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Early deficits continue to haunt Wild in loss to Oilers

Minnesota never able to get on track after Edmonton grabs early lead in St. Paul on Thursday

by Dan Myers @MNWildScribe /

ST. PAUL -- Virtually all season, the Wild has been one of the best teams in the NHL at battling back from early deficits. 

Minnesota's 15 wins when its opponent scores the first goal of the game is second-most in the NHL, tied with Winnipeg, one behind the League's best team, the Tampa Bay Lightning. 

But the Wild has scored the game's first goal just 19 times in 55 games this season, fewest in the NHL. After digging out of early deficits in the other 36 games, the Wild has to hope that isn't catching up to it.

Minnesota faced another early deficit on Thursday in a 4-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers. 

"It seems like every single game we have an early hole to dig out of. We have to fix it," said Wild forward Jason Zucker. 

On Thursday, it was Darnell Nurse's goal 2:15 into the contest that forced the Wild to overcome another early hole. Tuesday in Buffalo, Evan Rodrigues gave the Sabres the lead 4:31 into the game. 

"It definitely [stinks] to get down by a goal and it just seems like it's always early. It really takes the wind out of your sail when it's five minutes into the period and it's a goal that goes in," said Wild forward Marcus Foligno. "But at the end of the day, you have to be tough in this league and you gotta be able to battle through adversity. One goal with a lot of time left shouldn't put you in that kind of slump hang your shoulders and say, 'Here we go again.' We gotta be able to battle through it and we gotta be a little more tougher mentally."

That was the disappointing aspect of Thursday's game.

Edmonton entered having gone winless in six consecutive games. A win by the Wild would have dealt the Oilers' playoff hopes a serious blow.

Instead, Minnesota lacked the energy and chutzpah to climb back. Edmonton outshot the Wild 8-6 in the first period as the more than 18,000 in attendance had little to get itself involved.

Tweet from @mnwild: "There was 55 minutes left in the game. If you���re going to give up or get so down after five minutes because you���re down a goal, then we���re in bigger trouble than we think.��� �����Bruce Boudreau after #EDMvsMIN

"This was the quietest that I've heard it in the first period, ever, but we didn't do anything to excite them, either," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "There was 55 minutes left in the game. If you're going to give up or get so down after five minutes because you're down a goal, then we're in bigger trouble than we think."

It didn't help when Ty Rattie scored off the rush 4:32 into the second period, giving Edmonton a 2-0 lead.

At that point, Boudreau was left to try and push the right buttons to get his team going.

Joel Eriksson Ek, recalled from Iowa on Wednesday in the wake of the news of Mikko Koivu's season-ending injury, provided it. His goal 2:50 into the third period pulled the Wild back within a goal and brought life to the arena for the first time all night. 

Video: EDM@MIN: Zucker sets up Eriksson Ek for 200th point

But a questionable interference call put Edmonton on the power play a couple of minutes later and it too the Oilers exactly 20 seconds later on a tic-tac-toe goal by Leon Draisaitl.

Edmonton simply salted things away from there, eventually adding an empty net goal with 1:20 left.

"We gotta start getting a little bit more swagger, a little more confidence as forwards in our top guys. And again, that includes myself," Zucker said. "We gotta make sure we score goals and win games because we're not going to win many games scoring one goal. It's not going to happen."

Edmonton, which won for the first time in seven games, pulled to within two points of the second wild card spot in the Western Conference. It was the second time in a month a team has come to Xcel Energy Center and snapped a multi-game winless streak. 

Tweet from @mnwild: "I think the whole arena was asleep tonight after that effort. It was pretty embarrassing. We���ve got to make sure we have a bounce-back game." �����Marcus Foligno after #EDMvsMIN

"I think the whole arena was asleep tonight after that effort. It was pretty embarrassing," Foligno said. "We've got to make sure we have a bounce-back game. 

It's a weird game. There was just not much going on. It seems our mental toughness is a little weak right now after the first goal going in. Team's got to find a way to bounce back and we just kind of sag and guys kind of get a little bit down on themselves for no reason. We've got to shape that up."

Boudreau expressed a strong sense of urgency. At the beginning of the night, nine of the Wild's next 10 games came against teams not inside the playoff bubble. 

Beginning Feb. 26 at Winnipeg, the schedule shifts, and five-straight games (and six of seven overall) will come against the NHL's very best teams. 

It doesn't help that the Wild's margin for error in the standings is getting smaller by the day.

"If you look at our schedule starting at the end of the month, this is the time that you have to be successful," Boudreau said. "This was sort of the last straw. Everybody now has caught us or within a point, so it's either find your sense of urgency and do what you have to do to win or bad things are going to happen."


Postgame Hat Trick: Oilers 4, Wild 1

Video: MIN Recap: Zucker records 200th point in loss

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