The Minnesota Wild had four days to bask in the glow of its first (albeit modest) win streak of the season after beating the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night. The good news is that it will have less than 48 hours before it can put Thursday night’s 5-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks behind them and move on to the Dallas Stars.
When things seemed to be going right for the Wild in the form of solid 60-minute efforts, stellar goaltending and a few bounces, things turned horribly wrong. The Wild couldn’t seem to do anything right in the first period despite three power plays.
Niklas Backstrom had his first “off” night of the season, giving up four goals and getting pulled after two periods. And pucks either bounced off sticks in scoring positions or off of Vancouver goalie Andrew Raycroft, who made two highlight reel saves with his team up by two.
The bright spot for the Wild was Kyle Brodziak, who scored both Minnesota goals to give him three in the past two games. As he did in Pittsburgh, Brodziak parked himself in front of the net and banged both home on rebounds.
Unfortunately, both of Brodziak’s tallies came with his team trailing by two, and Vancouver answered both quickly.
“There’s got to be desperation and urgency in every game that we play,” lamented Head Coach Todd Richards. “We were down 2-0, and then we decided to play. That’s what’s most disappointing to me.”
Richards was also disappointed in his special teams, which have been the team’s strength through one month in the season. Coming into the game, the Wild ranked first in the NHL in penalty kill, and fifth with the man advantage. But it was Vancouver that walked away with a power play goal, and a shorthanded goal, while the Wild was anemic with its five man advantage situations.
“Our power play, with the exception of a couple flurries, didn’t get the results that we want,” said Richards. “I’m not just saying goals. We didn’t create any momentum on our power play.”
It was the Canucks who got the momentum early from an unlikely source when Darcy Hordichuk caused a turnover in the Wild zone and scored his first goal in 50 games with a rocket slap shot. Then, at the end of the first, Derek Boogaard got into it with Willie Mitchell at center ice, and was given four minutes in penalties. The Canucks capitalized there when Mason Raymond buried a wrister for a 2-0 lead early in the second.
That sparked the Wild, but the players were at a loss after the game in trying to explain why it seems to take a deficit to get the team going.
“It’s 60 minutes, and no less,” said Brodziak. “And if we can’t figure that out as a group, then we’re going to find ourselves in holes like we have been.”
As they’ve done in every game this season, the Wild came alive when faced with a hole. Brodziak punched home a Cal Clutterbuck rebound at the 4:28 mark, and a hard-charging, body-throwing team in red jerseys dominated the next 10 minutes.
But Henrik Sedin built the Vancouver cushion back to two with a shorthanded goal that squeezed through Backstrom’s legs. Despite Brodziak’s answer just 33 seconds later, Matt Pettinger scored from the side of the net with a puck that bounced off Backstrom and in. Josh Harding started the third period, but Richards pointed out that it was to give Backstrom a much-needed break, and to spark his team.
“Nik has been great for us all year,” said Richards. “He’s a battler and competitor with a tremendous amount of pride.”
Backstrom, who has been brilliant this season, was pulled for the first time since March 20 of last season. He rarely has poor back-to-back starts, and its likely that Richards will go right back to him on Saturday when the Wild will try to erase the memory of this one.
“You’d like to go on a nine, 10-game win streak, but it’s not going to happen in this League,” said Greg Zanon. “You’ve just got to dig in and make sure we come back to work tomorrow with the right attitude, and it’s another game on Saturday.”
C Kyle Brodziak notched his fourth career two-goal game – his first since March 7, 2009, at Toronto. Brodziak, who is tied for second on the Wild roster with four goals, has a goal in back-to-back games for the first time since March 22-24, 2008. Brodziak became the first Wild player this season to score two goals in one game.
D Brent Burns recorded an assist, his second in as many games. Burns has six points (2-4=6) in the last eight games.
The Wild fell to 3-2-0 at home this season and is 10-2-4 in its last 16 home games, dating back to last season.
Minnesota is 0-3-1 in its last four games overall against the Canucks, tied for its longest winless streak versus Vancouver (0-3-1, March 2-Nov. 25, 2002). The Wild is 0-3-1 in the last four home meetings, a new record for the team’s longest winless home slide versus Vancouver.
Vancouver C Henrik Sedin scored his eighth goal of the season, and just his second goal in his last 29 games against Minnesota. The other came in overtime March 31, 2009.
Minnesota has allowed an NHL-high four shorthanded goals, including C Henrik Sedin’s tally tonight.
Canucks LW Darcy Hordichuk scored his first goal in 50 games since Jan. 4, 2009.
Vancouver’s five goals tied its most ever at Xcel Energy Center. The Canucks hadn’t scored five at Xcel Energy Center since a 5-3 win Oct. 14, 2005.
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