Wild remain inept at home, suffer costly loss to Stars
Accountability? Marcus Foligno is demanding it from people above the pay grade of a fourth-line grinder.
Urgency? Bruce Boudreau is out of answers for the Wild’s woeful lack thereof, and he indicted his players without naming names.
Scoring? Zach Parise would just like to have the puck.
What the Wild want and what they are able to give are miles apart at a crucial juncture of their fading season. Thursday night’s listless 4-1 loss to the Dallas Stars at Xcel Energy Center led to some harsh introspection afterward in a sullen dressing room.
A third straight loss plunged Minnesota to 1-6-3 in its past 10 home games, including Monday’s 3-0 shutout loss to San Jose. They have not won in regulation in St. Paul since Jan. 19 and fell five points behind Dallas for a wild-card berth with Arizona lurking in between.
“It pisses you off,” said Foligno. “I’ve only made the playoffs once in my career. To be in a playoff spot for most of the season and now being out of it, it kind of looks like it’s slipping away. We’ve got to figure it out. We still have games left to turn it around, but we keep saying that. We’ve been saying that a lot this year.”
How do you turn it around?
“It’s got to come from leadership and guys playing the right way and holding guys accountable,” Foligno added. “Right now we’re just letting things slip away. I wish I had the answers, but at the same time, I think it’s just got to come from leadership. At this point of the season, at this type of playoff push, your leaders have to be your best, myself included, and right now we’re just struggling with it.”
The head coach was exasperated during his postgame news conference, figuratively pointing the blame at all of his players without singling out anyone.
“If I’m going to say anything, it’d be ripping players,” Boudreau huffed. “We all saw the same thing. I don’t want to rip players.”
He already did.
“I was expecting this morning when we were talking and before the game the excitement of this being a playoff-type atmosphere game,” Boudreau said. “You could tell. We scored the one goal.”
Perhaps the Wild should petition the NHL to turn their final 11 games into a permanent road trip. Any excuse to avoid the unfriendly confines of the X.
Home ice advantage is a fantasy these days for Minnesota, which is failing to leverage sellout crowds into crucial victories as the boos grow louder and anxiety tightens its grip on the backpedaling team.
The Wild had a huge chance to close the gap on Dallas. But a brutal stretch of play in the second period blew up that notion. Instead the Wild fell to 14-15-6 overall at home compared with a robust 19-15-2 road record.
“It’s a great building when you have (energy),” said center Eric Staal. “For whatever reason, obviously the fact we haven’t scored a lot and it’s been an uphill climb in a lot of nights here, it’s hard to find that.”
Dallas blitzed the Wild for three goals in a span of 2:22 early in the second period to open a 3-0 lead that was plenty for the stingiest defensive team in the Western Conference to hold down the meek Wild.
A scoreless first period featured only 16 combined shots. The Wild had only seven of them. It was enough for Stars goalie Ben Bishop to shoot past Ed Belfour’s shutout run of 219 minutes, 26 seconds in November 2000 to set a franchise record scoreless streak.
The onslaught was swift and sufficient.
Radek Faksa scored on a deflection past Devan Dubnyk at 4:11. Roope Hintz stuffed a rebound through the sprawled goaltender moments later. At 6:33, Joel L’Esperance redirected a pass into the top corner for his first NHL, and the Stars were on the march.
All except their record-setting goaltender. Bishop left the game after L’Esperance’s goal with a lower-body injury. Cold off the bench came former Wild goalie Anton Khudobin.
The Wild jumped on the power play and finally cracked the scoreboard. Jason Zucker banged in his 21st goal of the season, which snapped an 0-for-18 skid on the power play for Minnesota.
But the Wild were unable to further exploit Khudobin. They finished with just five shots in the period and only one after Zucker’s goal.
“We didn’t have the puck,” lamented Parise. “We couldn’t get through the neutral zone. We couldn’t break out clean. They play really well defensively; you combine that with us not being great tonight offensively, it’s what you’re going to get.”
Author: Brian Murphy