It's tough to win with three great minutes, 25 brutal ones, and so-so for the rest. The Wild are having a a ridiculous amount of trouble stringing together consecutive quality shifts much less complete games. Flashes of brilliance are negated by periods of complete disarray.
Minnesota came out flying after the first intermission, moving the puck well and firing quality shots on Dan Ellis before he got yanked. But other than a few spurts, the Wild's offense was virtually non-existent the rest of the way. Todd Richards' decision to scratch a healthy Petr Sykora has to be questioned in this case. Sending a message is one thing if things are going well and you can afford it. But to sit a 20-goal scorer when goals have been so hard to come by is a head-scratching move.
Richards, for whatever reason, does not seem to have a solid grip on his team and the whispers of dressing room dissension--although not surprising--are troubling and indicative of deeper issues than wins and losses.
The players, however, must begin to play harder and smarter at both ends of the ice. A very weak backcheck by Derek Boogaard leads to the first Predator goal as he coasted in the zone before making a half-hearted reach for the puck and becoming a spectator. Marek Zidlicky and Brent Burns getting beat on the shorthanded game winner was inexcusable.
With a chance to tie in the waning seconds, Burns does a great job moving his feet to create a shooting lane but fires a high wrist shot into Preds goalie Pekka Rinne's chest. Chances for a deflection or rebound in that scenario? None.
This was a more-than-winnable game for Minnesota facing a team averaging less than two goals per game on home ice. It took Nashville less than five minutes to raise its scoring average and put the Wild into a hole with which it is ever so familiar this season.
While a sense of urgency has begun to creep into their statements to the media, that mentality continues to be conspicuous by its absence on the ice. One has to speculate whether Minnesota has finally reached a point where there is nowhere to go but up? If not, the ever-increasing boos will reach unprecedented levels if they haven't already.
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