Two words describe the Valentine's Day game effort from the Minnesota Wild:
After the 'Irish God of War', Owen Nolan, staked the Wild to a 3-0 first period lead against the seemingly hapless Ottawa Senators Saturday night at Xcel Energy Center, the Senators stormed back and scored the next FIVE GOALS IN A ROW over the next 46 minutes to defeat this current putrid excuse for a Wild team, 5-3, before another sellout of 18,568 mostly unhappy customers. (Nice way to wreck Valentine's Day; thanks for nothing, boys.)
After Nolan rolled up two goals and one assist during the game's first 13 minutes, the Senators replaced ex-Wisconsin Badger goalie Brian Elliott with veteran ex-Vancouver Canuck Alex Auld. Well, folks, the wake-up call was answered by one team. Too bad it wasn't the one wearing the Iron Range Red sweaters.
Failure after failure was the Wild's own doing in the last two periods, as screw-up after screw-up found its' merry way behind Niklas Backstrom (until he was replaced for the third period by Josh Harding) and into the Minnesota goal, as the Wild stopped skating, stopped pressing the attack into the Ottawa zone, and basically tried to play the 'hockey prevent' defense for two full periods. And we ALL know what happens when you go into a prevent defense, don't we? You prevent yourself from winning!
In fact, it got SO BAD at one point, the Sens scored twice in a 3:28 span, with both goals coming while Ottawa was SHORTHANDED!
And the recipient of all this largesse? You won't believe this, folks, trust me...
OWEN NOLAN, who was on the ice for 4 of the 5 Ottawa goals, winding up an unbelieveable -1 for the night.
The Wild are now 11-3-1 against the Eastern Conference, with three games left against the East. And, they are all on the road; at New Jersey, at Madison Square Garden vs. the Rangers; and on Long Island vs. the (again, seemingly hapless) Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.
Hapless? You want hapless? I'll show you hapless...just replay this one.
If you dare.
We found the assembled multitude booing and hissing after the game ended:
Chicken Little: Nolan gets two goals, one assist and still winds up a -1 for the night? What is this team coming to, anyhow? Can anybody here skate for 60 minutes?
Pollyanna: Could we keep the offense up a little more next time, please? Thanks!
Bottom Line: This game was worse than the Calgary 3-goal lead which they blew last season.
You have an amped-up crowd on Valentine's Day, being surcharged premium prices for tickets, who are supposed to be watching a team act like they want to be in a playoff race. That effort tonight was not indicative to a playoff run. It looked more like they wanted to run away into the night.
Wild went from world-beaters to Egg Beaters in less time than it takes to make a good breakfast. Jacques Lemaire, in his post-game presser, promised things would be different, starting at Noon on Sunday. (I think a number of Bag Skating sessions would fit right about now...don't you?)
Stud: First period: Nolan...he looked like he was having fun out there, always in the right spot.
After the first period, nobody was a stud. (Except maybe Daniel Alfredsson of Ottawa...)
Dud: First period: No one. They skated, they moved well, they worked hard.
Second and Third periods: I'm really tempted to say Nolan, but Kim Johnsson looked like he was in Mites most of the night. He was getting out-classed even by Filip Kuba, who returned off the scrap heap to get in on the fun. Kimmy J, you're the Dud tonight. Wear it proudly; you earned it.
Next: vs. Calgary, Thursday, Feb. 19, 7:00 PM Central (6 PM Mountain), Xcel Energy Center (TV: KSTC-45, Flames Pay-Per-View; XM Ch. 239)
WRT (a very P.O.'d Wild STH right now...)