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 2-1 loss against the New Jersey Devils at Xcel Energy Center.
A game after the Minnesota Wild took 15 shots in the second period of a big divisional win against the Dallas Stars, its game Sunday against the New Jersey Devils had a decidedly different feel.
The pace and execution level the Wild sustained against Dallas wasn't there. The offensive zone time Minnesota had, forcing Dallas to defend for long stretches, turned into primarily one-offs.
"We go out and beat a top team in their own building like that and then come out like that and not play a full 60 — we’re too good of a team to come out flat like that and not play our game," Charlie Coyle said. "We can’t afford games like that."
Before the game on Sunday, Head Coach Mike Yeo cautioned against the Wild suffering a letdown, but that warning alone wasn't enough.
"It was a pretty ugly, uneventful game," Zach Parise said. "For whatever reason [at home], we’re not playing with any pace, we’re not controlling the puck well, we’re not moving it well, but we’ve just been flat."
The Wild didn't concede much defensively, allowing 17 shots on goal, but had difficulty finding any offensive rhythm.
"I mean, seven shots after two periods in your own rink against a team that, no disrespect to them, but they’ve got a lot of guys injured, a lot of minor league players that are playing for them; it’s not good enough," Parise said. "We want to catch Chicago, we want to catch St. Louis; we can’t come out and play like that.
Not only did Parise score against his former team on Sunday, but it was also a milestone goal.
Parise, who leads the Wild with 16 goals this season, has now scored against all 30 teams in the NHL.
The damage was done from Parise's usual spot, in that home plate area around the goal. He set up shop atop the crease, and Mikko Koivu weaved his way down toward the goal line. Just when it looked like Koivu might make his way behind the net, he laid a pass back in the direction of Parise, who one-timed a puck inside the far post to tie the game at one (VIDEO).
Two quick minor penalties in succession put the Wild on the wrong end of a 5-on-3, and in a tough spot, at the end of the first period.
Goals scored just before intermissions always seem to swing momentum, but the Wild escaped 42 seconds of the 5-on-3 to end the first, and then killed off the final 55 seconds to open the second period on fresh ice, never an easy task.
The trio of Mikael Granlund, Ryan Suter, and Jared Spurgeon was out for the tail-end of the penalty kill, and did a masterful job of practically shutting down the five New Jersey skaters. The Devils possessed the puck in the zone, working it around, but were kept to the outside.
In all, the Devils recorded one shot on goal over the final 55 seconds of their two-man advantage, a wrist shot from 16 feet out by Travis Zajac.
During that sequence, Granlund and Spurgeon each blocked a shot, the Wild forced the Devils into shooting wide, before the 5-on-3 became a 5-on-4, and then the Wild was at even strength.
Darcy Kuemper, who recently missed six games with a concussion, returned on Sunday.
Though he backed up in the Wild's 2-1 win against Dallas on Saturday, the game against New Jersey was his first action in goal since December 22. While there is never a good time for an injury, Kuemper was held out at a time he was playing some of his best hockey.
Getting Kuemper back now is crucial considering how busy the schedule is for Minnesota. Devan Dubnyk played a back-to-back last week in Florida, and including the one the Wild just played, Minnesota will have four sets of back-to-backs in four weeks.
"I think I've had one pregame skate with the group since I’ve been back," Kuemper said. "Some of the timing needs to be a little bit sharper. I need a little more practice time."
And while Dubnyk was a workhorse (and a very dependable one) last season, having an effective understudy will be critical in getting Dubnyk the rest he needs to be successful late in the season.
He knew what was coming, but a funny hometown, rookie welcome for Minnesota-native Mike Reilly in his first game at Xcel Energy Center.
As pregame warmups began, it was Reilly, and not Kuemper, who led the Wild out onto the ice.
Now call it a hunch, but Reilly probably knew what was coming next. With a conversation that probably went something like, "Hey Mikey, we want you to lead us out onto the ice tonight," Reilly sure knew he was in for some rookie hazing.
"I had a little clue that was possibly going to happen," Reilly said. "I think they tried to take my helmet away from me too on the ice for a quick twirl without the bucket on. It was all fun.”
So as the 22-year-old hopped over the boards, leading the charge, he wasn't followed by his teammates. Instead, Reilly skated a lap around the Wild's half of the ice, by himself.
"I guess it happens to a lot of guys for their first home games, so it was kind of cool," Reilly said.
He went on to turn in the stronger of his two weekend performances, jumping into a few rushes and coming very close to scoring his first NHL goal on two occasions.
"I was more nervous for tonight's game than yesterday's, but I was just trying to contribute, and use my speed," Reilly said. "Defend well first, and then if there's a chance to jump, and it's the right time, then yeah do that."