Wild offense struggles in loss to Bobrovsky, Blue Jackets

Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky makes a toe save on a shot by Wild forward Thomas Vanek during the third period at Xcel Energy Center on Monday. The Blue Jackets won, 3-1.  

Marilyn Indahl/Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The seven-goal outburst last week against the Buffalo Sabres was weeks of frustration being released in a positive way as the Minnesota Wild snapped a losing streak.

The barrage of goals against Buffalo looks like an anomaly for Minnesota’s struggling offense.

The Wild lost 3-1 at home to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night and travel to Detroit on Tuesday for the final game before the all-star break.

"Every goal we do score is a battle for us," defenseman Ryan Suter said. "We just have to bear down."

So much focus was put on the goaltending situation and Minnesota acquired Devan Dubnyk from Arizona last week. Dubnyk started his third straight game for the Wild and made 20 saves against Columbus.

Minnesota’s offense hasn’t reached the same consistency as early in the season ever since a Dec. 31 loss to the Blue Jackets. The Wild have scored one goal in five of its last 11 games. During the 11-game span, Minnesota is averaging 2.27 goals per game, including the seven goals against Buffalo last week.

". . . If that’s what it is then let’s go grind out some more," head coach Mike Yeo said of the team having to battle for every goal. "I know that we can do a much better job as far as hanging onto the pucks, one-on-one puck battles. I thought tonight was an issue, one that we have to be better at.

"But as the year goes on, it gets tougher to score goals, and that’s what we have to have, that mentality. There were some pucks laying around the crease that we have to find a way to get in there and win those battles."

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The Wild were left lamenting the chances again Monday. Zach Parise, who scored his team-leading 17th goal of the season earlier in the game, missed on a penalty shot when the puck rolled over his stick. Nino Niederreiter, who hasn’t scored since Dec. 16, had a shot go off the post.

Parise got a puck through Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky in the third period and the puck trickled out and slowly slid across the crease, but Minnesota couldn’t get to the puck in time to knock it into the open net.

"How long can we use that excuse?" Parise said of the chances which miss by inches. "We had some good chances. It’s just a matter of capitalizing on them. Yeah, we did have some posts, we had a missed penalty shot, a missed breakaway. We got to put those in."

Converting chances could change the outlook of the Wild’s season. Minnesota has been one of the league’s top puck-possession teams and it’s fourth in the league with 31.9 shots per game.

Yet, the Wild are 16th in the league in scoring at 2.71 goals per game and their 8.6 percent shooting percentage is seventh-worst in the league. Since Jan. 6, Minnesota leads the NHL with 277 shots. The Wild have scored 20 goals in the eight games.

"I am always a big believer in you’ve got to put pucks on the net," Yeo said. "Again it’s the time of the year where goals are scored like that and not just off the initial shot but making sure that guys understand that puck is going in the net and we’ve got the bodies there to create traffic and generate secondary opportunities. There definitely wasn’t a lot of secondary opportunities there tonight."

Against a Columbus team packing the neutral zone, the Wild couldn’t get much offense going. The two teams combined for 10 shots in the first period. Minnesota started to dump pucks in the second period, and outshot the Blue Jackets 12-9 in the period.

"Not a lot of clean stuff through the neutral zone in the first period, and we tried to make plays through them, around them," Parise said. "The ice was really bumpy and it wasn’t working. I thought once we were just a little more committed to getting it behind their defensemen, we made them turn it over a little more. We were able to get some more zone time."

Again, though, the Wild couldn’t capitalize on the zone time and chances.

"We’re getting some good zone time, just not finishing," Suter said. "We just got to bear down and it will turn. It has to turn, the law of averages say it does."

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