ST. PAUL, Minn. — Returning home from a pair of road losses, the Minnesota Wild believed their chance to pull out of their mini slump existed in Thursday night’s game against the Northwest Division rival Vancouver Canucks.
Defenseman Ryan Suter said the approach heading in Thursday’s contest against division-leading Vancouver was, “It’s a playoff game.” Minnesota then put up only three shots on goal in a sluggish first period and lost 4-1 to the Canucks.
“That was the whole talk before, everybody, we were all saying, ‘It’s a playoff game,'” Suter said after the game. “And we came out dead. There’s no excuse for that. I said it earlier, when things aren’t going well, you can’t have slow starts. You can’t even take one shift off.”
Frustration was apparent in the Wild locker room after the game, the third straight loss in a shortened 48-game season in which Minnesota can’t afford to fall too deep in the Western Conference standings. Eight days ago, the Wild were coming off an overtime win at home against the Chicago Blackhawks and led the division. After Thursday’s game, Vancouver has 14 points. Minnesota (4-5-1) sits in third place with nine points, two points behind idle Edmonton.
Asked if Thursday was the season’s toughest loss, given the situation, forward Zach Parise said, “They’re all tough; just would have been a good chance for us to bounce back after not winning on the road trip, but we didn’t show up. Pretty simple.”
Vancouver led 4-0 before Wild defenseman Tom Gilbert scored his third goal of the season on a power-play in the third period. After the slow start, Minnesota outshot the Canucks 12-7 in the second period, but again had so many quality chances never find the back of the net. Instead, two miscues led to two Vancouver goals
The Wild’s sustained pressure drew two penalties and caused Canucks coach Alain Vigneault to call timeout. In the end, Minnesota couldn’t capitalize and is now the second-lowest scoring team in the league with 21 goals. Only the Los Angeles Kings with 19 goals in nine games have scored fewer.
“For a team that’s fragile mentally right now as far as confidence and scoring goals and battling back, we found ourselves in a very quick hole, 2-0, and had a tough time recovering from that the rest of the period,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “But the second period I really liked how we came out. I give the guys a lot of credit. We definitely got the chances, doing a lot of good things, throwing pucks to the net, being aggressive to the net, but we definitely need to capitalize on one of those. Then the penalty ends up, next thing you know it’s 3-0 and 4-0 right after that. So, again it’s a pretty tough one for the guys to deal with right now.”
Parise said Minnesota needs to keep working. He said he didn’t know why Minnesota came out flat Thursday. Suter admitted to anxiety within the team right now.
“It’s not fun right now,” Suter said. “Things aren’t going well. When things aren’t going well, it’s tough. It’s easy to play on a team when you go out and goals come easy and you win. Once we get out of this thing, hopefully we can look back and say, ‘Those games made us better.’ And that’s how you have to, I mean, you can’t get down. No one’s going to feel sorry for us. We just have to go and work harder and not give up four goals. When things aren’t going good and you’re not scoring, you can’t give up goals.”