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Updated: May 3rd, 2014 12:57am
Zulgad: Wild coach doesn't want to hear excuses after loss to Hawks

Zulgad: Wild coach doesn't want to hear excuses after loss to Hawks

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by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

CHICAGO -- The Wild played a Game 7 that went into overtime two days ago. The Wild was facing a well-rested and incredibly skilled Blackhawks team. The Wild had to open the second round of the playoffs on the road.

Coach Mike Yeo could have found any number of reasons, read excuses, to explain away his team's 5-2 loss on Friday night to Chicago at the United Center. To Yeo's credit, he was interested in hearing none of them.

Instead, Yeo called out his team, but no individuals, and made it clear he expects big improvements when Game 2 of the series is played Sunday afternoon.

"There were some good moments, but trust me we're not happy with our game tonight," Yeo said after seeing the Blackhawks score the final three goals of the game, including two by the ultra-talented Patrick Kane. "I felt that we didn't have everybody at the level that we needed to be at so we'll rectify that, we'll recognize that (and) we'll be better next game."

Yeo knows that failure to display improvement will result in another short playoff series against Chicago. Last season, the Blackhawks easily ousted the Wild in five games. But the Wild are considered to be much improved and are coming off a seven-game win over Colorado in the first round.

The Blackhawks closed out their first-round series in six games, ousting the St. Louis Blues on Sunday. This gave them time to rest. The Wild had no such advantage. Following an overtime win at Colorado on Wednesday, the Wild boarded a plane and headed to Chicago.

There were moments when the Wild did look spent on Friday, but there also were plenty of signs of life. The Hawks outshot the Wild 13-8 in the first period, but Minnesota held a 17-3 edge in the second and finished with a 32-22 advantage in shots for the game.

After falling behind 2-0 on power-play goals by Bryan Bickell and Marian Hossa, the Wild rallied to tie the score in the third as Clayton Stoner and Kyle Brodziak beat Chicago's Corey Crawford.

"Obviously, it was a very winnable game for us," Yeo said. "It didn't have a feel of a game that we were going to win for sure, but to get yourself in that opportunity and you're starting to come on.

"Five-on-five we were pretty good for a lot of points there, for a lot of periods of the game, but you've got to buckle down in those key moments, in those key situations. We've been stronger than that lately ... this is nothing to hang our hat on. It's about the next challenge in front of you."

The Wild failed to live up to the challenge after Brodziak scored off Erik Haula's nice pass in front. Kane went right past Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin and beat Ilya Bryzgalov with a beautiful backhand shot less than two minutes after the Minnesota scored.

Kane scored again, his fifth of the playoffs, at 16 minutes, 47 seconds of the third and Bickell got his second of the game into an empty net at 17:19.

"For the most part, I liked how we played," Wild winger Zach Parise said. "We had a lot of good in-zone time, a lot of good rush chances. But we didn't capitalize when we needed to and they scored on their power plays."

Yeo clearly did not feel the same, although he refused to say whose play left him wanting more. There was little question that Brodin would have been in that group. Brodin took two of the Wild's three penalties and both led to goals. It didn't help when Kane dashed by him.

"I'm not going to start singling guys out right now," Yeo said. "I felt that we had a handful of guys that were below average at best. Whatever the reason for that, whether it's the quick turnaround, whether it's not being able to get adjusted, reset and focused on this, we'll have to rectify that for sure."

And if the Wild fails to rectify things?

"This is a veteran team that recognizes the importance of that game," Yeo said. "(Chicago) taught us a lesson last year in Game 2 (of the playoffs). We thought that we had a game that could have gone either way and we thought that maybe we could have won that game.

"As far as I'm concerned, they taught us a lesson and something that we better be prepared for. The next game, we have to recognize the importance of it. They're going to recognize the importance of it, and the areas where we weren't good enough and the guys that we know can bring more will be ready to bring it."

If that isn't the case, this could be a short series. 

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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