After two wins in a row against the Montreal Canadiens and Edmonton Oilers, both games in which the Wild looked very good and seemed to gain some confidence, Minnesota fell to the Nashville Predators 4-0 on Thursday, extending the winless streak to seven games against the reigning division champs.
Things actually got off to a pretty good start as the Wild outshot the Predators 13-4 in the first period and manufactured several great scoring chances, including a redirection off the post by Marcus Foligno just under a minute in.
Minnesota kept the pressure going throughout the remainder of the first period, tightly checking Nashville and preventing them from getting much going offensively, giving Alex Stalock a pretty uneventful start to the contest. The Wild got close to scoring once again late in the period after a nifty play by Jason Zucker to get the puck across to Mikko Koivu, though the captain could not raise the puck and was denied by Pekka Rinne in tight.
The second period started about as bad as one could imagine — a trend with the 2019-20 Wild. Just 37 seconds in, Miikka Salomaki received a pass and sniped a wrist shot past the blocker side of Stalock from the top of the circle to give the Predators a 1-0 lead. It was not an ideal start after controlling most of the first 20 minutes, as Nashville seemed to wake up a bit after the goal, and Minnesota was generating fewer and fewer chances through the middle period. Then, with about 30 seconds left in the frame, Calle Jarnkrok let go a wrister from about the same spot Salomaki did, beating Stalock blocker side through a partial screen by Ryan Suter.
Minnesota got a couple nice chances in the first half of the third period, including this one from Jason Zucker off a nice feed from Zach Parise.
Unfortunately, Zucker could not find the net, and the Predators came down and made it 3-0 when Craig Smith found himself all alone in front of the net with no Wild players in sight. Aside from a power play, nothing much else happened for Minnesota, and Colton Sissons scored on a shorthanded breakaway with just over three minutes to go to put the game away.
Overall, it was not the worst performance by Minnesota, as they controlled the first period and stilled play well into the second (though their lack of offense plagued them, as well as a couple of bad defensive breakdowns).
The Wild fall to 3-7-0 on the season with a matchup at home against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.
Answers to our Burning Questions
1. Stalock up for the challenge?
While you can’t really pin the loss on Stalock, the fact of the matter is that he allowed four goals on 21 shots, which isn’t very good. After a couple solid first starts of the season, and a nice performance in relief of Dubnyk against Edmonton, it was hoped that Stalock would be able to keep it rolling against Nashville. That didn’t happen, and while a couple of the goals were on bad defensive mishaps by his teammates, the truth is that this team needs to have very good-to-great performances from its goaltenders each game considering just how inconsistent the offense can be. Unfortunately, Stalock just didn’t do that.
2. Can Minnesota keep the offense going?
Nope! Minnesota obviously did not keep the offense going tonight as every one of their 26 shots were stopped by Pekka Rinne. They did have some good chances, especially in the first period, including a Marcus Foligno redirection off the post and Mikko Koivu being robbed by Rinne in tight. But aside from that, offense was very hard to come by for Minnesota the rest of the game. The Predators seemed to tighten up in the final 40 minutes and seemed to limit the Wild’s chances.
While this is a bit of a broken record at this point, the Wild still do not have the offense of a truly good team like Nashville. When they do not capitalize on their great chances (like they failed to do tonight), it will be very hard to win hockey games. The only solution for Minnesota is to just keep grinding in the offensive zone and hope they can get a bounce or two to boost their confidence with the puck. Perhaps that could lead to brighter days in the scoring department.