NEW YORK – Maybe what Mike Yeo was feeling was indigestion.
The beleaguered and once again maligned Wild coach said he woke up Thursday morning with a “pretty good feeling” his free-falling team would respond against the New York Rangers.
Yeo noted the “fantastic” starts of late, “but at some point in the game, adversity has struck and we haven’t handled it well. [Thursday], I think we’ll be more prepared to handle that.”
Not even remotely correct.
The Wild jumped out to a two-goal lead, then crumbled into pieces as the Rangers stormed back to take a 4-2 victory to hand the Wild arguably its toughest of nine losses in 10 games and 12 in 15 games in 2016.
“Way too familiar of a script,” Yeo said afterward. “Good start, and then the other team pushes and we’re not responding the right way. The goals they got, we’re giving them right now. Making a lot of soft plays, and a lot of uncharacteristic plays, and it’s just not good enough.”
The softest of them all was Nino Niederreiter’s turnover — basically a pass into the slot — from the half wall early in the third period. J.T. Miller fed Derick Brassard all alone in front at the goalmouth, and Devan Dubnyk, hung out to dry all night, had no chance on the Rangers’ go-ahead goal.
After taking a 2-0 lead on early goals by Ryan Carter and Matt Dumba, the Wild was outshot 25-5 by the time Erik Haula took the Wild’s first shot of the third period 7 minutes, 45 seconds in. That was the second of six shots all game by Wild forwards.
Zach Parise, who has one goal, no assists and is minus-11 in the past nine games, registered no shots and had seven attempts blocked or whistle wide. Mikko Koivu, who has no goals and 22 shots in the past 16 games, had no shots. Thomas Vanek had no shots for the fifth time in eight games. Mikael Granlund, who has one empty-net goal in the past 32 games, had no shots. No shots for Niederreiter. Three combined by Jason Zucker, Jason Pominville and Charlie Coyle.
“I think we’re all trying hard, trying to get out of this, trying together,” Parise said. “I don’t think anyone wants to be in the spot that we’re in. We’re working. It’s just been a struggle for us.”
Defenseman Ryan Suter, who turned the puck over for New York’s first goal by former Cretin-Derham Hall star Ryan McDonagh, called the Wild a “very fragile team. They get one and we kind of go into a shell, and that’s a team that has no confidence.”
Eighty seconds after McDonagh’s goal early in the second, Miller tied the score.
The Wild gave up the first 12 shots of the second and was outshot 17-4 in the period and 30-18 in the game. For the fourth time in six games, the Wild couldn’t win despite the score being tied in the third period (0-3-1).
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On Tuesday against the Islanders, the Wild fired 20 shots in the first period before unraveling in the second. Asked why this keeps happening, Koivu said, “If we knew the answer to that, I don’t think we’d be in this situation right now.”
And that’s the concern.
Yeo’s seemingly out of answers. Through a spokesman, General Manager Chuck Fletcher said he’s not granting interview requests during the road trip that ends Saturday in St. Louis.
“We’ve been searching for answers for [why this keeps happening] for quite some time,” Yeo said. “We’ve tried some different talks or meetings or whatever, we’re trying a lot right now. What it boils down to, the actors got [to] act.”