A rare regulation defeat wasn’t enough to dampen the collective spirits of the Minnesota Wild. However, it served as a reminder of how challenging they expect the final weeks of the regular season to be.
Looking to avoid losing two straight for the first time in almost two months, the Wild attempt to bounce back at home Tuesday night against a New Jersey Devils team that’s trying to remain a serious playoff contender.
Despite trailing 3-0, Minnesota (36-23-7) felt it dictated the pace of play for most of Sunday’s 3-2 home loss to Colorado. A fourth regulation defeat in 24 games ended a five-game winning streak for the Wild, who are one point ahead of Winnipeg for the top wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
"Obviously, it’s one thing to play well but we’ve got to find a way to score a goal along the way," coach Mike Yeo said. "You move on and get ready for the next one."
A loser in two of three at home since winning six in a row, Minnesota last dropped consecutive games anywhere in any fashion Jan. 19-20. Facing a third straight opponent that’s outside of playoff position, the Wild won’t take anything for granted, especially with a daunting stretch against Anaheim, St. Louis and Nashville to follow.
"It’s going to be tough, no matter who you are playing, no matter where they are in the standings," forward Chris Stewart said after scoring his first goal in four games since being acquired by the Wild last Monday.
"Everybody is going to be coming for you."
Poised to improve on the offensive end after being held to two regulation goals in three of the last four games, the Wild need to jump-start a power play that’s 0 for 18 in the last seven. Minnesota failed on all four chances during a 3-1 loss at New Jersey (28-28-10) on Nov. 11.
The Devils, who have killed 28 of 29 penalties over the last 11 games, won the last two against the Wild — both at home — but were outscored 8-2 in losing two straight at Minnesota.
Though New Jersey is 12th in the East and 10 points behind Boston for the final wild-card spot, it’s in the midst of a 7-2-1 stretch.
Inspired by those members on hand to celebrate the club’s 1995 Stanley Cup champion team Sunday, these Devils broke open a 1-1 game after one period with three straight goals en route to a 5-2 win over Philadelphia. Adam Henrique scored twice, Steve Bernier had three assists and Stephen Gionta added one of each as New Jersey scored more than three goals for the first time in eight games.
"It was good," said Henrique, who has a team-high 35 points. "We need to find a way to get back to that championship caliber."
Gionta has recorded four of his 11 points in his last four contests.
Minnesota forward and ex-Devil Zach Parise has been shut out in three straight home games and has only one assist in two overall against his former team. An upper-body injury forced him to miss this season’s first meeting.
Teammate Devan Dubnyk, 18-4-1 with a 1.66 goals-against average while starting all 24 games since being acquired from Arizona in January, could face the Devils for the first time since making 35 saves in a 4-3 overtime loss with Edmonton in November 2010.