ANAHEIM, Calif. – The good news is the Wild finally scored a goal Wednesday night. The bad news is the lead lasted less than four minutes.
In losing to Anaheim 3-1 on Wednesday night, the free-falling and desperate Wild began a vital three-game road trip through California by dropping its fifth consecutive game and seeing its shrinking lead on a playoff spot getting tinier.
The Colorado Avalanche beat the Buffalo Sabres to move one point behind the Wild for the top wild-card spot. The ninth- and 10th-place Vancouver Canucks and Nashville Predators are only three points behind the Wild.
“We can’t expect to win one-goal games when we score one goal,” winger Charlie Coyle said.
The Wild, 2-6-2 in January, has scored 30 goals in the past 16 games (four of which were empty-netters) and again failed dramatically on its power play.
Less than three minutes after Rickard Rakell scored the tiebreaking goal with 6 minutes, 19 seconds left in regulation, the Wild drew its third power play of the game. It did absolutely nothing with the opportunity.
The Wild’s power play is now 1-for-32 in the past 16 games, 0-for-24 in the past 11 games. It is 6-for-66 on the road this season, going 0-for-29 in 13 road games since Nov. 17. This was despite coach Mike Yeo and assistant coach Andrew Brunette overhauling the power-play unit personnel and positions on the ice entering the game.
“It’s our responsibly to score some goals,” winger Zach Parise said.
The Wild lost for the sixth time in its past eight visits to Anaheim and fell to 2-10-1 in its past 13 meetings with the Ducks. The surging Ducks are 8-3-1 in their past 12 games and are suddenly in the playoff hunt after a terrible start to this season.
The Wild again showed no push in the third period. Chasing hockey games the past four third periods, the Wild has generated a total of 24 shots. When Rakell scored the winner, you could sense it coming for a few minutes. The Wild was on its heels and generating nothing
“[When it] comes down to crunch time, we’ve got to give it all we’ve got,’’ Coyle said. “Nothing to save it for.”
The Wild has scored precious few goals since late December, and the Ducks opened the season by being shut out in five of their first eight games and are the lowest-scoring team in the NHL.
For the first time since its last win Jan. 9, the Wild got the game’s first goal. It came by Jarret Stoll, who lives in nearby Hermosa Beach, one night before his homecoming against his team of the past seven years, the Los Angeles Kings.
The Wild and Ducks went the first 6 ½ minutes without a shot, but moments after Erik Haula forced goalie John Gibson into making a save, Stoll lit the lamp.
After a Haula-Chris Porter cycle behind the net, Porter’s forecheck forced Rickard Rakell into a turnover. Haula got the puck, left it for Stoll between the circles and the veteran whistled his 142nd career goal.
It was Stoll’s first goal since Nov. 3, ending a 34-game drought between the Wild and the Rangers. It was the Wild’s first goal in three games, ending a scoreless streak of 127 minutes, 40 seconds.
But that lead lasted less than four minutes. Midway through the period, former Wild winger Chris Stewart tipped Shea Theodore’s point shot for the tying goal.
In the third, the Ducks sealed the victory and the Wild pondered another loss.
“It’s not fun,’’ Mikael Granlund said, “but we can’t feel sorry for ourselves.”