'Maddening' loss to Calgary drops Wild to sixth defeat in seven games
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ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The scene Sunday at the Xcel Energy Center was one onlookers of the Minnesota Wild have witnessed with nauseating frequency this season.
Apart from a momentary, last-ditch outburst in the third period, the Wild languished to stay intact in a 4-3 defeat to the Calgary Flames -- their sixth loss in seven games.
"It's a little bit maddening to be honest with you," said coach Mike Yeo, who didn't shield his stewing aggravation. "We owe our fans a good game here. It's too many games in-a-row that we've come out flat in our own building."
Erik Christensen's best outing as a member of the Wild went to waste. Christensen, scoreless since he arrived in February as part of a trade with the New York Rangers, notched a pair of goals just over two minutes apart to rally his squad from two back in the final period.
However, his resurgence was severely dampened minutes later by back-to-back Calgary goals minutes that cemented the Wild's sixth loss in seven games.
"I miss scoring," Christensen said with reserved relief. "I know it's been 15 games with Minnesota, but it's been going on a lot longer than that. But it still doesn't take away the feeling of the way the game ended up."
Rookie goaltender Matt Hackett suffered in the wake of a shoddy defensive effort in front of him, allowing four of the 25 shots he faced from the Flames pass by.
"We gave up four goals. That's not good enough. And I'm not blaming Matt Hackett, because I don't think he had a chance on any of them," Yeo said.
The Wild didn't begin to express positive vital signs until it was too late. They scattered a combined 12 shots in the first period before challenging Calgary goalie Mikka Kiprusoff with 13 in the third.
Uninspired play after the initial face-off sent the Wild spiraling into a lifeless state in the opening period. They managed only two shots on goal for the majority of the first until a short-lived spurt seconds before intermission produced three more.
Calgary wasn't afflicted by the same offensive inabilities. Nearing the midpoint of the period, Wild winger Nick Palmieri had the puck snatched away in his own zone by Alex Tanguay, who deftly set-up Jarome Iginla for the Flames' first goal.
Little was gained in the second as the Wild still notably lagged behind Calgary's distinct edge.
"We were playing against a team that had 20 guys out there who were playing like they needed to win," Yeo said. "It's a big difference if we had five or six guys who would like to win. It would be nice if we did. We had a handful of guys that let us down tonight."
The Flames further quieted the sparse crowd by enlarging the deficit to two early in the third off a goal from Curtis Glencross.
For all the missteps the Wild had suffered through, it seemed they had been set aside when Christensen found the space to create two goals separated by two minutes and 20 seconds at the expense of the briefly vulnerable Calgary defensive front.
It didn't take for the Wild long to revert back to their undesirable tendencies.
Iginla, nearly brought to the ground, was able to shovel a pass to Curtis Glencross, leading to the stinging go-ahead goal with 10 minutes remaining that squandered the surge of momentum the home team had received.
The Wild's failure to drop back fast enough into their own zone led to Olli Jokinen's goal on an odd-man rush a short while later. The Flames' fourth goal was the final blow they needed to finish off their third consecutive victory.
"This is two goals in the last three games that we've given up in the same way," Yeo said. "It should not happen."
Devin Setoguchi produced a sliver of hope by scoring a minute from the end of regulation, but the Wild couldn't salvage the mess they had put themselves in.
4: Consecutive losses for the Wild against the Flames.
14: Goals scored by Calgary in their last three games, including back-to-back five score nights prior to Sunday.
166 minutes, 23 seconds: Amount of time the Wild went without a goal at home before Chirstensen's first goal in the third period. The team entered Sunday with consecutive shutout home losses.
"The last two weeks we've given up more two-on-ones than we've given up all season. It's something we used to pride ourselves on. Now we're giving them up like crazy."
-- Yeo, expressing his anger over the mental lapse that resulted in Calgary's clinching fourth goal.
• Center Mikko Koivu donned a no-contact jersey on Saturday as he practiced for the first time in nearly a month. But don't expect to see the Wild captain during the current five-game homestand. Out since early February with a left shoulder injury, Koivu is not close to a return. There has been no indication given from the team whether or not Koivu will be back before the conclusion of the season, which is four weeks away.
• A lingering illness kept right wing Cal Clutterbuck off the ice for the third straight game.
• Calgary -- Jarome Iginla (29), assisted by Akex Tanguay (35) and Matt Stajan (9), 9:31. Flames 1, Wild 0
• Calgary -- Sven Baertschi (1), assisted by Derek Smith (9) and Tom Kostopoulos (7), 1:43. Flames 2, Wild 0
• Wild -- Erik Christensen (2), unassisted, 2:10. Flames 2, Wild 1
• Wild -- Erik Christensen (3), assisted by Jared Spurgeon (20) and Stephane Veilleux (1), 4:30. Wild 2, Flames 2
• Calgary -- Curtis Glencross (25), assisted by Jarome Iginla (30), 10:17. Flames 3, Wild 2
• Calgary -- Olli Jokinen (21), assisted by David Moss (6) and Curtis Glencross (18), 14:42. Flames 4, Wild 2
1. Jarome Iginla
2. Erik Christensen
3. Curtis Glencross
The Wild's five-game homestand continues into its second frame Tuesday with a match-up against Pacific division leaders the Dallas Stars (38-26-5). Luckily for the Wild, their streak of futility versus the former North Stars doesn't extend to the Twin Cities. They defeated the Stars 5-2 on Jan. 21 in their last meeting at the Xcel Energy Center.