No disputing it: Wild get what they deserve in controversial loss to Blue Jackets

Things are looking a little unpleasant these days for the
Wild as they stutter-step into their
10th NHL season.

Even coach Todd Richards, who generally finds a silver lining in
every cloud, gave his men an “F” for effort Saturday after the
Columbus Blue Jackets got a disputed short-handed goal in the third
period to escape the Xcel Energy Center with a 3-2 victory.

“Regardless of the call, or what we think or what really
happened,” he said, “we got what we deserved tonight.”

Richards said there “wasn’t any compete” in the
Wild — they recorded two shots on
goal in the first period and headed for the dressing room to
scattered boos from the 17,336 customers — until after officials
awarded the final goal following a video review at 10:58 of the
third period.

Sluggish start notwithstanding, this game turned on two
five-on-four plays when the score was tied 2-2 in the final period,
two plays that illustrate the chronic malaise that seems to dog a
team with a roster good enough that — according to voting by its
fans announced Saturday — it still has five of the six best
players in franchise history.

In the first, with the
Wild short-handed, Antti Miettinen
won a race to the puck behind the Columbus net, flipped a perfect
pass to Mikko Koivu streaking alone down the slot for a one-timer
that Blue Jackets goalie Mathieu Garon got a piece of to knock
wide.

Less than four minutes later, R.J. Umberger corralled a loose
puck while the Blue Jackets were short-handed, broke in on the
right side, shot and then whacked at it as goaltender Niklas
Backstrom fell on top of it, part of Backstrom’s body in the net
and part not.

“I think it was under my stomach the whole time,” Backstrom
said. “When I got up, it’s under my pad and at that point it hasn’t
crossed the line. The ref behind the net, he said it wasn’t a goal.
I don’t know who called it a goal because you look at the replay, I
don’t think you can see when the puck crosses the line there.”

Richards was in no mood to say the
Wild were robbed, but after repeated
questioning he admitted he “never saw it cross the line.”

But the coach said the
Wild put themselves in position to
lose this one, and veteran center John Madden seconded the
motion.

“We’ve got no one to blame but ourselves,” Madden said.

Backstrom made it unanimous. After disagreeing with the pivotal
call, he, too, admitted that this game would not rank among the
team’s finest.

“To be honest,” he said, “we didn’t play that well tonight.”

Now a team with a lineup that includes Koivu, Backstrom, Andrew
Brunette, Nick Schultz and Brent Burns from the fans’ list of six
best all-time players — only Marian Gaborik is absent — dropped
to 1-2-1 and stands just a point ahead of the dismal pace it began
with a year ago en route to finishing 13th in the NHL’s Western
Conference.

Richards said players seemed to be looking around Saturday
night, waiting for someone to step up, and some fans apparently
have become impatient.

The
Wild’s regular-season streak of 383
consecutive sellouts at the Xcel Energy Center ended when just
17,336 purchased tickets at the 18,064-seat arena. Through nine
seasons, Minnesota had sold out every one of its 382 NHL games, and
a standing-room crowd turned out for the home opener Thursday
night.

Including exhibition games, the
Wild had sold out 409 home games in
a row through last season, but that streak ended when the team’s
first three exhibition games did not sell out.