Myers: Letdown vs. Oilers shows Wild's momentum is long gone
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ST. PAUL, Minn. - Gutting out and earning a point in a come-from-behind shootout loss between the best team in the NHL, as the Wild did on Sunday versus the St. Louis Blues, is something worth smiling about.
And now for something completely different - like a come-from-ahead (WAY ahead) shootout loss to one of the worst teams in the NHL, as the Wild notched Tuesday, falling 4-3 to the woeful Edmonton Oilers.
Two of the teams chasing the Wild for a playoff spot, the Dallas Stars and Phoenix Coyotes, both won on the road Tuesday, gaining ground on Minnesota. Everything seemed to be going so well for the Wild last week at this time, sporting a five-game winning streak that stretched back before the Olympic break and seemingly adding stability and depth in forward Matt Moulson and goalie Illya Bryzgalov.
Since then, the Wild are 0-1-2, and any momentum they had prior to the trade deadline is long gone.
"Obviously we had some momentum, we had kind of a good thing going, and now we're kind of struggling to find the right mix, the right chemistry, whatever it is," said Wild coach Mike Yeo, in a scene becoming eerily reminiscent of this time a year ago, when the Wild survived (just barely) a late-season fade to make the playoffs. "We're not in sync, we're not the same that we were, not consistently enough. As long as we keep working to find that, once we find that we'll be fine, but we've got to aim to do it sooner rather than later."
For a few minutes anyway on Tuesday, everything seemed to be clicking. Against a bad team, at home, facing a new goalie that hadn't played in a while, the Wild pounced. A trio of goals in a 4:16 span by Zach Parise, Jared Spurgeon and Jason Pominville got the crowd going and made it look like it was to be an easy night. But on the bench, there was trouble brewing.
"You could just sense, even though we were up 3-0, we weren't feeling good," said Parise, who was playing in his 600th career game and added a shootout goal. "We played with no intensity, no urgency, felt like we got a little cocky and that was it. We let them right back into the game. And they didn't go away. They kept coming at us, but we let them back."
Up 3-1 in the second, the Wild had a perfect opportunity to put this one out of reach, getting 84 seconds of 5-on-3 power play.
"If they score there, it's over," Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said. And 84 seconds later, the Wild's two-goal lead remained. It was still 3-1 with the third period half over, before a pair of Oilers goals forced overtime, then a shootout. Wild goalie Darcy Kuemper, who has been rock-solid in these post-overtime skills contests. On Tuesday he gave up three Oilers goals on four shots, and the Wild lost their second shootout in a row.
"I've been saying just take it one game at a time and don't get caught up in the highs, don't get caught up in the lows, just try to stay even keel," said Kuemper, who had 23 saves but is still looking for that 12th win that will give him the franchise mark for most by a rookie goalie. "And I think as a group that's just what we've got to do, and with the busy schedule it helps because you're right back at it two days later. We just have to come to the rink tomorrow with the right mindset and have a good practice and be ready for New York."
The Rangers come to town on Thursday, then the Blue Jackets two days later. Neither will be an easy guest. Then things get much tougher, as the Wild play eight of their next 10 on the road.
Spring seems to have arrived in Minnesota. And by now, after Tuesday's letdown in St. Paul, Wild fans are certainly nervous that their team's feared spring swoon may be upon us as well.