Blanked again, Wild falls to Maple Leafs 3-0
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ST. PAUL, Minn. - At some point there's no more room for anger, and the disappointment fades away. At some point, you're left with resignation that this is it. That there are no tricks left in the bag, and the team that preached a constant stream about peaking at the right time, apparently peaked right before the All-Star break.
On a night where huge swaths of empty seats were announced as an "overflow sellout crowd" and the mild chant of "Let's Go Wild" was often drowned out by "Go Leafs Go" delivered by an impressive throng of Toronto fans in attendance, the Minnesota Wild dropped its seventh in a row, falling 3-0 to the Maple Leafs.
It's perhaps a sign of how far the Wild has fallen, and how fast, that the boo birds in attendance barely bothered to serenade the team off the ice after 40 minutes. Of course, the optimist (an increasing rarity in this rink) will point out that things could been much different right from the start. Matt Cullen got open in front of Leafs goaltender James Reimer in the opening minute, but could not get a good shot off.
Then the Leafs scored, just 99 seconds into the game, and for all intents and purposes, it was over.
"If I get that first one, it's a whole different ballgame. Big games like this, you have to capitalize on your opportunities. I didn't do it," Cullen said. "As the game went on, we had some other good opportunities and weren't able to capitalize. The goaltender played well, but goalies play well every night in this league."
Reimer rose to the challenge again and again early, stopping three Wild breakaways - two of them by John Madden - that could've given the home team some life. But they did not, and now the illusion of making the playoffs is all but gone. Coach Todd Richards used the word "confidence" again and again during the post-game press conference, but it's clear that confidence is gone as well.
"There's a lot of emotion right now," Richards said. "Especially after losses you have to be really careful, the things that you say and do because the emotion is high on the coaches' end and the players' end."
Where confidence was clearly not lacking was in the Toronto crease. Reimer, a rookie goalie who hails from a little town north of Winnipeg, was playing in front of tons of friends and family and looked strong throughout, making 29 saves for his third shutout of the season.
But the task was clearly made easier by facing a Wild team that has lost its mojo in a big, big way in the past two weeks.
"I think that's probably the reason why we're not scoring goals. The confidence level is down," said Madden. "When things don't go well, you feel a little slower out there at times, you feel like you're really simplifying your game when you could've done a little more and taken another step and just gotten a better shot off. We're kind of just being satisfied with getting a shot on net instead of bearing down, and that's the difference."
The Wild has a few days off without a game before hosting St. Louis on Saturday, but Richards said they will get back to work looking for some way, any way to snap the losing streak.
The one thing they're likely not to be doing during the days off is paying close attention to the out-of-town scoreboards. With Columbus winning in Colorado on Tuesday, the Wild no longer can even claim sole possession of 11th place in the Western Conference.