If I told you the Wild would score the first goal of the game just 3:22 into the 1st period and add two more in the first 3 minutes of the 2nd period, go 3 for 3 on the penalty kill, get 4 power play opportunities and Josh Harding would make 26 saves on home ice; you would probably think the Wild won the game. Nope! Minnesota managed to BLOW A 3-0 LEAD and lose the game to the New York Islanders by a 5-4 final. The Wild are now 5-12-1 in their last 18 games and haven’t won in regulation since December 8th. This team is a mess right now and all involved are trying to find the answers. Head Coach Mike Yeo is feeling the heat and is under pressure to turn things around and soon. It seems as thought the Wild fix one problem and a couple of more pop up. Sunday night they were scoring, but the defense took the 2nd and 3rd periods off.
This game was a story of two halves. The Wild controlled the first 30 minutes and the Islanders the last 30. Ryan Suter scored his first goal of the season early in the first period putting a nice rebound by Isles goalie Kevin Poulin in the back of the net. That would be the only goal for the Wild in the opening stanza in which they out shot New York 16-8.
The second period started great for the Minnesota as they scored two goals in the first three minutes. Jonas Brodin scored just 39 seconds in and Nino Niederreiter potted one against his old team at the 2:59 mark. Mikko Koivu assisted on both goals, his 300th and 301st of this career. It looked as thought the Wild were in full control and playing well in front of a packed house. The Xcel Energy Center seemed to be the cure for the losing streak. Boy was that wrong. John Tavares would score his 14 goals of the season at 8:45 of the period. The Islanders would make it a 1 goal game asCal Clutterbuck in his return to Minnesota scored at the 18:54 mark with a tired group of defenders sliding all over the place. Earlier in the game the Wild did a nice tribute to the Wild’s all time hits leader on the scoreboard and he waved to and acknowledged the roaring crowd. The period ended with the Wild clinging to a 1 goal game and the Islanders gaining confidence.
The Wild came out just plain flat in the third period failing to score on a early power play and then giving up the game tying goal to Minnesota native Kyle Okposo who beat Josh Harding cleanly on a huge slap shot from the right circle. The Wild would find the energy to battle back and retake the lead just 1:12 later when Justin Fontaine found the puck in the midst of a goal mouth scramble and beat Poulin to put Minnesota up 4-3. That lead would only last a couple of minutes as Okposo scored again to take a 5-4 lead for the Isles. The Wild would have one more power play chance at the 15 minute mark of the period but would do nothing with the opportunity. Final score 5-4. The Islanders came back from a 3 goal deficit for the first time since March of 1994, a span of almost 20 years. Josh Harding, in his first game back from IR, saw his record fall to 18-6-3. He finished the night with the most goals he’s allowed all season.
This turned into one of the ugliest games of the season for the Wild. Usually those have been restricted to road games but not Sunday. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo summed up the game saying, “They scored the second goal, and we stopped playing, Believe me, it’s our job to find explanations, but holy cow, that’s a tough one to find an explanation for.” The Wild has given up 24 goals the past five games. They have scored eight goals in the past two games and lost them both. Minnesota’s record now stands at 20-16-5 and they are now tied with Dallas for 5th in the Central Division. Minnesota now faces the St. Louis Blues on New Years Eve. The Blues are now a dozen points ahead of the Wild in the Central. The best thing the Wild can do is put another ugly loss behind them take solace in the fact they they are scoring goals in the past two games and work on getting back to the defensive core that saw the team setting franchise records earlier in the season. Minnesota needs points, badly. They can get them only 2 at a time and that time starts Tuesday vs St. Louis. I’ll be back with a preview of the Wild vs Blues on Tuesday. Until then this is Scott Drain still chanting, “Let’s Go Wild.”