Going further South; Wild falls 2-1 at Florida
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Just like at the start of the Minnesota Wild's four-game road swing, Cal Clutterbuck scored a nice goal. But this time, it wasn't enough. On Friday night in suburban Miami, a losing streak officially began, as the Wild fell behind early and lost 2-1 at the hands of the Florida Panthers.
Like the night before in Atlanta, the Wild found itself down 2-0 early. Just eight minutes into the game, the Panthers had a commanding lead on goals by Chris Higgins and Mike Santorelli.
"At the start they were getting pucks in and forechecking, and we were turning pucks over and made some mistakes in our own zone, and the puck eneded up in our own net," Wild coach Todd Richards told reporters after the game. "You have to give them credit. They're a team that skates very well, and they got on us quick and forced us into making some poor decisions."
Unlike the night before, this time the Wild began to mount a comeback before the period was over.
On a power play, Nick Schultz unleashed a shot from the blue line that Clutterbuck re-directed past Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun. Unfortunately, that was the only one of the Wild's 23 shots (10 of them in the third period) that Vokoun failed to stop.
So now the road trip that began with so much promise (a 3-2 win in Columbus last Saturday) comes down to one game to decide whether it's successful. After consecutive night losses to Atlanta and Florida, the Wild needs a win Sunday afternoon in Tampa, versus the Lightning, to post a .500 record on the trip.
Jose Theodore made his third start of the season in goal on Friday, facing 27 Florida shots and finishing with 25 saves to fall back below .500 at 1-2-0. Questioned by Mike Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune afterward, Richards admitted that the team is not getting enough consistent offense out of the likes of Mikko Koivu, Martin Havlat, Andrew Brunette and Matt Cullen.
"You always look to, as I say, the big dogs," said the coach. "You need your big dogs to step up in big games. Coming off a loss, it's a big game, and in the NHL every game is a big game."
The Wild had Northwest Division company in the loss column on Friday, as Calgary and Edmonton both lost road games. Colorado won in Columbus, and the Canucks play in Toronto on Saturday, giving the division-leading Canucks a chance to gain ground on the field.