Two nights ago, the Wild had no problem orchestrating a high-scoring, energetic battle with the Avalanche – a highlight-filled 6-4 win that emphasized just how easily the goals have been rolling in for the Wild of late.
But Sunday’s tilt with the Islanders was at the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of the vibe – a sleepy struggle that had a final score to match, a 3-1 loss for the Wild at Xcel Energy Center.
“This one didn’t really have a high entertainment value, to be honest,” center Eric Staal said. “It was pretty boring, probably for people to watch as it was to play. But you want to find ways to win those games. Unfortunately, tonight was finding it the opposite. Not the night we wanted today.”
Scoring was the issue for the Wild, and that hasn’t been giving the team trouble of late.
Since Nov.2, the Wild’s 94 goals – which includes a shootout goal – led the NHL entering play Sunday and its 3.62 goals-per-game averaged ranked second.
Against New York, though, it couldn’t build upon a first-period 1-0 lead despite getting plenty of looks – a few of which rang off the post.
“We’ve got to find ways,” Staal said. “We had chances to make it 2-0. At the end of the second, we had a bunch, hit a couple posts, 2-on-1 rush. We had looks to make it 2-0 and let them hang around.
“… It’s just one of those nights where we didn’t quite have enough.”
The power play continued its woeful stretch, going 0-for-3 to sit 3-for-34 since Dec.3. That’s when captain Mikko Koivu was sidelined with a lower-body injury and when he returns – potentially on this homestand – the Wild could reunite units that had been clicking in the past.
In the three games before Koivu was hurt, the power play scored four times.
This was the second game in a row goalie Devan Dubnyk disagreed with a goal against the Wild.
After feeling one of the Avalanche’s tallies Friday in Colorado was kicked in, Dubnyk protested the Islanders’ first score – feeling he had the puck covered long enough to merit a whistle.
Instead, play continued and the puck squeezed through Dubnyk and rolled into the net.
“I felt like I had the puck for long enough for him to see,” Dubnyk said. “And the [ref] stands there and tells me he saw that the puck was loose, which was quite obviously not true. And then you watch the replay and it's not. So obviously he just decided to not blow the whistle. I think there was enough time in between there that the whistle could have been blown.”
Although there wasn’t much to praise in a ho-hum loss, Boudreau did single out winger Kevin Fiala after the game. Fiala didn’t score, but he was on the ice for the Wild’s lone goal and recorded seven shot attempts in 14 minutes, 26 seconds of ice time.
“I thought Kevin Fiala was exceptional tonight,” Boudreau said. “Just couldn't score.”
Ultimately, that was a theme for the entire team for most of the night.