Following Wild games, Content Coordinator Evan Sporer will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at the Wild's 4-1 loss against the St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center.
ST. LOUIS –
It didn’t play out like the previous two, but the second period was again a difference-maker for Minnesota on Saturday, and not in a good way.
On the Wild's three-game, winless road trip, the Minnesota conceded eight goals in three second-periods, a minus-six combined in the middle frames.
Minnesota deserved better in the second period on Saturday, taking a franchise-record 24 shots on goal for a road game, outshooting the Blues 24-8.
Yet St. Louis scored three times in the second period, and the Wild scored once, putting Minnesota in a two-goal hole with 20 minutes remaining in a road game.
"We had a pretty good first, a great second, and anytime you get 24 shots in a period, it should be a good period for you," Jarret Stoll said.
In Brooklyn, a 1-0 Wild lead became a 3-2 Islanders advantage in the second period. Two days later in Manhattan, the Wild lost its grip of a 2-0 lead at Madison Square Garden, entering the third period tied 2-2.
Again, the second period on Saturday was dramatically different in how it played out, with the Wild dominating in every facet except the scoreboard, but that won't be much of a consolation.
"I don't think the score was indicative of the play tonight," Head Coach Mike Yeo said.
Saturday morning, General Manager Chuck Fletcher said the Wild needed to get back to playing the right way, and paying attention to the process.
It's a results-oriented business, and when the results aren’t going your way (as they haven't been for Minnesota the past month) that will be the loudest voice. But the Wild won't go too many games like it did on Saturday and not walk away with two points.
"You probably are," Jason Pominville said. "You'll probably end up getting more than one goal on most nights. Their goalie made some good saves, we made some good plays, and we just couldn't find a way to score."
The Wild outplayed the Blues. It outshot St. Louis, out-possessed St. Louis, and did many things that portend earning two points.
The statistics and the eye-test both favored the Wild: Shots on goal were 39-24, shot-attempts were 32-20 (63-37 at all strengths), and scoring chances were 36-24 The only way you lose in a game like that is a big night for the other team's power play, and a big night from its goalie.
"It's frustrating, obviously the outcome of it, but on our side right now we have to look at the positives," Pominville said. "We showed a lot of fight. It's been a little while since we showed that much fight, and pushback, and had that many opportunities."
Brian Elliott was very good for the Blues. The Wild wasn’t without its chances, quality chances, but over the first 40 minutes, Elliott turned aside 30 Wild shots, 23 of which in a lopsided second period when he stood on his head.
"If we recognize that and we see what we put into the game tonight, and bring that back home with us, then we'll have a chance to get this turned around," Yeo said.
That's a game the Wild dominated at five-on-five, but the difference on the scoreboard and transitively, now in the standings, was special teams.
Minnesota had seven power plays and produced one goal (which we'll expound on later), and St. Louis had six, and scored on three of them, its margin of victory.
"The penalty kill let us down tonight," Stoll said. "It's been pretty good for the last while but it let us down tonight for sure. We all take a lot of pride in that, and there was one bad bounce, but you work for your bounces, and they worked hard for their bounces."
Entering Saturday, the Blues were in a definitive offensive slide, with three goals combined in their past four games. Then they equaled that total on their power play against the Wild.
"Tonight I think we actually played a good game," Mikael Granlund said. "We had our chances, we played hard, but then they score suddenly on the [power play], and we're down 3-0."
Despite going 2-2-1 over that stretch, St. Louis wasn't lighting the world on fire offensively, and none of those goals came on the power play as the Blues searched for ways to score.
"As a group, as a penalty kill, probably three is not going to get it done," Devan Dubnyk said.
A pretty solid return to the lineup for forward Tyler Graovac.
After not playing in the NHL since the Wild's season opener, Graovac looked very comfortable with the pace of play and physicality. He's not an overly physical player, but at 6-foot-5, 212 pounds, Graovac has the frame to play that kind of game.
His decision-making was decisive and crisp throughout the game, and he was strong in the neutral zone either facilitating breakouts, or winning pucks back.
Graovac didn't miss a beat, and fit in well on the Wild's third line.
With Thomas Vanek a healthy scratch, the Wild had to tweak its power play units at Scottrade Center in the midst of a stretch of having scored a power-play goal in four straight road games.
The new units consisted of Nino Niederreiter, Mikko Koivu, Charlie Coyle, Ryan Suter, and Marco Scandella, and Zach Parise, Mikael Granlund, Jason Pominville, Matt Dumba, and Jared Spurgeon.
When Spurgeon left the game in the second period due to an injury, Justin Fontaine was used in his place.
(On Spurgeon, Yeo said: "I don't have an update yet, but one thing I know about [Spurgeon] is when he leaves a game, it's not something small. Again, I'm not going to sit here and say that he's going to be out long term, but I will say that I know he was in pain.")
So in the early stages of the game, the Wild's new units looked to establish chemistry and fluidity. It came gradually, and by its fourth power play, Minnesota connected when Dumba crashed the crease and scored on a rebound.
The Wild's power play continues to score in visiting buildings (now on a five-game streak), which can provide a major boost.
With the number of opportunities it had though, that boost could have been bigger.
"We obviously would have liked to get one or two more there tonight," Yeo said.