Myers: Loss to Anaheim was a costly one for Wild in many ways
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ST. PAUL, Minn. - In a word: costly.
In terms of physical and mental health, and in terms of the way the Minnesota Wild are perceived, internally and externally, what happened on Tuesday was costly.
On a night when the Wild's 40-minute effort should have, by all rights had them leading by four or five goals, they left the door open a crack for the Anaheim Ducks. In the final 20 minutes, the Ducks kicked the door wide open, scoring twice to force a 2-1 loss for the Wild, when a win was clearly in their grasp. But the loss in the second period may turn out to be much more costly than the loss at the final buzzer.
The Wild's day began with one rookie who has huge offensive potential boarding a plane for Texas. It ended with another offensively gifted rookie being helped to the dressing room after suffering a vicious blind-side hit to the head.
How quickly Mikael Granlund returns from minor league exile in Houston may have something to do, at least initially, with how quickly Jason Zucker returns from the "upper body injury" (often NHL code words for a concussion) he suffered when he was hit, hard by Anaheim's Corey Perry into the boards, in the corner to the right of Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller.
After lying motionless for several minutes, Zucker was helped from the ice, first by teammates, then by trainers, and went right to the locker room. He did not return, and his condition is unknown, although Wild coach Mike Yeo said he hoped to have an update on Wednesday.
"I didn't watch it enough times," Yeo said of the hit, which earned Perry a five-minute major penalty and an ejection from the game. "I'm emotional right now. We just lost a tough game and we lost a player in that game. So I'd have to watch it a few more times, but you never like seeing one of your players get hit like that. Obviously...I'll just leave it at that."
Through 40 minutes, the Wild had out-shot the Ducks 22-7, led 1-0 and likely deserved a lead of at least double that margin. They're failed to score on the five-minute power play, and on 90 seconds of 5-on-3 power play in the first period, but had gotten a man-advantage goal from Devin Setoguchi. For the game, they went 1-for-5 on the power play, which is not getting it done.
"Obviously we've got to work on our power play," Yeo said. "We looked like a power play that hasn't had any practice time and that's because we haven't had any practice time. So we've got to address that, and we will. We did some good things, we've just got to find a way to win those games."
Their failure to expand the lead, either on the power play or five-on-five, meant that after 40 minutes, the Ducks were still just one shot away from a tie. And they knew it.
"Sometimes there are games where it's like you're skating in quicksand, and that's what it seemed like we were doing in the first two periods," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "But hey, we're right there after two periods. We're only down one-nothing, and it gives you enough life to play one good period and you can win the game. And we did it."
The Ducks are now an amazing 19-3-3 and have beaten the Wild three times. In a normal season - one not dominated by Chicago going without a regulation loss for half the year - Anaheim would be the talk of the league. Losing to a team with that kind of reputation and record shouldn't necessarily sting this badly. But the Wild, playing so well lately, came into the night with the attitude that it's time for them to join the league's elite, and fulfill the promise and hype that is a product of last summer's free agent splash.
After fighting Anaheim's Patrick Maroon in the first period, Wild tough guy Zenon Konopka sat in the penalty box for five minutes without his jersey and shoulder pads, wearing a t-shirt bearing the team's season slogan on the back.
"TAKE THE NEXT STEP. NO EXCUSES." it read.
By the end of this costly evening, the Wild had been handed a loss, and a significant injury, Maroon had scored the tying goal after the home club let the Ducks hang around far, far too long. Konopka and a few other teammates were left with little more than a sweaty t-shirt, with that next step still to be taken.