Eight is more than enough, as Canadiens humble Wild 8-1
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ST. PAUL, Minn. -- One can just never tell how a player will respond when facing his old team. Some thrive and others falter, and in the more recent NHL game in town, hockey fans in Minnesota got to see examples of both. And that was not a good thing.
The rapid unraveling of the Minnesota Wild season continued, with an exclamation point, on Sunday night, as the Montreal Canadiens embarrassed the home club, winning 8-1 as the Wild lost its sixth in a row.
While former Wild Benoit Pouloit soared versus his former team with a trio of assists. Former Canadien (and native of the Montreal suburbs) Jose Theodore faced a train wreck in goal for the Wild, getting yanked after the Canadiens made it 5-0 in the second period.
"Our execution was probably the worst I've seen in just about two years now here," said Wild coach Todd Richards, who is suddenly re-facing myriad questions about his job security. "Decisions with the puck, without the puck, our defensemen were chasing back a lot. I felt bad for Theo because we put him in some really tough predicaments on the ice."
We were deep into the third period before the remaining Wild fans in attendance finally got something to cheer about. Mikko Koivu broke Canadiens goalie Alex Auld's shutout bid, scoring on a penalty shot that was awarded after Alexandre Picard covered the puck in the Canadiens' crease.
The jubilation was short-lived, as Tom Pyatt scored less than two minutes later, marking the first time in Wild history that an opponent had scored eight goals in St. Paul. The seven-goal difference made this the most lopsided loss in Wild history -- a sad fact that was accentuated by hundreds and hundreds of Habs fans in attendance, who made this game feel a little like a sojourn to eastern Canada.
It started when they nearly drowned out the singer during the pre-game performance of "O, Canada," continued when they pelted the ice with more than 30 hats when P.K. Subban became the first defenseman in 100-plus years of Canadiens hockey to records a hat trick, and ended in the final minute, when the throng gave their team a standing ovation, while Wild fans quietly headed into then damp and chilly night.
With the losing streak growing and the gap between the Wild and the final playoff spot growing, players are quickly changing the way they talk about the post-season.
"It wasn't just one guy, it was everybody," said John Madden. "We've got to suck that one up and take full blame for that. We've got nine games left. Regardless of making the playoffs or not, our play tonight wasn't acceptable in any terms."
More than one player used the term "embarrassing" to sum up not only this game, but the tailspin the Wild has been in of late. Not long ago they were fifth in the Western Conference and within a win or two of home ice in the first round of the playoffs. Now the playoffs seem more like a distant dream, and the more realistic goal is to just find any way to win a game. Their next opportunity is Tuesday, when the underachieving Toronto Maple Leafs make a rare visit to Minnesota.
"The good thing is we play again Tuesday," said Wild defenseman Greg Zanon. Although the way things have gone lately, even that statement could be considered debatable.