NEW YORK -- The mood was somber, the room quiet.
Nobody was talking when the media gained access to the Minnesota Wild's dressing room late Sunday night. The players were unstrapping their equipment and loading it into their hockey bags. Trainers were coming by to help with skate guards and really anything that would speed up the process to get the Wild out of Madison Square Garden and on the bus to Philadelphia as quickly as possible.
As for answers to questions about how the Wild are going to get out of their prolonged scoring slump, mouths were moving and words were being said, but nobody could really come up with any solutions.
"I don't know. I don't know," Zach Parise said following Minnesota's 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers. "Shoot more? I don't know. It's just been a frustrating stretch for us. We haven't played great. I don't know. We've gotta find a way to score. That's the bottom line. We're not scoring. We're not giving ourselves a chance. We're not scoring goals."
SOG: 144 | +/-: 1
The Wild are 29th in the NHL in goals this season with 2.16 per game. Their offensive woes have rendered their eighth-ranked defense (2.32 goals-against per game) almost meaningless in the past month.
"When you put yourself in a hole, it's hard to get out of it when goals are tough to come by and you're just overall not feeling good about the way you've been playing," Parise said. "It's hard to get out of it."
The Wild were never an offensive juggernaut, but at least they were scoring enough through their first 24 games of the season (2.58 per game) to become a serious threat in the Western Conference.
Minnesota was 15-5-4. Now it is 20-13-5 and past the point of forgetting about one bad loss and moving on. The losses are beginning to mount.
"After a while you have to rectify some problems rather than just say, 'We'll get 'em tomorrow, we'll get 'em tomorrow,' " Parise said. "We've gotta look at what we're doing and why we're not getting offense. I think it's just too many one and outs. That's been our problem for a while. Try for a quick play, that doesn't work, we turn it over and now we're back in our own zone defending again. That has been, in my opinion, the biggest difference as to why we're not getting very much zone time."
The players and coach Mike Yeo think it's happening because the Wild's confidence has simply eroded to the point where they become almost paralyzed when they give up goals. They just don't have the belief that they're going to score enough to win a game, even though their defense and goaltending as a whole hasn't been problematic.
Yeo said he thinks focusing on the process rather than the end result will help them.
"The more you struggle to score goals, the more you struggle to get wins, the more you end up focusing on those things," Yeo said. "When you're feeling good and the goals are going in, when the wins are coming, you're just playing. We have to kind of get back to that, just get back to what's our process for winning a game, what's our process for scoring a goal and trust that if you go do those things, then you'll get rewarded."
The Wild clearly had trust in their process earlier in the season, when they were confident that with their strong defense and goaltending they could score enough to win. They thought they had it back in the first period Sunday, when they had a strong start, got a goal by Jason Pominville 4:08 into the game, kept up the pressure and sustained offensive zone time.
They had a 10-4 advantage in shots on goal halfway through the first period.
"It was one of the best starts we've had," Yeo said. "The way we were moving the puck it felt like we were in a spot where we were a few weeks ago, a month ago maybe, but you could tell that confidence is shaken right now by individuals and as a group."
The Rangers tied the game with a power-play goal before the first intermission and grabbed a 2-1 lead with 8:34 left in the second period. It was 3-1 before second intermission.
The game might as well have been over. The Wild were outshot 17-5 in the second period and 36-25 for the game.
"Especially when they got that second one I think we became a little demoralized and kind of changed the way we were playing the game," Parise said. "Once they got that second goal, we became a little flustered and just were never able to regain any momentum."
The Wild will try to figure it out again Monday in Philadelphia, but at least they're being reasonable. They don't expect their fortunes to change with one shift, one period or one game.
Even if the Wild play a strong game, score some goals and get a win in Philadelphia to head into the three-day holiday break on a high, it won't mean that they're back or that they've gotten over the hump again.
"You have to build it, and the only way of doing that is shift by shift," captain Mikko Koivu said. "It's not going to come automatically."
"We have to play the right way to create, and by creating that brings the confidence and that's going to bring the goals. You can't just go out and score a goal. You have to do the right things first to get the chances, get the momentum and build it that way."