Simple math is trouble for Wild in overtime loss to Columbus
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Perhaps this is what they call a microcosm: a prime small-scale example of, generally, how things have unfolded for the Minnesota Wild all season.
The team plays OK at first, gets in trouble, rallies to inspire the fans, appears to be on the verge of something great, and then makes just enough mistakes to lose. At least, that was the case on a sunny Saturday afternoon, as the Wild led, trailed, rallied, and ultimately, lost, for the fifth time in a row, this time 5-4 in overtime to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The play that will be remembered, sadly, is Brent Burns coughing up the puck in front of his own net in OT. Instead of connecting on a pass to Mikko Koivu, Burns fanned on the pass, giving it directly to Antoine Vermette in front of the Wild goal. Vermette snapped the puck past Niklas Backstrom to give the Jackets the win, and leave the Wild still looking for its first two-point game in what seems like forever.
Yes, a point was earned thanks to the Wild getting to overtime. And that was an accomplishment in itself, after Columbus led 4-2 with a little more than five minutes left in regulation. But after four straight losses on the road, earning a point in another loss was a very, very little consolation.
"Doesn't mean a thing. Out-shoot a team or get out-shot, it doesn't matter. You need two points," said forward John Madden, who had two assists in a game for the first time in more than a year. "You need to find a way to win hockey games. You can analyze it all you want, and cut it any way shape or form. We only got a point, we need two. We need to keep going. We need to forget about that game."
The Wild trailed by a pair late in the third, after Rick Nash scored twice and assisted on two more for the Blue Jackets, Antti Miettinen scored off a nice feed from Nick Schultz to at least give the Wild some life. It was a nice personal comeback for Miettinen, who had been benched for a time in the second period, only to get his first goal in 17 games.
"I didn't like his first period -- catching passes, making plays," said Wild coach Todd Richards, of the decision to plant Miettinen's butt on the bench for a time. "I liked what (Chuck) Kobasew brought in the first period. He had some energy so I moved him up. In the third period I was just trying to find fresh legs and mixing and matching. Putting Mietinen back there, he scores a huge goal for us to give them some more life."
Pierre-Marc Bouchard tied the game, potting the rebound of a Jared Spurgeon shot, and the Wild looked primed to win the game in overtime, dominating play in the Columbus zone. But then there was one slip-up by Burns, and just like that, the losing streak was at five games.
The coach and players took some solace in the fact that the Wild plays again on Sunday - a home game with the Montreal Canadiens - and has another chance right away to get a few important points in a race for the playoffs which is getting further and further out of reach by the day.
"It's mathematics. We're still there. I don't know how many points we're back now but we're still there," said Richards. For the record, the Wild is still in 11th place, five points behind 8th-place Calgary, pending Saturday night's NHL results. "We got a point tonight. We would've liked two. But now we've got a big two points to pick up tomorrow, and we have to be ready for that."
A glance at the clock shows another game is indeed looming. A glance at the standings, and at the calendar, shows that wins are needed pronto, or there may be nothing else to get ready for soon.