The Minnesota Wild were shutout 3-0 by the Ottawa Senators Tuesday night at the Xcel Energy Center. The first time the Wild have been shutout at home this season. Finding the single right word to describe this loss is difficult. Some that come to mind are failure, flat, uninspired, lacking, lackadaisical, lazy, weak, and slow. This was exactly the kind of loss that has plagued the Minnesota Wild this season and the reason they are mired in the middle of the Central Division and the bottom half of the Western Conference. A very poor start doomed the Wild and Minnesota Head Coach Mike Yeo said of the game, “Not a pretty game for sure.”"We weren’t on our toes. We were getting beat to loose pucks to start the game. We weren’t moving our feet, we were hesitant. We certainly have to be ready to start the next game better than that.”
That poor start included getting out shot 15 to 3 in the opening period. In fact the Wild didn’t register their second shot of goal for the period until nearly 17 and a half minutes had elapsed. The team came out lacking energy and were often standing around defensively watching the play happen around them. The only reason Minnesota was only down 1-0 after the first period due to the play of goal tender Darcy Kuemper. The Wild net minder was coming off the first shutout of his career and made 29 saves on 32 Senator shots. In five games this season his record is now 2-2-1 with a goals against average of 2.46 and a save % at .910. Like the other two Wild goalies Kuemper now knows the feeling of being hung out to dry by his teammates and receiving no goal support. The only goal of the first period came from the stick of the Senators’ Clarke MacArthur during a 4 minute power play. The Wild’s Mikael Granlund went to the penalty box on a double minor for high sticking when he caught Erik Karlsson up high and drew blood at the 11:40 mark of the period. Minnesota spent more than 5 and a half minutes on the penalty kill in the first period and went 3 for 5 on the penalty kill for the game. The two Senators power play goals dropped the Wild’s penalty kill percentage to 79.2% for the season, the 7th worst PK in the NHL.
The Wild came to life a bit in the second period an even more so in the third as they out shot Ottawa 10 to 8 in the second and 14-9 in the third period, but they were unable to solve goalie Robin Lehner. The Senators’ backup net minder raised his season record to 6-9-3 with a GAA of 2.54 and a save % of .926. The Wild have the odd habit of making backup goal tenders through out the league look like Vezina Trophy winners and they did it again Tuesday evening. They didn’t exactly pepper Lehner with shots, totaling just 13 through the first two period and a total of 27 for the game. Neither team scored in the second period and Minnesota was just a shot away from tying the game until 5:55 had elapsed in the third period. Marco Scandella wound up on a slap shot from the point and his stick exploded upon contact with the ice. The puck skittered ahead harmlessly and was corralled by the Sens Erik Condra who raced ahead into the Wild zone on a break away. Condra was grabbed by a stickless Scandella just as the Ottawa player shot and the puck slid in on goal slipping between Kuemper’s pads giving the Senators’ a two goal lead.
The final Ottawa goal, their second power play goal of the game, came at the 17:38 mark of the third period and completely dashed the Wild’s hopes of a comeback. Kyle Turris fired a long range shot the beat a screened Kuemper, ringing off the post on his glove side making the score 3-0. The power play came when Ryan Suter headed to the penalty box on a tripping call effectively limiting Minnesota’s chances to score at least a goal to give them a chance to climb back into the game. The Wild did have a pair of power play opportunities of their own earlier in the period at the 9:07 and 12:39 points, but Minnesota was unable to mount any kind of serious sustained pressure on either one of them. While they did get a couple of good scoring chances Lehner and the Senators’ penalty killers were up to the task.
Throughout the game the Wild could never find their rhythm or any consistency to their game. After the game Minnesota Coach Yeo said, “Execution wasn’t really there all night long, weren’t moving our feet, weren’t attacking weren’t crisp with our passing. We didn’t do enough to get back into the game and that break away goal was a tough one.” This was the first game of a three game home stand for the Wild with games two and three, Thursday and Saturday against the Edmonton Oilers and the Dallas Stars. Minnesota is ready to put this game behind them and look to the future. Coach Yeo said in his post game remarks, “It is what it is. We weren’t good enough to win this hockey game tonight so we have to make sure that we’re ready to be better for the next one.” “What’s important to me is how we respond to that.”
The Wild missed out on a chance to keep pace with the Colorado Avalanche and the St. Louis Blues and gain two points on Central Division leading Chicago. The Wild are now 8 points behind 3rd place Colorado in the divisional race and need to go on some kind of a winning streak or at least a run of winning 8 out of 10 games. We’re just a little past the halfway point of the regular season and already the opportunity to win or finish second in the division is slipping away. The Wild can’t afford many more games like the mess they played Tuesday night. Next up are the Edmonton Oilers, the worst team in the Western Conference with a 15-29-5 record and just 35 points. The Wild need to get a good, hard, productive practice in on Wednesday and be ready to come charging out of the tunnel and lay a beat down on the Oilers Thursday. The Wild have shown they can win with Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Jared Spurgeon and Josh Harding out of the lineup. They need to be ready, both mentally and physically, to take care of business the rest of this home stand and when they head out on the road to end the month as well. I’ll be back Thursday morning with a preview of Wild vs Oilers. Until then this is Scott Drain still confidently shouting, “Let’s Go Wild!”