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Updated: February 7th, 2012 10:12pm
Lack of offense dooms Wild again in uninspiring loss to Columbus

Lack of offense dooms Wild again in uninspiring loss to Columbus

by Jess Myers
1500ESPN.com
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A few hours after signing a contract extension, Minnesota Wild forward Nate Prosser justified his salary, scoring the team's only goal on Tuesday night. That was the only silver lining among all of the dark clouds in central Ohio, as the Wild fell 3-1 to the NHL's worst team, the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Prosser, an Elk River native, had a first period fight and later snapped a shot through traffic from the blue line for his first career goal, tying the game 1-1. But the Wild played an ugly and undisciplined game for much of the 60 minutes, putting the normally punchless Blue Jackets on the power play seven times, and allowing goals in the second and third periods.

And versus the league's worst penalty kill, the Wild went 0-for-2 on the man advantage, finishing their three game road trip with a 1-1-1 record. Wild coach Mike Yeo had a simple one-word assessment of his team's power play.

"Nothing," Yeo told reporters. "Nothing there from our power play. If we don't understand where we're at in our power play with what we have and go out with the idea that we absolutely have to out-work the other team...and let's be honest, we've got to be hard."

The skinny

Anyone who watched Schoolhouse Rock in the '70s knows that three is a magic number, but it might not seem so magical for the Wild right now. The team played three games on the road in the past week, grabbing three out of a possible six points, and scoring - you guessed it - just three goals in the process.

For the coaches, it doesn't take any kind of advanced degree to see where the problem lies in games like this one.

"That's three games in a row that we've scored one goal," Yeo said, recalling a 1-0 win at Colorado and a 2-1 shootout loss at Dallas. "We're not getting anything from our power play right now. We're not getting the kind of sustained pressure we need."

The biggest concern is a lack of grit when the Wild have five players on the ice to the opponents' four. The Blue Jackets have had the most porous penalty kill in the league this season, and on Tuesday it held the Wild without a sniff.

"If we think they're going to drop the puck and we're going to make four or five pretty plays and shoot the puck in the net, then that's going to be the result," Yeo said.

Turning point

The Blue Jackets only got one power play goal on seven chances, but it was a big one, in the second period. With the game tied 1-1, Antoine Vermette got a sloppy shot past Niklas Backstrom, giving the Blue Jackets a lead they would not relinquish.

"We were probably in it in the second," Yeo said. "It was a little bit back and forth. We had a couple chances, but the reality is I don't think we deserved to win the game. It's a game of one-on-one battles and they got the better of us, by a large margin in that department."

Numbers game

• 5: Power play goals scored by the Wild in their last 56 man-advantage situations.
• 32-17: The Blue Jackets' advantage in hits on Tuesday.
• 4: Penalties by Nick Schultz on Tuesday, including a costly delay of game infraction in the final minutes.
• 1-0-0: Blue Jackets interim head coach Todd Richards' record versus his former employer. Richards, fired in April by the Wild, took over in Columbus on Jan. 9 when Scott Arniel was dismissed.

Health watch

Still no on-ice appearances for Guillaume Latendresse, Pierre-Marc Bouchard or Mikko Koivu. Of the three, Koivu is expected back the soonest, from a shoulder injury, but the absence of that trio is certainly playing a role in the offensive struggles.

Summary

First period
Blue Jackets - David Savard 1 (Prospal, Clitsome), 8:59
Wild - Nate Prosser 1 (Falk, McMillan), 18:39

Second period
Blue Jackets - Antoine Vermette 7 (Nash, Tyutin), 15:31, PPG

Third period
Blue Jackets - Jeff Carter 12 (Gillies, Savard), 5:38

Shots: Wild 7-13-9-29; Blue Jackets 14-9-14-37. Saves: Wild, Niklas Backstrom (34-37); Blue Jackets, Curtis Sanford (28-29). Power plays: Wild 0-for-2, Blue Jackets 1-7.

Three stars
1. David Savard
2. Curtis Sanford
3. Antoine Vermette

Coming up

The Wild play five of their next six at home, starting Thursday when the Vancouver Canucks come to visit. With the team teetering on the bubble between being the last team in and the first team out of the playoffs, this stretch is looking more and more critical to the team's post-season chances. They host the Blue Jackets on Saturday and the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday.

Jess Myers covers the Wild and college hockey for 1500ESPN.com. He is a member of the editorial advisory board for USA Hockey Magazine.
Email Jess | @JessRMyers
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