A longstanding late-season pratfall plagued the Minnesota Wild Thursday in their pursuit of the top spot in the Central Division.
They lost to a foe well out of playoff contention.
While Minnesota nevertheless picked up a point with its 5-4 shootout loss at Philadelphia, the team will aim to regroup Saturday against the skidding Chicago Blackhawks, taking the Flyers game as a lesson learned.
“They’ve got nothing to lose and you’re trying to climb the standings,” Wild forward Marcus Foligno said. “I’ve been on teams like that and you can beat some teams late. It’s got to come down to character and leadership and understand that we have to play the right way no matter what the circumstances are.”
Minnesota (41-22-9, 91 points) fell one point behind the Central-leading Dallas Stars, who edged visiting Pittsburgh 3-2 on Thursday. The clubs each have 10 games remaining, but none against one another.
Faltering late is never a good feeling, but it’s especially bitter under the Wild’s circumstances. Minnesota took a 3-2 lead late in the second period and surged ahead 4-3 on Matt Boldy’s second goal of the night 13:32 into the third before letting the Flyers force overtime.
“We weren’t very good,” Wild coach Dean Evason said. “They were good. We knew they were playing well; they played well tonight. We were loose. We were not firm. Turnovers. It didn’t look like our hockey club.”
Chicago (24-41-6, 54 points) hopes to salvage the finale of a five-game road trip. After winning 2-1 at Nashville on March 16, the Blackhawks have been outscored 15-3 in successive losses at Arizona, Colorado and Washington.
Blackhawks goaltender Anton Khudobin allowed first-period goals 18 seconds apart on Thursday in Washington, and the team trailed 5-0 before Nikita Zaitsev registered Chicago’s lone tally early in the third. It marked Khudobin’s first action in more than 14 months after his recovery from March 2022 hip surgery.
Chicago went 0-for-5 on the power play.
“It’s definitely tough right now and it’s a little embarrassing,” the Blackhawks’ Tyler Johnson said. “We have to play a lot better. We’re not sticking to our structure and sticking to our system. We’re just kind of out there right now. We have to compete and play a lot harder for each other.”
Teammate Jarred Tinordi agrees.
“I think we need to tighten up and simplify our game a little bit,” he said. “I think we’re kind of circling too much and kind of giving pucks away, and I think the way we had success earlier was just more of a north-south game.”
Wild defenseman John Klingberg (upper-body injury) missed Thursday’s game, but Evason said the team was hopeful for a return in the coming days.
Minnesota leads the season series with Chicago 2-0, including a shootout victory Oct. 30. The clubs, who haven’t played since Dec. 16, are set to meet twice in the final three weeks of the regular season.
–Field Level Media