Road trip ends with another loss as Wild fall in Toronto
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
Some teams count the days until the playoffs start, eager to begin the next portion of the season. For the Minnesota Wild, it's more likely they're counting the days until the six-day All-Star break, as this team definitely needs to hit the "restart" button on a season that's quickly careening out of control.
Thursday night's 4-1 loss in Toronto was just the recent lifeless effort by a Wild team that finished a 0-3-1 road trip and has now fallen to third place in the Northwest Division and out of the Western Conference playoff picture.
The Wild's perfect storm of troubles added a new element on Thursday, as the punchless offense and porous defense was boosted by undisciplined play. Cal Clutterbuck hindered his team's chances in the last game, taking four penalties in a 5-1 loss at Philadelphia. This time it was Kyle Brodziak chirping at the officials long enough to be assessed a double minor late in the second period, with the Wild trailing 3-0 and hopes of a comeback fading fast.
"Those are the things we're doing to ourselves," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "We can get mad at the refs, but it's not their fault. They're calling penalties because we're doing things and we're making mistakes and taking penalties we shouldn't be taking."
We've all heard stories of overbearing hockey parents chewing out their children for a lackluster effort on the ride home from the rink. With the Wild bringing their fathers along on this road trip, we're hoping the team didn't get an earful on the postgame ride to the Toronto airport.
The Wild have been in a funk for more than a month now, plummeting from atop the NHL standings to out of the conference's top eight in that time. And Thursday's game was just the latest example of a team, offensively and defensively, that seems to be waiting for someone else to do the hard work required to break the slump.
"I think what we need right now is for all of us - myself, the rest of the staff, the players - to take a really good, hard look at ourselves and figure out what we can do better and what more can we bring to the table," Yeo said.
Trailing 2-0 early, the wild dominated play for the latter half of the first period, but again could not score. By the time they did get a goal - a bad angle shot by Nick Johnson that somehow found its way between Leafs goalie Jonas Gustavsson and the post - the Wild were down by a quartet of goals and the final minutes were ticking away.
There is increasing talk that Wild general manager is working the phones hard, looking to trade for any kind of influx that could provide a new look and some new life for this team. And as the Wild's situation gets increasingly desperate, the price other teams want Fletcher to pay will certainly be going up.
When you're struggling on the road, it's vital to be competitive early, and not let your opponent, and your opponent's fans, get into the game. That idea took less than a minute to go out the window, as Nazem Kadri cut right to the wild net and swatted a bouncing puck past Niklas Backstrom for a 1-0 lead. It was the start of a trend witnessed all night, as Maple Leafs forwards had a distressingly easy path to the Wild net in most instances.
"If you don't have that kind of battle level and if you don't have more desperation in those areas, then that's going to be the result," Yeo said.
• 11: Road games in a row with out a win by the Wild, who are on a 0-9-2 streak away from St. Paul.
• 9: Consecutive starts by Niklas Backstrom in which he's allowed three or more goals.
• 3: Assists by Toronto's Joffrey Lupul, who was named the game's first star.
Defenseman Justin Falk was a healthy scratch.
Maple Leafs - Nazem Kadri 4 (Lupul), 0:50
Maple Leafs - Joey Crabb 8 (Steckel), 5:11
Maple Leafs - Phil Kessel 25 (Lupul, Connolly), 15:48, PPG
Maple Leafs - Mikhail Grabovski 15 (Lupul, Gardiner), 0:47
Wild - Nick Johnson 6 (Brodziak, Stoner), 17:33
Shots: Wild 9-4-8-21; Maple Leafs 8-15-10-33. Saves: Wild, Niklas Backstrom (29-33); Maple Leafs, Jonas Gustavsson (20-21). Power plays: Wild 0-for-1, Maple Leafs 1-6.
1. Joffrey Lupul
2. Jonas Gustavsson
3. Nazem Kadri
The Dallas Stars come to visit St. Paul for a one-game Wild home stint on Saturday. Then it's back on the road for a trip to Colorado on Tuesday. After that date with the Avalanche, the Wild have a week off for the All-Star break.