Win or lose, the Minnesota Wild always seems to provide a memorable experience for fans at the Xcel Energy Center. It’s just more fun when the Wild wins.
On Wednesday, the Wild missed a chance to move out of last place in the Western Conference after a roller coaster 4-3 loss to the Nashville Predators.
After digging yet another early hole by surrendering two first period goals, the Wild charged back in the second by scoring three goals in less than two minutes to set the home crowd on its ear.
But it didn’t last, and thus, neither does the Wild’s home winning streak, which was snapped at three games.
A somber Head Coach Todd Richards struggled to find the words to express how he felt when his team played a solid game, but once again was done in by costly mistakes.
“My feeling on the bench was we were just a bit unlucky,” he said after the Predators built an early 2-0 lead on goals by J.P. Dumont and Shea Weber. “I think we’ve played worse stretches where it’s been 0-0 because our goalie has been really good.”
“I would say it was disheartening to be down, 2-0.”
Certainly the Wild fans were disheartened as they watched their team skate to the locker room after one period without a great scoring chance, let alone a goal.
In the second, lightning struck.
Brent Burns scored three seconds into Minnesota’s first power play. Then, Cal Clutterbuck and Owen Nolan each tacked on their second of the year to turn a deficit into a lead and chase Nashville goaltender, Dan Ellis. All three goals came in a span of 1:47, marking the fastest three goals scored by the Wild at the Xcel Energy Center.
But Predators backup Pekka Rinne seemed to calm his team, whereas the Wild calmed down too much and stopped taking the play to their opponent.
“It’s extremely frustrating. It makes you angry too because we are not playing up to our level," said Antti Miettinen. "We’re playing not to lose instead of trying to win.”
“My feeling is that we weren’t playing the game to win. We were playing the game not to lose.”
Miettinen’s coach agreed. “We weren’t pursuing pucks,” said Richards. “We were just backing up and retreating into our own zone. We were giving up our zone too easily.”
The Predators tallied the second period equalizer when Michael Santorelli tipped a shot from former Wild farmhand Joel Ward past Niklas Backstrom.
In the third, the two teams were battling evenly, when the Wild was awarded a power play with 9:41 to play. It looked like the perfect chance for the Wild to win a game in regulation for the first time this year. Instead, a turnover at the Nashville blueline allowed Jerred Smithson to race the other way and beat Backstrom for a backbreaking shorty.
“That’s a huge swing right there, that’s for sure,” said Richards.
"We get a little casual sometimes and breakdowns like that happen," added Miettinen. "We maybe were not having our best night with the puck and there are tons of things you can do right to help the team win, but I think sometimes everybody lacks in that section."
With the club not having won a game on the road this season, the Wild had been hanging its hat on a perfect home record. Now, it’s back to the drawing board as the club hosts the New York Rangers on Friday night.
As he has repeated often, Richards reminded everybody that tomorrow is a new day.
“We have to start looking forward and getting better as a group in preparation for Friday and the Rangers.”
D Brent Burns, RW Cal Clutterbuck and RW Owen Nolan each scored 1:47 apart early in the third period to establish a new Wild record for fastest three goals in a home game. Alexander Daigle, Filip Kuba and Antti Laaksonen scored 1:53 apart in the third period of a 4-2 win over Pittsburgh Jan. 16, 2004. The overall team record is 1:41, set March 24, 2004.
D Brent Burns scored a power play goal, his second tally of the season.
RW Owen Nolan scored his second goal of the season. It marked Nolan’s first goal in eight games dating back to Oct. 10 at San Jose. Nolan led the Wild with 25 goals last season.
G Niklas Backstrom made 18 saves and lost in regulation at Xcel Energy Center for the first time since Feb. 6, 2009, also against Nashville. Backstrom was 11-0-4 in 15 decisions since then, a new team record for an unbeaten in regulation streak for a goalie. Backstrom allowed four or more goals for just the 12th time in 93 NHL starts – but for the third time against the Predators.
The Wild fell to 3-1-0 at home this season. Tonight also snapped a 13-game point streak at home (9-0-4), and a six-game home winning streak, dating back to last season.
The Wild’s three-goal second period tied a season-high for goals in a stanza, having scored three in the third of a 4-3 OT win over Anaheim Oct. 6.
The Wild allowed the game’s first goal for the ninth time in 12 games this season.
Predators C Mike Santorelli scored his first career NHL goal.
Minnesota lost in regulation for just the 13th time in 167 home games when scoring three or more goals (140-13-14). The Wild fell to 114-8-6 in that situation since Oct. 22, 2002.
The Wild has allowed three SHG this season – tied for most in the NHL.
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