The first impression the Wild made on the 2018-19 season wasn't a flattering one, but its second try might have been worse even though the effort snagged the team its first point.
That's the vibe that settled over the team after a late lead morphed into a tie and then fizzled into a 2-1 shootout loss to the Golden Knights on Saturday in front of 19,077 at Xcel Energy Center during the Wild's home opener.
Vegas winger Max Pacioretty spoiled goalie Devan Dubnyk's shutout bid with just 1 minute, 31 seconds to go in regulation on a one-timer through traffic, and that paved the way for former Wild winger Erik Haula to bury the lone shootout goal after a scoreless overtime — an unfortunate finish for Dubnyk since he was outstanding amid a 41-save performance.
"He was fantastic," winger Jason Zucker said. "He's the only reason that we didn't lose that game 10-0."
Dubnyk was also locked in Thursday in the season-opening loss to the Avalanche when he surrendered only two goals in a 4-1 setback, but he was even better against Vegas.
His highlight came in the second period, when he kicked out his pad against center William Karlsson, warded off an attempt from center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare after Bellemare got a jump into the Wild's zone and then kicked out a toe save on center Paul Stastny.
So far, Dubnyk has stopped 77 of 80 shots faced — an impressive .963 save percentage.
"It's nice to feel good out of the gate," Dubnyk said. "It'd be nice to have two wins, obviously. It's tough to feel too good about it, but we just try to work on those things that make you feel good, and I'm feeling pretty good in there now."
Although Dubnyk looked like he could will the team to a win, a Golden Knights comeback remained a possibility because of how little push the Wild had in front of him.
Just 9:23 into the first period, defenseman Matt Dumba led the attack into the offensive zone, chipped the puck up the boards to winger Charlie Coyle and then unleashed a blistering one-timer from the point when he received the puck back for his first goal of the season. But Dumba's goal didn't spark an onslaught of looks.
Actually, the offense appeared to cool off afterward — with the Golden Knights outshooting the Wild 16-8 in the middle period. It finished 0-for-2 on the power play, while the team negated all three Golden Knights chances. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury posted 29 stops.
The Wild improved in the third, exceeding its shot output from the first two periods combined, but the lack of pressure through the first two periods was a discouraging omen.
"I thought we were a little nervous with the puck, and we were a little slow for the first two periods," captain Mikko Koivu said. "Why is that? I have no answer for that right now."
Fortunately for the Wild, it'll have time to search for solutions.
After a day off Sunday, the Wild will have three practice sessions before its next game Thursday against the Chicago Blackhawks.
"We've got to be better," Zucker said. "We've got to come out harder. We have to have a better start, and I think that starts with the leaders in this room — the guys that are playing the big-time minutes."