The Wild apparently didn’t leave the trouble it had with the Avalanche in 2017-18 in the past, as the team dropped its season opener 4-1 to its Central Division rival Thursday at Pepsi Center – its fourth loss in the teams’ last five meetings.
“It’s always a tough task,” winger Charlie Coyle said. “They got some good players. They’re a good team, and they come hard. Whether it’s preseason, playoffs, whatever, it’s always a tough game against these guys. We know how to play them, but we obviously have more than that.”
Colorado’s speed and skill gave the Wild ample problems last season, especially in a trio of lopsided loss (7-2, 7-1 and 5-1). But some of the issues the Wild had Thursday were self-inflicted.
“We definitely weren’t as sharp and as good as we needed to be,” center Eric Staal said.
Not only did the Wild have difficultly generating consistent offensive zone time, but it did little to relieve the pressure it was feeling at the other end. Its breakouts were poor, and a chip-and-chase style made it tough to find a rhythm up ice.
“We were just kind of putting it up the boards, and they’d get it in the neutral zone and come back at us,” said goalie Devan Dubnyk, who did his best to hold off the Avalanche amid 36 saves.
Some of these mistakes can be chalked up to it being the first game of the season. Pucks were bouncing, and mental miscues were evident.
“Just bonehead plays,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “Like the [third goal] we don’t even know the goalie’s on the bench.”
After Dubnyk arrived at the bench late in the third period for an extra attacker, the Avalanche scored soon after – ballooning the deficit to 2.
“We had full control of the puck, and then [Matt] Dumba shot it and it was blocked,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We were yelling, ‘Goalie out,’ but the crowd was so loud the players on the ice couldn’t hear. So that was the only confusion.”
Here’s what else to watch for as the Wild gets ready to host the Golden Knights Saturday in its home opener.
- Suter played a game-high 25 minutes, 21 seconds in his first regular-season action since he fractured his ankle March 31.
“I felt good just to be out there and be playing, be moving,” he said.
- Of the Wild’s 21 shots, 13 came at even-strength and seven of those didn’t register until the third period.
“I thought our power play moved it around well, and we had some really good opportunities,” winger Zach Parise said. “But 5-on-5, just not enough to create offense for us.”
- Parise’s play was one of the few bright spots for the Wild.
He continued to flex his scoring prowess, tallying the team’s lone goal and his ninth overall in his last nine games played dating back to last season.
The goal tied Parise with Alex Ovechkin and Patrick Marleau for the most season-opening goals among active players with 10.
“He goes to the front of the net, he’s going to score a lot of goals,” Boudreau said, “and that’s what he did. That’s where he made his living.”