ST. PAUL -- With the frustrations mounting on a regular season that's quickly running short on time, Wild coach Bruce Boudreau ran out of words following a 4-1 loss to the Dallas Stars on Thursday night at Xcel Energy Center.
For a guy that has a story for everything, is as gregarious a human being as there is and for someone who will talk hockey with virtually anyone that crosses his path, his lack of answers was telling.
Desperately in need of a big-time performance against a division rival, the Wild escaped a slow start to the first period by getting to the intermission scoreless.
It didn't have the same luck a period later, when Dallas capitalized on another lackluster start to the second, scoring three times in a little more than two minutes, giving the Stars more than enough breathing room.
Video: Bruce Boudreau postgame vs. Stars
"You guys have seen it all. If I'm going to say anything, it would be ripping players, but we were all I think watching the same game, and I don't want to rip players at this stage," Boudreau said. "We dodged a bullet in the first period. We talked about dodging a bullet and to pick it up and we didn't, and then you find yourself [down] 3-nothing. It's a tough hole when they have the puck the whole night."
After struggling to find much offense to close its road trip in Florida last week, the Wild was shut out Tuesday in a 3-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks.
The lack of offense, the date on the calendar and the Wild's precarious place in the standings has ratcheted up the pressure on players inside the dressing room.
"We're probably guilty of being a little aggressive earlier there in the first; they were really patient in the game, they had their D joining the rush, and they created a couple of odd-mans against us, and we didn't get enough back the other way," said Wild forward Eric Staal. "You have to stay within your game. We got away from it a little bit there, and obviously the start of the second got us behind the 8-ball and it was a tough hill to come back from."
Puck possession was again an issue for the Wild, which had just two shots on goal for most of the period, then went more than seven minutes to start the second without putting a single puck on goaltenders Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin.
Video: Locker room postgame reaction vs Dallas
"We didn't have the puck. We couldn't get through the neutral zone. We couldn't break out clean. They play really well defensively. You combine that with us not being great tonight offensively, it's what you're going to get," said Wild forward Zach Parise. "Our puck movement's not very good. It just felt like tonight it was tough to get up the ice. We'd love to get shots, but when you don't spend time in the offensive zone, it's hard to get shots. We're not getting into the offensive zone enough, and when we do it's not sustained; we're out pretty quickly and chasing the puck again. That seems like it's been like the theme. We want the puck."
Even the departure of Bishop to injury shortly after Dallas went up 3-0 couldn't get Minnesota going.
Bishop, who entered the game with three-straight shutouts, broke the Stars' franchise record for consecutive shutout minutes early in the first period, eventually running his streak to more than 230 minutes before departing with a lower-body injury.
The Wild greeted Khudobin with a power-play goal by Jason Zucker, but could never add on and get it back to a one-goal game.
Video: DAL@MIN: Zucker nets rebound for power-play goal
"When we saw Khudobin go, in your mind you're thinking 'let's attack the net. Lets get some shots,'" Parise said. "It didn't really feel like that was the case."
Now two games into a season-long five-game homestand, the Wild has to find a way to start piling up points. With just 11 games remaining in the regular season, opportunities to gain ground in the standings are becoming increasingly difficult to come across.
A win on Thursday would have left the Wild one point behind Dallas for the top wild-card spot in the West and three behind third-place St. Louis in the Central Division.
Instead, Minnesota is five points behind each team and will enter the weekend three points back of the Arizona Coyotes for the second wild card.
"It pisses you off. I've only made the playoffs once in my career. To be in a playoff spot for most of the season and now being out of it, it kind of looks like it's slipping away. We've got to figure it out," said Wild forward Marcus Foligno. "We still have games left to turn it around, but we keep saying that. We've been saying that a lot this year."
Postgame Hat Trick: Stars 4, Wild 1
Video: MIN Recap: Zucker scores lone goal in 4-1 loss