New season, same old song in opener
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If you had dreams of the Minnesota Wild going undefeated in the regular season, you had a bit of an early wakeup call. In a season-opening outing that started before Noon, Twin Cities time, the Wild saw and early lead disappear, and fell just short of a third period comeback.
The 4-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in Helsinki exposed many of the same problems that had plagued the team in a dismal preseason, except this one counts. On the scene at Hartwall Areena in Helsinki, Mike Russo of the Star Tribune wrote that the opening act and all of its assorted problems served as a "perfectly crafted refresher" on what went wrong last season.
Things started swimmingly, as Guillaume Latendresse gave the Wild an early 1-0 lead, seemingly picking up right where he left off a year ago, when he came over from the Montreal Canadiens and scored 25 goals in a Wild sweater. After giving up the tying goal in the final seconds of the opening period (with Cam Barker in the penalty box serving an interference minor) the Wild surrendered three more in a sloppily-played second period.
Matt Cullen scored his first official goal as a member of the Wild in the second, briefly tying the game at 2-2, but the final minutes of the game ticked away with the Wild trailing 4-2. That's when Brent Burns scored on a wrist shot with just over three minutes left, giving the few hundred Wild fans in attendance a ray of hope. But despite out-shooting Carolina 11-7 in the final period, the Wild would get no closer.
Brandon Sutter scored twice for the Hurricanes, who perhaps smelled blood in the water when the Wild took penalties. Carolina coach Paul Maurice loaded up his team's lineupm with forwards on the power play, resulting in a pair of man-advantage goals.
"I'll do it again. If the power play struggles, it affects the offense, and it has been good to think of something which could be positive," Maurice told the Associated Press.
Finns Mikko Koivu and Antti Miettinen, playing before 12,000 or so of their countrymen, each had an assist in the loss, while Niklas Backstrom had 27 saves. But Wild fans have already got to begin wondering if we're in for a replay of last season, where winning just three of its first 12 games doomed the Wild from the start.
"We were getting beat up ice by their defensemen and their second wave, and that created some problems for us," Wild coach Todd Richards told the Star Tribune's Russo. "I have to go look at the tape and see how many odd-man opportunities we gave up off the rush. There were some areas in our game that were just disappointing."
The teams play in Helsinki again on Friday (11 a.m. Minnesota time) before returning to North America for the Wild home opened on Oct. 14.