Wild.com's Dan Myers gives three takeaways from the Wild's 6-1 loss against the Boston Bruins at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Saturday night:
1. The Wild returned from a nine-day break.
Needless to say, it couldn't pick up where it left off before it left. After winning three of four games going into the layoff, the Wild looked like a club that spent some time away. Passes weren't crisp, entries weren't clean, special teams was shaky ... all the things we've seen from nearly every other team coming back from these breaks over the past week or so.
That's the bad news.
The good news is that the Wild will have a couple more days of practice to try and get things right before hitting the ice again on Tuesday night when it returns to home ice once again to face the Chicago Blackhawks.
While the Wild can't afford many more losses like the one it got on Saturday night, the silver lining is it came against a non-conference opponent that, for all intents and purposes, has its playoff ticket punched.
The game against Chicago on Tuesday marks the beginning of a crucial, crucial, CRUCIAL stretch of games, beginning with Chicago, and continuing against Vancouver, Dallas and Colorado. A matchup against Vegas looms on Feb. 11. All of these teams are ahead of Minnesota in the standings, and the games against the Blackhawks, Canucks and Golden Knights could loom especially large at the end of March.
2. Minnesota's penalty kill came out sluggish.
First of all, the Bruins power play is elite, entering the day ranked second in the NHL. The line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak might be the best in the NHL. Toss in a guy on the backend like Torey Krug and you're asking for trouble when you head to the penalty box.
Well, the Wild got itself in penalty trouble on Saturday night and paid for it, not once, not twice, but three times, as Boston scored a trio of second-period power-play goals, extending an early one-goal lead into a 4-0 advantage heading to the third.
Granted three power plays of its own through 40 minutes, the Wild just couldn't keep pace.
Video: BOS@MIN: Zuccarello scores in 3rd period
Mats Zuccarello broke the shutout bid of Jaroslav Halak with 5:29 remaining, but Boston answered with late goals by Anders Bjork and Jake DeBrusk to provide the final margin.
3. The Wild joined the rest of the sports world in honoring Lakers great Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and the seven others lost in a tragic helecopter crash last weekend in Los Angeles.
Matt Dumba, who spoke earlier in the day Saturday of the effect Bryant had on him as an idol of his growing up in Canada, wore a special jersey for warmups, taking his normal No. 24 jersey and putting a 'BRYANT' nameplate on the back.
Video: Matt Dumba pays homage to Kobe Bryant, crash victims
Then, during the national anthem, Dumba, in his 24 jersey, was the only Wild player to stand on the blue line.
The team also lit the ice surface in purple and had a moment of silence in remembrance of all the victims.