This game didn’t really look like the Minnesota Wild versus the Pittsburgh Penguins. It seemed a little more like when Team USA played Iceland for the first time in the second “Mighty Ducks” movie. Or maybe like when the Ducks had a huge lead against the Blake Bears in “D3” only to allow them to come all the way back.
“We got killed,” said head coach Bruce Boudreau. “We got outplayed in every facet of the game. … When they turned it on, we had no answer for them.”
— Giles Ferrell (@gilesferrell) January 26, 2018
The Wild suffered one of their worst losses of the season, going down 6-3 in Pittsburgh on Thursday night in their final contest before the NHL All-Star Break. It was obvious from the start that the Wild didn’t have their “work boots” on, Boudreau said.
The Minnesota Wild already had a couple lopsided, awful losses this season, coming in 7-2 defeats to Winnipeg and Colorado. This game was right up there in the poor effort category.
“We weren’t very good, that was pretty evident,” said Eric Staal. “We weren’t quick.”
Things were bad right out of the gate for the Wild as the Penguins took control in their offensive zone. The first goal came after a flat-footed Staal turned the puck over just before his own blue line. The next one came from behind the net, off defenseman Ryan Suter and then goaltender Devan Dubnyk before sneaking into the back of the net.
The Penguins led 2-0 through the first period, but it could have easily been 4-0 or 5-0 had it not been for a few highway-robbery saves by Dubnyk.
In the second period, Matt Dumba failed at clearing the puck out of the Wild zone; it seemed to bounce off Joel Eriksson Ek at awkwardly at the blue line. Oh, and the Wild’s defense looked all kinds of interesting as they allowed a 4-on-2 rush in the second period for a 4-0 lead.
The fourth goal was enough for Boudreau to pull Dubnyk with 9:05 remaining in the second period. Unfortunately for Dubnyk, this was a case where his teammates just didn’t play well in front of him. It was one defensive breakdown after another, leading to the first four Pittsburgh goals.
Dominik Simon bookended the scoring effort for Pittsburgh, doubling his goal total for the season (four). Evgeni Malkin scored a pair and had an assist. Carl Hagelin and Brian Dumoulin also scored their fourth and third goals of the season. Sidney Crosby and former Gopher Phil Kessel each had three assists.
The last two Pittsburgh goals came at 1:42 and 2:32 of the third period. The Penguins outshot the Wild 15-6 in the first period, 11-7 in the second and 39-26 for the game.
Boudreau tried twice to wake his team up. First, it was pulling Dubnyk, which didn’t seem to work. After the Penguins went up 6-0, Boudreau called a timeout. Maybe that was a jolt that worked for the team.
“I said, ‘just play with pride,’” Boudreau said of his message during the timeout. “We may not win the game, but you’ve got to get back to the way you’re supposed to play.”
They scored three goals in about three minutes to cut the deficit to 6-3 with about eight minutes left in the third period.
The Wild thought they got on the board in the second period when Jonas Brodin fired a shot past the goaltender on the power play. So it was a 4-1 game… until the Penguins challenged the call for goaltender interference. It didn’t seem like any big deal to the average hockey viewer, but Mikko Koivu apparently skated too close in the crease and made contact with the goaltender’s stick.
The officials overturned the call, saying there was goaltender interference on the play. Boudreau wasn’t happy at first but said it was the right call once he saw the video.
“It would’ve still been quite a mountain to climb,” Boudreau said.
For those glass-kinda-full folks, the Wild weren’t shutout since they scored that trio of goals. Staal fired a quick snapshot over the glove to make it 6-1 with 11:16 left in the third period. It was his team-leading 20th goal this season, breaking a tie with Jason Zucker who snapped his three-game scoring streak.
Just 2:06 later, Mikael Granlund scored his 15th of the season. Then Brodin got his redemption for that goal that was taken away, scoring on a shot from the point to make it 6-3 with 8:14 left in the third.
Of course, the damage was already done a long time before. Moral victories don’t have a place in the tight Central Division where getting points for each game is almost a necessity. They’re now 2-6 in their last eight road games overall.
“We’re one of the best teams at home and one of the worst teams on the road,” Boudreau said. “We’ve got to find some way to get the road back.”
Dubnyk (18-10-3) with 17 saves on 21 shots in 30:55 in goal; Stalock (8-8-2) with 16 saves on 18 shots in 29:05 in goal. Casey DeSmith (3-2-0) with 23 saves on 26 shots.
The Wild fall to 9-14-1 on the road this season.
The Wild went 1 for 5 on the power play. Their penalty kill gave up two goals and two chances to the Penguins, a team with the top power play in the league versus a 26th-best road penalty kill for the Wild.
Crosby tallied three assists but didn’t score a goal, keeping him at 399 for his career.
Matt Cullen received a standing ovation in Pittsburgh when they played a tribute video for the former Penguin.
The Wild will have a long time to think, or forget, about this performance before their next game. They’ll take on the Columbus Blue Jackets next Tuesday following the All-Star break.