Despite what their record might suggest, the Wild have been playing with fire for the past week and a half. And they finally got burned on Sunday night at Xcel Energy Center.
It turns out constantly playing from behind is, in fact, not a recipe for success in the NHL. Even if the Wild proved otherwise time and again on their way to a thrilling 4-0-0 start.
On this particular night, though, the Wild let the Nashville Predators jump out to an early lead and never recovered in a humbling 5-2 loss.
“Our energy has been real good up to this point,” coach Dean Evason said. “For whatever reason, we had nothing here tonight. To put a finger on it, I don’t know. We should have had more than we had tonight.”
Maybe the Wild lacked energy because they have had to play from behind in every game this season.
Sunday marked the fifth consecutive game the Wild allowed their opponent to score first. This time around, Predators star defenseman Roman Josi did the honors to make it 1-0, beating Kaapo Kahkonen with a shot from the slot a few minutes into the game.
It got worse from there, with center Ryan Johansen scoring a couple of minutes later to make it 2-0, then once more before the end of the first period to stretch the lead to 3-0.
“We didn’t have a lot of energy at the start there,” Wild captain Jared Spurgeon said. “Give them credit. They took it to us right off the bat.”
For the Wild, the only good thing to come out of the night was an impressive effort from the so-called fourth line. The combination of Nico Sturm centering Brandon Duhaime and Nick Bjugstad has been very good this season, and they continued that trend against the Predators, providing a ton of energy in their limited ice time.
“We knew (the Predators) were going to be desperate, which they were, and we didn’t come close to matching it,” Evason said. “To a man, likely besides Sturmy’s line, we were all bad.”
That line finally got rewarded midway through the second period when Bjugstad unleashed a snipe to cut the deficit to 3-1.
That sequence left some wondering if the Wild were on their way to yet another comeback, but Predators winger Filip Forsberg put those thoughts to rest with a deflection to make it 4-1. Not long after that, winger Tanner Jeannot scored a highlight-reel goal, whacking the puck out of midair to push the lead to 5-1.
A few seconds before the second period came to a close, Sturm scored to make it 5-2, cleaning up an initial shot from Duhaime. That’s as close as the Wild got.
In search of something in the third period, Evason switched up his lines for the first time this season, putting Ryan Hartman with Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello, and Joel Eriksson Ek with Jordan Greenway and Marcus Foligno. Asked about the decision postgame, Evason explained he was trying to create a spark by reuniting the Greenway-Eriksson Ek-Foligno line, in particular.
That spark never came. Instead, the Wild failed to convert on a couple of power plays, and the Predators tightened up down the stretch to secure the win.
“It seemed like we were kind of spinning the wheels in the sand there,” Sturm said. “It was like the harder we tried, the less it seemed like it was going to go our way.”
“It’s definitely a lesson to learn,” Sturm added. “At some point we’ve just got to score first. It’s as simple as that.”