ST. PAUL, Minn. — Mike Yeo had seen his Minnesota Wild win five of their past six games with gritty, short-handed performances and solid goaltending, putting any residual effects from a season-high six-game losing streak behind them.
Returning home for a three-game homestand, where Minnesota was 16-6-2 this season, was bound to add another push to the Wild’s playoff hopes. The Wild entered Tuesday night’s home game against the Ottawa Senators with 55 points, ranking eighth in the Western Conference.
Yeo didn’t see the same fire from his team in the first period on home ice, however, and Minnesota was shut out 3-0 by Ottawa.
"Not a pretty game," Yeo said simply as he opened his postgame press conference. "We said after the first period, let’s make that the story of the first period. Let’s try not to make it the story of the game."
The Wild, shut out for the first time since Dec. 6, were outshot, 15-3, in the first period, and more importantly the Senators controlled the puck. Clarke MacArthur put Ottawa in front with a first-period goal after Kyle Turris sent a centering pass from the right boards to MacArthur, who deflected the puck past Minnesota goaltender Darcy Kuemper.
The Wild thought Turris had entered the zone offsides.
"Tough start, our first period wasn’t good enough," Wild forward Jason Pominville said. "I thought we got better as the game went on. We were better in the second, but unfortunately gave up the first goal. It’s tough to come back when you give up the first goal. I think we might have gotten a little frustrated with us not getting the call on the goal."
Replays didn’t show conclusively whether Turris was offsides. Pominville said he hadn’t seen a replay, but the players on the bench thought Turris was offsides.
Yeo had a simple response.
"The bottom line is, when you’re more engaged in the game, when you’re on top of your game, things like that don’t beat you," Yeo said. "We weren’t good enough to win this hockey game tonight."
Kuemper made 29 saves in the game. He was beaten early in the third on a breakaway after Minnesota defenseman Marco Scandella’s stick broke on an attempt to keep the puck in the zone, and Erik Condra scored on a breakaway. Scandella, chasing the play from behind without a stick, might have changed the play enough for Kuemper not to get a clear look.
Playing without Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Josh Harding and Jared Spurgeon, the Wild’s margin for error is rail thin. Tuesday’s start put them in a hole they were unable to recover from.
"We weren’t sharp," Yeo said. "No excuses. That’s our challenge right now with the group that we have. For the most part lately, we’ve done a good job of whatever the outcome of the previous game is, getting focused on the next one. I don’t think we did very good job this time. But what’s important to me is again how we respond with that."
After so much success at home this season, and subsequent struggles on the road, Minnesota has lost two in a row on home ice in the midst of winning three straight on the road.
"There’s no excuse for that," forward Justin Fontaine said. "Home’s where you’ve got to take advantage. We’ve been playing good on the road, we’ve got to bring it back here. We all know it. . . ."
Pominville added: "If you want to be a team that climbs in the standings and you want to be a team that’s tough to play against, you have to be better than what we were at home. And tonight just wasn’t good enough."
The Wild’s lead over Dallas in the Central Division slipped to six points after the Stars beat Edmonton, who comes to Minnesota on Thursday. Phoenix, with 51 points in the Pacific Division, lost to St. Louis.