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 New York Islanders at Xcel Energy Center.
A game after the Wild held a potent Chicago Blackhawks power play off the board, a good sign for a penalty kill that had been stuttering of late, the Islanders made the Wild pay with their power play opportunities.
New York cashed in on two of its man-advantages, and had the better of special-teams play on Tuesday.
"We definitely lost the special teams battle tonight," Jarret Stoll said. "Special teams is work. On the power play, it's work, on the penalty kill, it's work, and we just didn't bring that work tonight."
The Islanders bookended the game with power-play goals, with one in the first period, and one in the third. With the Wild able to cut its deficit to a goal late in the second, an early Islanders power-play goal in period three made the comeback a much more difficult task.
"It's not the way you want to start the third, obviously trying to take that momentum we had in the second there," Chris Porter said. "It was a little bit of a buzz kill, but you have to credit them. Their power play was better than ours tonight, but our power play has been carrying us the last few games, so it's on us five-on-five at home."
Special teams played a very large role in the outcome of the game on Tuesday, and the Wild came out on the wrong side of that exchange.
The Islanders made life very difficult for the Wild in the neutral zone, which had a trickledown effect, but really impacted what Minnesota was able to do offensively.
"We just got kind of got away from stuff," Charlie Coyle said. "Trying to make level plays kind of across, and easy turnovers for them to transition, going to our end and playing in our end."
When they don't have the puck, the Islanders hounded to get it back (as you'll read more about a bit later). Between the blue lines, New York doesn't sit back and wait for teams to try to come at them: they're in your face, not giving you time to think or make plays.
"[Torchetti] talks about making level plays, and we kind of slowed down the game too much," Matt Dumba said. "When we go to [Philadelphia] we're going to make a lot more, stronger plays going toward the net, and really drive pucks in. That's just something that we didn't do tonight."
One of the results of that was the Wild struggled to enter the offensive zone with support. Another factor was, when the Wild did create possession below the blue line, it was rushed into shots that didn't make it below the circle, and resulted in clears.
Gradually, the Wild adjusted, getting north by using the width of the ice to do so.
"We just kept trying to do everything one-on-one, and then even if we did get puck possession, we only had two guys going in on an entry, or if we had an entry, it was an even rush, or a two against three, and we didn't want to get the puck to the net," Torchetti said. "We were just trying to be too fine a line trying to win the game that way."
The Wild's power play, which has been as hot as any in the league the past month or so, had a stiff adversary on Tuesday in the Islanders' penalty kill, tops in the NHL.
And New York was stingy again when shorthanded, killing off each of the Wild's five power plays, and doing so rather aggressively.
"We knew they had one of the best penalty kills in the league, and they showed it tonight," Dumba said. "As a power play we have to do a better job at finding some looks, and making some better plays."
The Islanders penalty kill looks so different than any other PK in the league. Once that attacking team gains the zone, it applies high pressure, buzzing toward the puck carrier like their lives depend on it.
Given that structure, it's important to work the puck down low, distend the spacing of the PK, and stretch the ice as much as possible. The Wild was able to do that a few times, going high-to-low-to-high, and hitting some seams, but wasn't able to crack the Islanders pressure.
"We have to beat the wedges — that's the aggressive part — and I thought we did it, but then we didn’t get it inside with the shots," Torchetti said. "We have to look to shoot and attack."
There were definitely moments when the Wild could have benefited from a stronger net-front presence.
It's an area interim Head Coach John Torchetti has referenced on multiple occasions as a key for the Wild's offensive success. And on Tuesday, there were plenty of second-chance opportunities that Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak left in the area around the crease.
But the Islanders either got to those loose pucks first, or there wasn't a Wild player stationed close enough to make a play.
The Islanders were up to 23 shots on goal through two periods, and where the Wild had to slog to get through the neutral zone, the Islanders breezed over the two blue lines at times without much traffic to deal with.
Which is strange for a group of guys who spend most of their time in Brooklyn.
The Wild had trouble standing up New York in the neutral zone, unable to provide some kind of speed bump or impediment to the Islanders transition.
"We want to get pucks in, and get on them, and create our work-ethic that way, and get pucks to the net," Coyle said. "But when we try to make those plays across the blue line, and it's a bad bounce, and it goes the other way, then we're playing into their game, and we don't want to do that."
Gaining the zone that crisply and quickly afforded the Islanders more space and, the Wild conceded a lot of shots on goal.
With a two-goal cushion for most of the third, the Islanders didn't come with the same offensive stick-to-itiveness as the first two periods, and could sit back more and protect. But New York had left its mark in the first 45 minutes.
"It seemed like every time the puck was going, we were coming, and every time the puck was coming, we were going," Torchetti said. "We have to do a better job with our puck possession."