Energy crisis: Wild falls 4-1 to Predators
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ST. PAUL, Minn. - There were plenty of interesting appearances at the final Minnesota Wild game of 2010 on Friday night. But team offense, and spark, were not among them.
A sellout crowd showed up, and a goofy impersonation of Father Time tried to rile up the audience beforehand, and a few prominent former college and NHL stars roamed the back hallway of the pressbox, but some much-needed on-ice jump was nowhere to be found for the home club.
Then the boo birds showed up. After another lifeless effort and another home loss, a chorus of derision from the home fans is becoming nearly as reliable a soundtrack for the Wild as the "State of Hockey Anthem" they always play over the sound system during the first intermission.
By the time the Wild finally got a goal - the third in the past three games by Chuck Kobasew - all agreed it was too little with just a few minutes left in what eventually (after two empty-net goals) would be a 4-1 loss to the Nashville Predators.
The Wild did a special 5 p.m. start time on New Year's Eve, but even that seemed to backfire, as the home club fell to 3-6-1 in the past 10 games in St. Paul.
"They were ready to play," said Wild coach Todd Richards, tipping his cap to Nashville. "The game started at 5, but we really didn't get going until 6 or 6:30."
By then the Predators had built a 2-0 lead, taking advantage of the Wild's mysterious lack of jump.
"We looked a little flat tonight," said Martin Havlat, who assisted on the Wild's only goal. "I don't think we had much energy right from the first period. It was a little too late at the end. We almost came back, but almost doesn't count."
Actually, it counts in a big way, just for the wrong team. The Wild entered the game just one point behind the Predators in the Western Conference standings, meaning a win would have meant a move ahead in the race for a playoff spot. Instead, the Predators headed for their team bus with a three-point lead, and the Wild in the rear-view mirror for the time being.
The lack of jump was made even more bewildering by recent outings in which the Wild has created offense - Wednesday's 5-3 win over powerful San Jose being the prime example - and showed the kind of effort necessary to contend for post-season play. In the final hours of 2010, that effort was nowhere to be seen, except on the visitors' side of the ice.
"I don't think it was to the level that we needed to be, obviously, or what we wanted to be," Richards said. "For some reason we just didn't have the jump tonight."
While you can't commend the effort, at least give them credit for honesty.