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.