There’s not one game or a situation or a goal where we said, ‘He wants that one back’ or, ‘He should have had that one.’ We never felt that as a group, and [he] gave us a chance to win every night. So, there’s no question that he’s a quality goaltender and going forward we’re going to have some decisions.”
Not so special
The Canucks scored only one more power-play goal than the Wild, but special teams play still drew a line in the sand between the two teams.
Not only did the Wild blank on more opportunities, finishing 3-for-22 compared to Vancouver’s 4-for-19 showing, but less 5-on-5 action seemed to work against the Wild.
It prevented the team from getting into a rhythm with its lines and flexing its depth, which looked like an edge the team had over Vancouver that it never really was able to showcase.
“Obviously we want to play a hard playoff series, and I don’t know if we can say we expected it to turn into a special teams battle,” Stalock said. “You look back at some of these games and there’s eight, nine power plays a side, and that’s not playoff hockey and that’s the way it goes sometimes. Power-play, penalty kill series was what it was.”
Kirill Kaprizov did not join the Wild in the bubble after he signed his two-year, entry-level contract last month, but the team hopes to get him to Minnesota this coming week.