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 5-1 loss against the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre.
Before the Winnipeg Jets took a 1-0 lead against the Minnesota Wild on Sunday, a 3-0 score line was already of the upmost importance to Minnesota.
The Wild lost 5-1 to Winnipeg on Sunday, its final road game of the 2015-16 regular season, but the St. Louis Blues also defeated the Colorado Avalanche 5-1, meaning the Wild inched closer to securing a spot in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Minnesota has now lost three straight games in regulation, not to be overlooked or underplayed, but the Avalanche's regulation defeat means its tragic number now stands at two: Any combination of the Wild earning or Colorado missing out on two points and Minnesota will clinch a playoff spot.
Much like the Wild's loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Friday though, another night when the Wild came out in better playoff position than it started, the gains by Colorado's loss didn't mask or alleviate the sour of a regulation loss.
"That wasn't even close to good enough tonight," Devan Dubnyk said. "We have to figure it out here; we have two games left."
There didn't appear to be out-of-town scores posted anywhere at MTS Centre, but the Wild made it clear this morning its focus would be squarely on the surely, always physical Jets team it was opposite.
Still, with the Blues finding the net early and often against Colorado, it set the Wild up for a chance to clinch on its own accord.
"It's disappointing we didn't play harder with a chance to seal it up here, but you can’t get down at this point of the year," Ryan Suter said. "We're sitting in a good spot still, and we just have to get it going the last two games."
It began with another start the Wild wasn't happy with, getting outshot 13-7, and falling behind 1-0. Over this three-game losing streak, Minnesota has been outshot in first periods 24-12, creating an uphill climb in each.
"I wish I knew, but we have to play way better, and we have to be way more focused," interim Head Coach John Torchetti said. "We have 20 players, and we need all 20 to play the game."
Chasing a deficit and now having to compete against its opponent and the clock, the Wild has segmented its past three games, getting out of the blocks later than it would like.
"It's strange," Dubnyk said. "We have to be ready to play playoff hockey from the start of the game. It's kind of been the last three. We have moments where we start to play toward the end of the game."
And so for the second time in the past three days, the Wild failed to earn a point, but so did Colorado. Not that the Wild is content to back into the playoffs — it said as much this morning, stressing the need to play well over its last three regular season games.
Now the Wild will return home to Xcel Energy Center, with at least two shots to earn a spot in the playoffs.
"We're going get throttled (in the playoffs) if we're going to play like this," Dubnyk said. "I'm not worried about it — I don't think we are — but we know that's not even going to come close come playoff time.
"We don't want to be sliding in. We got lucky the last couple of nights, and we have two games to get on track here and get going, and I'm sure that's what we'll do."
In need of another spark, Torchetti juggled his lines for the second straight game on Sunday, beginning early in the second period.
It was then when he flipped Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund, two forwards who switched lines in the Wild's past game, with Coyle moving to center, and Granlund to the right wing.
They alternated spots again against Winnipeg, with Coyle going back to the right wing on the top line, and Granlund centering the second.
From there, Torchetti tried a number of different combinations, keeping his top and third lines intact, but juggling his other six forwards.
In the third period, Torchetti went back to using Granlund on a line with Parise and
Koivu, and it paid off when, in similar fashion to Detroit, the line dug out a loose puck around the goal, whacked away, and finally, Granlund was able to capitalize to make it 2-1.
"[Granlund is] skating hard, and working without the puck," Torchetti said. "That line looked good tonight when we had them together there.
"But we're not getting three of our top four lines going. We're only maybe getting one-and-a-half going. That's what we have to do moving forward. We need three lines for sure that have to be firing on all cylinders."
Discipline, something Torchetti felt the Wild was lacking in its first period on Friday against the Detroit Red Wings, was again a problem for Minnesota in its first 20 minutes at MTS Centre.
The Wild took two penalties in relatively quick succession sandwiched around a Winnipeg minor in the first. The latter, a Nino Niederreiter trip, gave Winnipeg a power play it used to take a 1-0 lead.
And much like the Wild's first period at Joe Louis Arena against the Red Wings, in which it was outshot 11-5, the even-strength shot totals were a lot closer: Minnesota was outshot 7-4 on Friday, and 8-7 on Sunday.
"We didn't get the first period we wanted to have," Torchetti said. "We took two penalties, and not even scoring chances to take a penalty on, so that was lazy hockey there."
The Wild's penalty kill, which has been a major area of strength lately, was beaten twice on Sunday, and is now 2-for-5 in its past two games. It's a small sample, and could be a blip on the radar, but in the meantime, as always, the Wild is best served keeping games at five-on-five.
An area Torchetti said he would like the Wild to get away from is making level plays at its offensive blue line when it needs to get pucks deep.
There were times the Wild would have been better served flipping the puck toward the Jets goal line, avoiding a turnover and a counter the other way.
Winnipeg's second goal was a direct result of a play that went the other way off a turnover at the Wild's defensive blue line.
By not getting pucks deep, the Wild also couldn't establish much of a consistent forecheck, which allowed Winnipeg to spend less time in its own end.
With that the final divisional game the Wild will play this season, Minnesota finished 14-10-5 against Central Division teams, no small feat playing in the NHL's most cutthroat division.
The Central has been touted all season as the quote-unquote division of death. All season, five of its teams looked like locks to make the playoffs. Entering Sunday, it had three of the five top point-earning teams in the NHL, and seven teams that have been to the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the past three seasons.
For the Wild, finishing with a .569 winning percentage against those difficult opponents has gone a long way in Minnesota maintaining its footing all season. Extrapolating that success over an 82-game schedule would equate to a 93 point pace.
A 5-0-0 season series against the Blackhawks certainly helped, as did a 4-0-1 resume against Colorado.