The Wild continues to struggle to such a degree scoring goals that it basically has to play perfect games now.
1-1 in the third tonight, the Wild generated next to nothing and all it took was one bad shift for the Ducks to get a 3-on-2 down low for a tic-tac-toe winner by Rickard Rakell.
“We gave them that one,” coach Mike Yeo said, upset the Wild let “details” slip that shift, got loose in the neutral zone, didn’t change when it had the chance and boom, game over when at a minimum the Wild was 6:19 from a much-needed point.
Instead, the Wild, 2-6-2 in January, lost for a fifth consecutive time in regulation for the first time since losing six in a row Dec. 19-31, 2013. The Wild will try to be avoiding that Thursday up the freeway in L.A.
“I feel for the guys right now,” said Yeo, the coach of a team that has scored four goals in the past five games and 30 in the past 16 (includes four empty-netters). “Certainly the effort was there. We didn’t give up much at all. But you could see in the third period, again, you’re not scoring and then some of the detail starts to slip. Second goal is a good example of that. I thought we gave them that one. That’s the difficult part right now. We’ve got to play tight. We’ve got to continue to defend as well as we have been, but we can’t lose any focus of that part of our game. But we’ve got to find a way to create some more, there’s no question.”
The Wild is falling fast. Colorado is now one point behind for the top wildcard spot and the Wild is feeling the pressure of Vancouver and Nashville, which sits ninth and 10th three points behind.
“I know that in some of these stretches that we’ve been through what it can do if you’re strong enough, it can make your game very strong,” Yeo said of the need to continue to defend well because of the lack of scoring. “And quite often when we’ve come out of these things, we’ve come out of them and gone on some runs. That’s what I’m hoping we can focus on right now. Let’s continue to get even stronger in our game, but we have to get stronger on both sides of the puck.”
The Wild had plenty of quality chances in the first two periods, but John Gibson was solid and finished with 25 saves.
But what’s beyond disconcerting is the lack of chances generated in the last four, third periods. The Wild’s typically a team that pushes hard late when down a goal. In the last four third periods, the Wild has registered 24 shots on goal – tonight, seven, but four of those coming in the final few minutes.
Asked why this is, Parise said, “I don’t know. I don’t have the answer for you. I don’t even have an idea. I don’t know. We should have that urgency.”
Added Charlie Coyle, “It’s tough. It comes down to crunch time. We’ve got to give it all we got. Nothing to save it for. We’ve got to find a way. That’s what it comes down to. We’ve got to find a way to put pucks in the net.”
Thomas Vanek tonight really had a tough time. No shots for the third consecutive game, minus-3. He has three goals in the past 17 games, no assists in the past 12.
“We’ve got to get him back shooting the puck,” Yeo said. “In the early part of the year, he was shooting the puck and putting himself in position to allow guys to get him into a shooting positon and he was creating so much off his shot. When things go dry, [often times skilled guys] try to make the extra play to get a guaranteed goal.”
He’s not the only player completely dried up.
Updated slump chart: Mikael Granlund has one empty-net goal in 27 games since Nov. 21 and three assists in the past 13 games. Jason Pominville is on pace for a career-worst nine goals and has no points in 13 games (stuck on 598 points) since Dec. 22. Mikko Koivu has one non-empty-net goal and three assists in the past 16 games. Nino Niederreiter has two goals in 30 games since Nov. 14. Charlie Coyle has one assist since Jan. 2. Jason Zucker has six goals and no assists in the past 31 games.
Erik Haula has scored one goal since Nov. 10 (decent game tonight though and assisted on Jarret Stoll’s first goal with the Wild), Justin Fontaine none since Dec. 5. Jarret Stoll has one goal and one assist in 17 games with the Wild. Jared Spurgeon has two goals and one assist in the past 18 games, Matt Dumba one goal and three assists in the past 21 games, Jonas Brodin no points in those same 21 games.
Power play continues to be a disaster. 0 for 3 tonight, nothing cooking on a must-score power play drawn with 3:55 left less than three minutes after Rakell’s goal.
The Wild’s power play is now 1 for 32 the past 16 games, 0 for its last 24 the past 11 games. It is 6 for 66 on the road this season, going 0 for 29 in 13 road games since Nov. 17. This was despite Yeo and assistant coach Andrew Brunette overhauling the power-play unit personnel and positions on the ice entering the game.
Parise-Mikael Granlund-Jason Pominville had a lot of sustained pressure tonight, but no dice. Pominville had six shots, Granlund and Parise one really good chances each, but as Parise said, “zeroes.”
Granlund continues to cough up pucks left and right and is knocked off pucks constantly these days. It’s a giant problem.
Parise took ownership of the line not scoring, saying it’s their responsibility.
Yeo said, “I respect taking the ownership and that’s what we all have to do right now.”
This team is a mess. The pressure’s on Yeo and GM Chuck Fletcher to figure this out quickly, but as Coyle said, “We can’t expect to win one-goal games when you score one goal. We had some chances. It just comes down to we have to put the puck in the net, that’s all.
“You can’t let it get in your head though. We just have to come back hard. We can’t let this get to us. There’s only one way out and that’s putting the puck in the net. We know we can do it. We know we have a good team in here. We just have to come back and battle.”
Talk to you Thursday.