PITTSBURGH – The Wild’s search for scoring traveled to Pittsburgh after a hot-and-cold homestand, and the mission will return to the Twin Cities unresolved.
On the heels of a 4-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks Tuesday, the Wild didn’t fare much better offensively Thursday – getting upended 2-1 by the Penguins at PPG Paints Arena, a showing that exacerbated the team’s woes around the net since it capitalized just once amid 41 shots.
“It’s hard to believe the open nets and the chances that we’re getting, and we’re not scoring,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “You talk to the players, they’re probably just as frustrated as I am. … But those are plays we gotta bury. We gotta bury those things.”
At an average of three goals per game, the Wild isn’t one of the league’s most potent offenses – ranking 14th in the NHL. But it has yet to have a struggle like this.
Aside from those two high-scoring wins last week, which now are looking like anomalies, the team has reached that three-goal average just twice in the last 10 games.
The Wild doesn’t have much time, though, to improve before the holiday break. Its final test ahead of the layoff is Saturday at home against the Dallas Stars.
“You just gotta work,” center Eric Staal said. “You gotta work, compete, get to the dirty areas and keep shooting. You get a couple greasy ones, and the confidence slowly builds. It’s pretty simple. It’s not anything that no one knows. You gotta be determined and give a little extra, and you get a couple ones from the point or some greasy rebounds and you get the confidence back and you score some pretty ones off the rush.
“But right now we’re not getting those. We gotta find a way to do it quick.”
A stagnant offense also has consequences in the defensive zone, as the margin for error shrinks amid a lack of production.
The Wild made two glaring errors to the Penguins, a pair of similar turnovers behind the net, and ultimately that’s what decided the game.
“At the end of the day, you gotta find ways to score goals and right now it seems like we’re not doing that and it’s costing us games,” Staal said.
Getting more opportunities on the power play could help the Wild’s production.
After having no looks Tuesday, the team had just two Thursday but the last one was cut short by a too-many men on the ice penalty late in the third period.
“Obviously then we’re not doing something to get power plays,” Boudreau said. “It’s a frustrating thing we’re going through right now.”
The only player who has been able to deliver recently is winger Jordan Greenway.
He notched his sixth goal of the season against the Penguins and is responsible for the Wild’s only two goals over the past three games.