The Minnesota Wild played the Edmonton Oilers Tuesday night at the Xcel Energy Center losing 4-3 in a shootout. This was just the 4th win for Edmonton against Minnesota in their last 19 meetings. This was a game the Wild should have won. They scored three goals in a span of 4:17 of the first period and looked to be on their way to an easy victory over the worst team in not only the Western Conference, but in all of the NHL. Prior to the game Matt Cooke was honored for playing in his 1000th career NHL game just the 288th player to do so in NHL history. Cooke is also just the 4th Minnesota Wild player to accomplish that feat. He joins Andrew Brunette, Keith Carney, and Matt Cullen in the exclusive Minnesota Wild 1,000 game club. Cooke recorded 4 shots, 1 hit, 1 blocked shot and in 15:36 of ice time. Zach Parise had the other milestone Tuesday, playing in his 600th NHL game. He totaled 1 goal, 1 assist , 5 shots on goal, and 1 blocked shot in 22:05 of ice time. All of the good feelings about the milestone games were tempered by blowing of a three goal lead ending in a shootout loss. This game became an exercise in frustration as the Wild scored 3 goals in 4:17 of the 1st period and then failed to score in the next 49:37 of regulation and shootout time. Prior to the game Wild Head Coach said, “We just have to make sure we have consistency in our game, when we have consistency in our game that is when we will have consistent results.” This was a very prophetic statement by the Wild Head Coach. His team did not play consistent hockey and the result was a loss. During his post game comments Coach Yeo said, “Now we’re kind of struggling to find the right mix, the right chemistry, what ever it is. We’re not in sync, not the same that we were, not consistently enough and so as long as we keep working to find that and when we find that we’ll be fine but, we’ve got to do it sooner rather than later.”
The third goal at 15:23 of the opening period would be the last goal the Wild would score however. Minnesota came out somewhat flat in the first 10 minutes of the game. A penalty to the Oilers Taylor Hall at the 9:17 mark would lead to the Wild’s 1st power play of the night. Minnesota cashed in at the 11:07 mark with Zach Parise’s 12th power play goal of the season, ranking him 3rd in the NHL. Once again Parise’s goal was set up by a precision Mikael Granlund pass, his 27th this season . Jason Pominville had the other assist, his 21st of the 2013-14 campaign. The second Wild goal came just 2:39 later as Jared Spurgeon unleashed one of his booming slap shots from the point that clipped an Oiler on it’s way past Edmonton goalie Viktor Fasth to make the score 2-0. Erik Haula (4th) and Dany Heatley (14th) had the assists on that goal. The goal was Spurgeon’s 3rd of the season. It’s amazing to watch the diminutive Spurgeon unleash such a heavy, powerful, and accurate slap shot. The final goal of the period and the game came at the 15:23 mark of the 1st period as Jason Pominville, Mikael Granlund, and Zach Parise combined once again for a goal. This time it was Pominville scoring his team leading 24th goal of the season while Granlund and Parise picked up the assists their 28th and 20th respectively. Even though his team was up 3-0 Coach Yeo was worried about his squads play in the opening period saying, “I thought, to be honest with you, that we were a bit lucky to be up three nothing.” He added later in his post game remarks, “You could tell we were not on top of our game, we addressed it, we talked about it, but we were unable to find it.”
The Oilers started their comeback with a goal at the 16:55 mark of the first period. Jeff Petry picked up his 5th goal of the season with Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins each getting their 29th assist. The two squads played a defensive minded second period with no goals scored. Then in the third period the wheels came off for the home team Minnesota Wild. They gave up a pair of goals that sent the game into a scoreless overtime period and then a shootout that sealed the Wild’s fate as Edmonton took the second point up for grabs. The second Oiler goal of the game came as David Perron tipped in an Andrew Ference shot closing the gap to a single goal. The tying score came from the stick of Jordan Eberle, his 21st goal of the season with just 4:53 remaining in regulation. The primary assist on the play went to once again Andrew Ference. The second assist was a milestone for Edmonton’s Oscar Klefbom. It was his first NHL assist and came in his first NHL game, a special night for the Edmonton rookie. Twice during regulation and in overtime the Wild had power play opportunities with just three Edmonton defenders on the ice. The first was 1:20 of 5-on-3 in the second period during which Minnesota failed to generate anything resembling offense. The second was a 4-on-3 for 1:51 as penalty time carried over from the third period. Once again the Wild wasted this opportunity as they could have ended the game right then and there but the dreaded pass, pass, pass, pass syndrome struck once again. In his post game remarks Wild Coach Yeo said of his team’s losing effort, “A lot of slow passing and not enough shooting. It’s something we have to address, no question. You get those situations, you get an opportunity to put the game away whether it’s in overtime or during a 5-on-3″.
In shootouts this season Darcy Kuemper had stopped all 11 shooters he had faced. That streak ended Tuesday night as he allowed three goals on 4 tries for the Oilers. The Wild were 2 of 4 with Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise scoring on their attempts. After the three initial shooters on each side were done the shootout move to sudden death mode. Eberle and Perron were the Edmonton scorers in the first three attempts. In the 4th round the Wild’s Jason Pominville failed to score as the puck slid wide of the net. Then with the game on his stick Taylor Hall scored to end the game and secure the extra point for Edmonton.
The chances of the Wild catching the three teams ahead of them, Colorado (89 pts.), Chicago (90 pts.), and St. Louis (95 pts), are now slim and none and slim just left town. The concerns for the Wild are the three teams behind them Dallas (74 pts.), Winnipeg (68 pts,), and Nashville (66 pts.). You can also add Phoenix (73 pts.) and Vancouver (68 pts.) to the mix of teams trailing the Wild in the battle for the two Wild Card spots in the Western Conference. The Wild’s lead in the race for the top Wild Card spot has now shrunk to just 3 points with Tuesday’s loss and Dallas’ victory over St. Louis. Phoenix also won, beating Florida, and are just 1 point out of the second Wild Card spot. Kuemper’s record now stands at 11-4-3 with a save % at .920 and a 2.32 goals against average.
From here to the end of the regular season on April 13th every game is critical to the Wild’s playoff hopes. Their losing streak is now at 3 games with the New York Rangers next on the docket at 7pm Thursday evening at the Xcel Energy Center. Minnesota has 17 games left and 9 of those are against teams in playoff position. After Tuesday’s loss when asked about the teams chasing the Wild Coach Yeo said, “To be honest with you, I don’t care about the other teams because it’s all about us. We’re still in a position where we’ve gotta win a certain number of games.” I’ll be back Thursday morning with a preview of the Minnesota Wild vs New York Rangers. This is another chance for the Wild to earn two points against an Eastern Conference foe. Minnesota faces teams from the east nine more times in the regular season. That’s all for now, thanks for stopping by GonePuckWild.com. We appreciate your time spent here and your comments as well. Until next time this is Scott Drain confidently shouting, “LET’S GO WILD!!!”