ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota Wild coach Mike Yeo had just finished watching his team lose a disappointing 2-1 game to the second-place Anaheim Ducks in which Minnesota lost rookie forward Jason Zucker to an upper-body injury and couldn’t offer an update on his young scorer.
Yeo said he hadn’t watched the play, in which Anaheim forward Corey Perry hit an unsuspecting Zucker late and connected with an elbow to Zucker’s head, enough to give his perspective of the hit that drew a game misconduct for Perry and could have the league reviewing the play for further sanctions.
“You can slow these things down,” Yeo said. “I’m emotional right now. We just lost a tough game and we lost a player in that game. I have to watch it a couple more times, but you never like seeing one of your players get hit like that.”
Yeo said he didn’t have an update on Zucker’s health, saying he’d have more information later. But Yeo was reeling from the loss in which Minnesota, which had won four straight games and taken points in six straight to take the Northwest Division lead, had a goal disallowed by a review and a power-play that couldn’t take advantage of a 5-on-3 or the 5-minute major for the Perry hit, on top of losing Zucker, who’s scored four goals in 11 games this season.
After the power-play misfired on the 5-minute man-advantage after Perry’s hit 4:21 into the second period, Yeo felt his team’s momentum sagged.
“Certainly after that point, I’d say it’s fair to say we were a different team,” Yeo said after the power play. “We kind of looked like a team that went for going for the throat to all of a sudden, a little bit maybe weary of what we were losing. We have to be able to respond better than that. And responding is what we’re going to have to do.”
Minnesota finished 0 of 9 on the power play, but the concern after the game also went to Zucker. The speedy rookie had passed the puck and didn’t see Perry closing in on his left side. Perry clipped Zucker by the side.
“I was committed to the hit,” Perry said. “It’s one of those things. I didn’t change my path of direction. I was committed. I tried to let up. It’s hard. It happens so fast. It’s unfortunate.”
Perry received five minutes for interference and a game misconduct. Perry said he tried to communicate with a member of the Wild staff to say he was sorry to Zucker. Perry said he had watched the video of the play a few times and said he didn’t intentionally target Zucker’s head.
“No, I don’t go out there looking to hurt guys,” Perry said. “That’s not the way I am. It’s not me as a person. It is what it is.”
Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said he was told by the game officials the game misconduct ruling was due to Zucker leaving the game.
“The referee said he hit him a little late,” Boudreau said. “So when he hits him a little late and a guy’s injured, it’s a game misconduct, I guess, by rule.”
Minnesota couldn’t recover after the hit and the failed power-play.
“Anytime you see a guy go down, obviously it’s never something you want to see,” forward Devin Setoguchi said. “We got to score on that. We’ve got to put a lot of pressure on ourselves to score and take advantage of five minutes, and another two after that. Power play has to get better, that’s the story of the game.”
Yeo was focused on regrouping from an emotional loss and preparing to face the Colorado Avalanche at home on Thursday.
“It’s missed opportunities and I think it’s just extremely important for us to regroup from this,” Yeo said. “You have to regroup and come back to the rink with the right mindset after big wins and emotional wins, and you have to do the same thing after an emotional loss. Certainly this one stings right now. I know no one is going to feel sorry for us.”