'We're in hell,' says Yeo as Wild blow a lead, and game, at home
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ST. PAUL, Minn. - For the Minnesota Wild, their coach and their fans, this may be what rock bottom feels like. Or at least, they hope it can't get any worse than this.
On a sunny Saturday with the streets of the capital city filled with St. Patrick's Day revelry, the team in green did a good part to dampen the mood, building a 3-1 lead against the Carolina Hurricanes, then allowing four unanswered goals in a 5-3 loss.
For the Wild, it was their eighth setback in the past nine games, as they remain mired in 13th place among the 15 Western Conference teams.
"We're in hell," said Wild first-year head coach Mike Yeo. "It's not fun."
Kyle Brodziak offered perhaps the only significant spark, scoring one goal and assisting on the other two. But even for him, but the end of the game, the fans' cheers had turned to jeers.
"We just need to find ways to win games," Brodziak said. "Everyone in here is sick of losing. It's not a fun feeling, getting booed in your own rink. We know we deserve it and we've got to find a way give fans something to cheer about. Something to make ourselves proud."
This is all new territory for Yeo, and clearly these are the games that give him fits. After some losses he defends his team and praises their efforts. This was not one of those games, as the "come from ahead" loss stung him.
"It's beyond frustrating," he said. "It's hard to put it into words right now. You win hockey games by doing all these little things right. Things that we know how to do. We know how to do them, we know what they are, but we're not doing them."
In fairness, the Wild did plenty of good things in the first two periods, moving the puck and getting pretty goals by passing and going to open areas. When Brodziak set up Erik Christiansen on the power play for a tap-in that made it 3-1, it looked like the Wild would give a good-sized crowd of fans in all shades of green a holiday treat.
But Drayton Bowman's second goal of the game, a centering pass from behind the goal line that banked off Devin Setoguchi's skate and into the net, made it 3-2 at the end of 40 minutes, and seemed to foreshadow ominous things to come in the third.
"We play two pretty good periods. We've got a lead going into the third period at home. That's the perfect scenario. That's what you want," Brodziak said. "We let them take the game to us, and you're bound to lose when you make the mistakes we made."
While some called the third period letdown a matter of the Wild sitting on a lead, they did manage a dozen shots on goal. But every good thing the Carolina Hurricanes did ended up in the Wild goal, including an empty-netter for the final margin.
"The message is pretty simple," Yeo said. "We all have to hate losing a lot more than we do. You can never accept this. I don't care who we've got out of the lineup, you cannot accept this."
It all seemed to be going smoothly for the Wild until the third period collapse, which started when Brandon Sutter and Tim Brent scored 48 seconds apart. Sutter's goal came when he turned a 2-on-3 break into a breakaway with the teams skating 4-on-4. Brent's goal came on a shot from the blue line that found its way through a crowd in front of the net.
• 18: Career-best goals total by Brodziak this season. His 37 points have tied a career high.
• 3: Goals in the last three games by Erik Christiansen.
• 11: Times in the last dozen games that the Wild has allowed the game's first goals.
• 22: Consecutive games without a goal by Nick Johnson, before he scored in the second period on Saturday.
Niklas Backstrom was spotted leaving the locker room, wearing a nice suit after the game. In his place, Hackett was starting his sixth consecutive game. Defenseman Clayton Stoner was playing his third game in a row after missing 17 games with a lower body injury, but made a critical mistake early in the game, turning a puck over that led to Carolina's first goal.
"It was an unfortunate play for the first goal, but that's why you've got 19 other guys out there, to go after it," said defenseman Tom Gilbert, who collected his second assist in the nine games he's played in Minnesota since coming over in a trade with the Oilers. "We did a lot of good things in the first period."
Hurricanes - Drayton Bowman 4 (unassisted), 1:02
Wild - Kyle Brodziak 18 (Kampfer, Gilbert), 7:08
Wild - Nick Johnson 7 (Brodziak, Scandella), 12:33
Wild - Erik Christiansen 4 (Brodziak, Clutterbuck), 15:24, PPG
Hurricanes - Bowman 5 (Sutter, Stewart), 17:14
Hurricanes - Brandon Sutter 15 (Bowman), 7:16
Hurricanes - Tim Brent 11 (Staal, Tlusty), 8:04
Hurricanes - Chad LaRose 16 (Jokinen), 18:45, ENG
Shots: Wild 4-10-12-26; Hurricanes 8-11-15-34. Saves: Wild, Matt Hackett (29-33); Hurricanes, Brian Boucher (23-26). Power plays: Wild 1-for-2, Hurricanes 0-1.
1. Drayton Bowman
2. Kyle Brodziak
3. Brandon Sutter
Two more outings remain on the Wild's five-game homestand. They get back into Northwest Division play on Monday, hosting the Vancouver Canucks at 7 p.m.