The Minnesota Wild were outplayed, outworked, and outscored by the Vancouver Canucks at the Xcel Energy Center Thursday night. After the game, the Wild’s Zach Parise summed up the game for Minnesota saying, “We didn’t show up.” The losing streak now stands at three for the Wild, with an overall record of 4-5-1. Minnesota has now managed just a single goal per game in the three losses, with the lone score tonight coming on a power play marker by Tom Gilbert. Vancouver improves to 6-2-2 on the season, and ran their winning streak to 4 straight. They have also opened a 5-point lead on the Wild in the Northwest Division. Vancouver netminder Corey Schneider improves to 3-2-0 while the Wild’s Niklas Backstrom falls to 3-4-1. Backstrom was lifted after two periods for Josh Harding who kept the Canucks off the score sheet in the third.
The Wild came out flat to start the game, even with the new looking forward lines. As expected, rookie Charlie Coyle moved to the top line with Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise. Dany Heatley skated with Matt Cullen and Pierre-Marc Bouchard. The third line saw Kyle Brodziak teamed with Torrey Mitchell and Cal Clutterbuck. Newly acquired tough guy Mike Rupp went with Zenon Konopka and Devin Setoguchi. All that line shuffling by Head Coach Mike Yeo yielded a disaster of a period that saw the Wild out shot 9-3 and a pair of Vancouver goals scored by Daniel Sedin and Chris Higgins. Even a fight between Minnesota’s Konopka and Vancouver’s Dale Weise failed to give the Wild a spark. A crowd of 18,352 saw bad penalties, bad passes, bad positioning, and bad decisions throughout. The first period for the Minnesota Wild can be summed up in one word, OUTWORKED.
Somebody flipped a switch for the Wild in the second period. The guys came out flying, shooting the puck, connecting on passes, and winning battles in the corners. The Koivu, Coyle and Parise line had some great chances, and good zone time, moving the puck well. The first Minnesota power play came at the 9:35 mark of the 2nd. The power play units controlled the play and again generated several quality chances. That’s all the Wild generated though were chances–NO goals. For all the good things they did in the second, Vancouver scored 2 more goals taking a 4-0 lead. The Canucks third goal came on a power play with Mitchell in the box for the Wild. Clayton Stoner failed to clear the puck when he had the chance. His next chance to clear came while he was laying flat on his stomach and swiped weakly at the puck sending it directly into the wheelhouse of Mason Raymond who slapped it past Backstrom. The next Canuck marker came less than two minutes later on a Jannik Hansen semi breakaway. Hansen was sprung on passes from Raymond and Edler, scoring easily on Backstrom with a high snap shot. That ended the scoring for the Canucks for the period and the game. The conclusion of the second brought a chorus of boos and cat calls down on the Wild players as they filed off the ice. Fan frustration with the lack of scoring is coming to the surface. The difference in the period was the Vancouver Canucks finished their chances while the Minnesota Wild did not.
The third period saw the Canucks dump the puck in deep time and time again, forcing the Wild to travel the full length of the ice. Zenon Konopka tried once again to give the Wild a spark, dropping the gloves for a second time with Dale Weise. For his efforts, Konopka received 17 minutes in penalties, accumulating 2-minute instigator and 10-minute misconduct penalties to go with his 5 for fighting. That basically ended his night at the 2:20 mark of the third. The Wild’s lone goal came on their third power play of the game. A pretty passing play between Jonas Brodin and Matt Cullen ended with a Tom Gilbert slap shot from the top of the left circle that beat Canuck goalie Schneider cleanly. It was too little too late for the Wild. More penalties followed and no real momentum was generated by either squad the rest of the game. Many of the fans who stayed for the end of the game gave the Wild another chorus of boos as they left the ice. Head Coach Mike Yeo tried to put a brave face on the team’s effort saying about the squad, “It’s a group I have full confidence will pull out of this.” He added, “We have to capitalize on some of those chances.” Not all was negative for the Wild this Thursday evening. Rookies Charlie Coyle and Jonas Brodin both looked solid and seem to be gaining confidence game by game. Coyle is shooting the puck more, recording a shot on goal and a hit in 15:57 of ice time. Brodin and defensive partner Ryan Suter had the top ice times for the Wild with 24:00 for Brodin and 26:14 for Suter.
The next chance for the Wild to pull out of this nose dive comes Saturday night in St. Paul, as the Nashville Predators come calling. The Preds shut out the Stanley Cup Champion LA Kings tonight by a 3-0 final. Minnesota will need to come out with a much better effort in the opening period, and stay out of the penalty box, if they hope to stop this three game slide. GonePuckWild.com will have full coverage of that contest, starting with the game preview Saturday morning.