Plenty of shots on goal, not enough shots in goal in another Wild loss
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Many amazing memories and souvenirs from Europe are heading west on the Minnesota Wild's team charter, due to arrive in the Twin Cities in the wee hours of Saturday morning. But sadly, after more than a week in Finland, and two regular season games at Helsinki's Hartwall Areena, just one point in the NHL standings is the only thing of real value accompanying the team on the trip home.
One day after losing the season opener 4-3 to the Carolina Hurricanes, the Wild forced overtime and a shootout on Friday, but came up short again, falling 2-1 to open the season 0-1-1.
The shootout loss was not for lack of offensive effort in the first 40 minutes and in the overtime. But despite 42 total shots on goal, Carolina goalie Cam Ward offered two reminders in the contest: 1) There's a reason he owns a Stanley Cup ring, and 2) it's shots in goal, not shots on goal that count.
That was glaringly obvious with the teams skating 4-on-4 in the five-minute overtime, when the Wild had an 8-1 advantage in shots, but could not solve Ward for the game-winner.
"We created enough chances to win both hockey games," newly-acquired forward John Madden told the Star Tribune's Mike Russo afterward. "I thought Ward was the difference maker in both games."
Not that the Wild was lacking between the pipes, especially in a third period when Carolina out-shot the Wild 15-4. Niklas Backstrom stood strong, keeping the game tied 1-1 and garnering at least a point by getting to overtime.
Still, the question about who will score consistently for the Wild is still glaringly lacking a satisfactory answer. Andrew Brunette scored the Wild's only goal, providing a 1-0 first period lead, but none of the other 41 shots could find a way past Ward. Mikko Koivu and Antti Miettinen were each blanked by Ward in the shootout, while Brent Burns' shootout attempt missed the net. Hurricanes rookie Jeff Skinner scored the only goal of the shootout, sending his team back to Raleigh in possession of three points, and some momentum that cannot be found, at least for now, in Minnesota.
"They don't ask how, they just ask how many wins," Ward told the Associated Press. "We took that long flight in hopes of getting two wins here, and man, what a worthwhile trip. It was a fun experience, but winning on top of it makes it even better."
Those are sentiments surely not running through any heads on the Wild charter right about now.