DALLAS – The details were different, like when, where and for how long, but the Wild closed out this season exactly how it wrapped up the previous one: mired in a scoring slump.
And while the drought was a costly catalyst in the team’s first-round playoff loss to the Jets just a year ago, a lack of offense was what prevented it from even advancing this spring — a stubborn problem that became magnified after the Wild was blanked 3-0 by the Stars on Saturday in front of 18,532 at American Airlines Center in the team’s finale.
“You don’t score goals, you don’t win games,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “We’ve been saying that a lot this year. It’s very frustrating.”
The Wild finished last in the Central Division, 11th in the Western Conference and 21st in the NHL at 37-36-9. Its 83 points are the fewest for a full-length season since 2011-12, the last time the Wild missed the playoffs.
Fixing its offensive woes looks paramount to the team having a chance to get to the postseason next year, especially after it ended 2018-19 without scoring a goal in the final 124 minutes, 49 seconds.
Last year, the Wild was eliminated in Game 5 by Winnipeg amid a 141:37 dry spell.
“If it’s not addressed,” winger Jason Zucker said, “then we have problems.”
Stars goalie Ben Bishop turned aside all 24 shots he faced for his seventh shutout, while Wild backup Alex Stalock did an admirable job amid 41 saves.
Stalock was perfect until the Stars converted on the power play 2:44 into the third period — a one-timer by center Tyler Seguin from inside the faceoff circle to Stalock’s right. Seguin added another at 8:55 when he backhanded the puck in from the top of the crease, and center Tyler Pitlick put in a rebound with 7:59 to go.
The Wild challenged the goal to take a closer look at potential goaltender interference since winger Roope Hintz crashed the crease before Pitlick’s shot, but the initial call stood. That ruling dropped the Wild to 5-for-11 in coach’s challenges this season.
“There’s a certain level you need to be at to be competitive in this league, and we weren’t at it besides Al,” center Eric Staal said.
In the second, the Wild did manage to put one puck in the net, but the goal didn’t count.
With 28 seconds left, a Greg Pateryn windup from the point sailed by Bishop. Dallas challenged to review for offside, and it was — with Zucker’s feet over the blue line ahead of the puck.
That was as close as the Wild would get to scoring. It tested Bishop just 12 times through the first two periods before matching that output in the third.
“Scoring other than skill is the will to get to where you have to go to score the goals,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.
This was the second time the Wild, which ended up 21-18-2 on the road, suffered back-to-back shutouts; it was stymied 3-0 by the Bruins on Thursday. Overall, it was shut out in 11 games — a result that perhaps appropriately escorted the Wild into the offseason sooner than usual.
“It’s a disappointing moment in your season when you put in eight months and then it comes to an end, especially like it did the last two games not scoring a goal,” Boudreau said. “It’s pretty depressing.”