The Minnesota Wild lost to the Calgary Flames 3-1 in the Saddle Dome Saturday evening. After the game, Minnesota centerman Zenon Konopka summed it up saying, “We had to come out more desperate and we didn’t”. With the loss, the Wild fall to 8-7-2 overall, ending their two game winning streak, and moving their road mark to a disappointing 2-5-1. Head Coach Mike Yeo characterized the loss as, “A team effort tonight in the wrong direction”. Minnesota does have a chance at redemption Tuesday, as they face the Flames once again in the second half of a home and home series.
The lone goal for the Wild tonight came from the stick of rookie Charlie Coyle. Over the last four games, including tonight, seven of 10 goals have come from lines two, three and four. The remainder are from the top line of Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, and Dany Heatley. The problem is getting balanced scoring from multiple lines in the same game. Minnesota’s lone goal on the night was the first time in nine games they have scored in the first period. Could we have seen a change in momentum for a Wild squad that has been suffering from slow starts as of late?
The first period saw the Wild come out skating hard, and looking to make some plays. Calgary was looking to do the same after their coach called out his squad, calling them soft earlier in the week. The Flames scored first on a 2-on-1 that developed when Dany Heatley missed Mikko Koivu with a saucer pass near the goal. Tanguay was the recipient of a nice pass by Bouwmeester, and put the puck top shelf on Backstrom for the goal. The Wild were shooting the puck for a change in the first period, totaling 13 shots on goal (SOG) to Calgary’s seven. The rest of the first was all Wild. Minnesota tied the game on a beautiful deflection by Charlie Coyle–his first goal in the NHL. Pierre-Marc Bouchard put the puck right on Coyle’s tape from the top of the circle on the left side. Kyle Brodziak picked up the second assist on the goal coming at 8:56 of the period. The first period ended with a 1-1 score, and both teams nearly even in most statistical categories. Both teams were unable to score on the power play throughout the game, going zero for four on the night.
The second period was anything but a mirror of the first. Both teams came out somewhat flat, with neither able to gain much momentum. The Wild once again had several glorious scoring chances, but were unable to cash in. One example was a shorthanded 2-on-1 that saw Matt Cullen racing in on the left side, and deftly sliding the puck to Kyle Brodziak, only to see him absolutely robbed by Calgary netminder Joey MacDonald. In just his fourth start of the year, MacDonald made 31 saves for a .968 save percentage. This game was only the second time he has faced Minnesota. At the midway point of the game, shots on goal were 15-13 in favor of Minnesota, even with the Wild getting outshot 7-2 through 10:00 of the second period. The only statistical category the Wild had a significant lead in was faceoffs, leading 42-29 for the game. Toward the end of the second, and throughout the third period, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo began tinkering with the line combos. He was trying to spark some offense from his pass-happy squad. The pace of the game fluctuated as Calgary tried to turn it into a track meet with line rush after line rush. That is not the Wild’s style of play, and it showed.
The Flames took the lead for good at the 7:19 mark of the third period. Matt Stajan poked home a rebound from the middle of a scrum in front of Niklas Backstrom. The lone assist on the goal went to Wild-killer Jarome Iginla, the all-time leader in points against the Wild with 65 (34 goals, 31 assists). The Wild had several more great chances to score, but couldn’t close the deal. The Flames would go on to register one more goal–an empty netter–with 8 seconds to play in the game.
The Wild now return home to face these same Flames on Tuesday evenin,g with hopes of salvaging a split out of this home-and-home series. Head Coach Mike Yeo wants to see his squad take a different approach on Tuesday. After the game he said, “This whole game we took the wrong approach”. He added “We didn’t play our game tonight”. Between now and then, expect to see a couple of spirited practices and focus on the details. This was a disappointing loss for sure, but there is still plenty of time to right the ship and sail into the playoffs. GonePuckWild.com will be here each step of the way with full coverage of The State Of Hockey’s #1 team. Until then, Let’s Play Hockey!!