Preview: Wild vs. Canucks
Maybe the Minnesota Wild should go back on the road.
Actually, they aren't likely to volunteer for extra games away from the Xcel Energy Center, but their 5-2 loss to the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night was nothing like the 5-2-0 road trip they completed to get within three points of first-place Nashville in the Central Division.
When Minnesota returns to action Thursday night with a visit from the Vancouver Canucks, it hopes that the mistakes and missed chances of the previous game are replaced by the attention to detail and timely scoring that helped it do so well during its 15-day sojourn.
"It just felt like some of the mistakes we made were none that we've been making over the last while," forward Eric Staal said. "Against a good team, if Duby's not standing on his head, which he still made some pretty good saves, it's going to cost you. Tonight, it did."
Duby is goalie Devan Dubnyk, who's on track for one of the best seasons of his career with an 8-4-2 record, a 2.34 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage. But he couldn't do much to prevent Washington from jumping on a 3-0 second-period lead that held up, even as the Wild (11-5-2) got six power play chances against an opponent ranking 29th in the league while short-handed.
Minnesota's one real chance to get back into the game came after Mikko Koivu got the Wild on the board with an unassisted goal midway through the second period. It carried play to the Capitals for the remainder of the period but couldn't shift momentum with a second goal.
"We build that momentum and you can't let it die down," forward Charlie Coyle said. "You just have to do whatever you can, if you're not putting them in the back of the net, to just get those opportunities and keep working. I guess we got away from it."
The Wild will attempt to get back to it against Vancouver (10-8-2), which got off to a surprisingly fast start but has shown signs of late that it might be regressing to the mean.
The Canucks are at the end of a six-game road trip on which they have gone 1-2-2 with three straight losses, including a 5-2 decision Tuesday night against the New York Islanders.
"It's been a grind a little bit, but it's not an excuse," Vancouver coach Travis Green said. "In the NHL nowadays, you've got to be able to win on the road. We get home in a few days. We've got one more game and we're going to finish this trip off with a win."
Vancouver gave up a weird own goal that snapped a 1-1 first-period tie when Josh Bailey's pass hit off the skate of Chris Tanev, then allowed a backbreaking fourth goal in the third period as Tom Kuhnhackl booted home a centering pass. It was allowed to stand, even though it appeared to be a kicking motion.
The teams met Oct. 29 in British Columbia, with Vancouver dumping Minnesota 5-2 behind two goals from electrifying rookie Elias Pettersson. He has 10 goals and seven assists in 14 games, but hasn't scored during his team's losing streak.