ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Wild returned home from a successful road trip with the ability to sew up their first playoff appearance in five years.
Minnesota had three home games before finishing the season with one game at Denver. Three of the games were against non-playoff teams.
Yet, the Wild’s home hasn’t been providing the comforts it had earlier in the season. Minnesota started the season with a 13-3-1 record at home. Sunday’s 4-1 loss to the Calgary Flames was the fifth straight loss at home, and the Wild’s only points during that time came from a shootout loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, who are now tied with Minnesota with 51 points after winning in San Jose Sunday night.
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The home-losing streak, with the playoffs on the line, is troubling.
“We certainly have to address it quickly,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “We still have two home games left and one on the road. This time of the year it doesn’t matter where you play, you’ve got to put your best game on the ice. We have a way we’re supposed to play and we need everybody going out and executing it shift after shift.”
Minnesota controlled the play the first two periods, outshooting Calgary 25-12, but was down 2-1. A tough third-period included a power-play goal by the Flames and an empty-netter. Niklas Backstrom made 20 saves in goal for the Wild. Zach Parise scored his 17th goal of the season.
But it was a familiar story, outplaying an opponent, but coming up short at home.
“At this time, (I’m) getting kind of tired of trying to search for positives,” Parise said. “We’ve got to win games. That’s a game we needed to win. Unfortunately we didn’t. Now we can’t afford any more mistakes the way things are, the way things are shaping up right now.”
Minnesota still owns seventh place in the Western Conference because it has more regulation wins than Columbus, and also has one more game left to play. The Wild likely need five points to outright clinch a playoff berth with games remaining Tuesday against Los Angeles (fourth in the West, 57 points), Friday against Edmonton (13th, 41) and Saturday at Colorado (15th, 35), or a combination of five points gained and points lost by Dallas and Detroit (tied-9th, 48).
Another good effort for two periods Sunday went for naught.
“Bottom line, we didn’t have enough,” center Matt Cullen said. “We had some good stretches, but we can’t lose that game.”
It was a similar refrain from the coach.
“We got to be better, for sure,” Yeo said. “There’s no excuses. We can sit here and say, ‘Oh, we were doing lots of good things.’ But bottom line is we’ve got to be better. So that’s coming to the rink again tomorrow and again figure it out, make sure that we’re ready to go the next game.”