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Wild's big night spoiled by postseason elimination

Minnesota did its part to stay alive on Tuesday but Colorado's win over Edmonton assures first playoff miss in seven years

by Dan Myers @MNWildScribe /

ST. PAUL -- It's the kind of game that will drive a team bonkers.

Among the jungle of questions the Wild will answer over the final few days of the regular season, one is more prominent than the rest: Where was this the past couple of months?

Minnesota scored three times in the first period en route to a dominating 5-1 win over Central Division-leading Winnipeg, a victory that was seemingly never in doubt.

It was the kind of victory that Wild fans have grown accustomed to over the years, especially at home, where Minnesota has had one of the biggest home ice advantages since entering the League in 2000. 

That success just hasn't manifested itself in 2018-19, and it's perhaps the biggest reason the Wild will miss the postseason for the first time since 2012. 

Video: Boudreau postgame vs Jets

"If you miss it, you just get madder next year," Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said, "and you know what it feels like and that you don't want that feeling again."

The Wild entered the night with a sliver of hope, and did its part by winning. An early 2-0 lead for Edmonton over Colorado provided a lift ... and perhaps some belief that its season would survive, at least for another couple of days.

But Minnesota's dreams of a playoff miracle melted away in the span of eight minutes of the second period in Denver, as the Avalanche scored six unanswered goals in an eventual 6-2 win, a victory that mathematically eliminated the Wild.

Wild players watched Edmonton's early advantage wither on the vine from the bench, checking the arena's out-of-town scoreboard during TV timeouts or during breaks in the action.

Video: WPG@MIN: Parise opens scoring on fluky goal

"We were on the bench pretty excited when you see it's 2-nothing Edmonton," said Wild forward Zach Parise. "And then next thing you look up it's 4-2 which is kind of demoralizing."

By the time hope began to fade, the Wild had already rung up a four-goal lead, playing one of its most complete games on home ice in some time. 

Video: WPG@MIN: Parise pots loose puck for second goal

Parise, who missed four games with a lower-body injury, scored twice in the first 13 minutes of the contest to give Minnesota's offense a giant shot in the arm. He's just two goals away from reaching 30, a mark he's accomplished just one other time in his Wild career.

Victor Rask scored his second in a Wild uniform late in the first to give Minnesota a 3-0 lead after one. 

That's about the time the events in Denver got started and eyes in St. Paul began to wander.

"I'm not staring at it when I'm on the ice, but when I'm on the bench and I have some time and TV timeouts, I look up there just to see what's going on," Foligno said. "Obviously the situation that we're in, I know a lot of guys do."

Video: WPG@MIN: Eriksson Ek goes bar down to pad lead

Minnesota built on its lead when Joel Eriksson Ek lasered a shot under the crossbar for a 4-0 advantage. Edmonton scored twice in a four-minute span in the first period to grab the early lead.

Suddenly, things were looking up. 

Minnesota took a 4-1 lead to the final period before the bottom fell out in Denver ... and on the Wild's postseason dreams. 

Video: Locker room postgame vs Winnipeg

"We played a really good game. I mean, too little, too late in the season in general. We had a lot of chances at home to play like this, and it catches up to you obviously," Foligno said. "It's such a hard league and you never want your fate to be in someone else's hands or some other team's hands."

The reality of the situation quickly took the shine off a great win over a division rival, one that ensured a 5-0 record against Winnipeg this season.

Video: WPG@MIN: Foligno's shot sneaks through Comrie

"We've said before, unfortunately we're in this spot right now," Parise said. "I think everyone wishes we would of given ourselves a little bit more of a chance and wouldn't be chasing like we are." 

With two games remaining in the season, and the home finale on the docket Thursday night, goaltender Devan Dubnyk said the team still has plenty to play for. 

That includes the 18,000 or so that will likely show up to see the team off for the final time this season.

"We want to fight until the very end. The only thing we could do tonight is win the hockey game," Dubnyk said. "We also owe our fans a couple good efforts here at home. We haven't been able to provide that for most of this year. That was a good start. This is a place we love playing and we owe them a couple. We got one tonight and we'll see what happens in the other game."


Postgame Hat Trick: Wild 5, Jets 1

Video: Parise, Wild top Jets to keep playoff hopes alive

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