Alexander Shun | @alexpshun
Digital Content Manager | KFAN.com
The miserable month of March has continued for the Minnesota Wild as they lost for the third-consecutive time, falling 3-2 to the lowly Detroit Red Wings on Sunday afternoon.
One day after playing one of their worst games of the season in a 4-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks, the Wild gave a more complete and inspired effort against a Red Wings team with nothing to play for. An effort that Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau was, despite the loss, admittedly proud of.
“That’s the best game we’ve played in a month,” Boudreau said. "We played the right way today. We got it deep when we had to get it deep. You didn't see the constant odd-man rushes against for the most part. You saw playing the smart way. We had I thought good chances to score and win the game, but we didn't."
It wasn't just the team's head coach that saw the positives in the overtime loss, Wild players also thought they saw improvement in Sunday's performance.
"This is a better effort," Eric Staal said. "You have to feel better about our game as a whole. If you've watched us for the last few, we've been chasing games for sure, and tonight, we were initiating a little bit more, a little bit more on our toes. With some breaks, we would have extended the lead a little bit more."
Staal opened the scoring just before the midway point of the first period after the centerman got behind the Detroit defense and rang the puck off the post and into the net to give Minnesota the early 1-0 lead. Detroit responded just seconds before the period ended and it appeared as though it would be a tightly contested game. That rang true as the two teams exchanged goals before heading into overtime.
After an odd-man rush was stopped by Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard, - Howard celebrated his 33rd birthday by earning the win and stopping 24 of Minnesota's 26 shots - Detroit's Andreas Athanasiou snuck past Wild defenseman Matt Dumba, deked Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk who was sprawling out for a poke-check, and slid the puck into a wide-open net to send Detroit home with the victory.
"It looked really nice and nasty. Good for him," Red Wings forward Tomas Tatar said on Athanasiou's overtime winner. "He has tremendous speed, and it's great to see him use it."
Dubnyk finished the game with 16 saves on 19 Red Wing shots.
With the loss, the Wild have now dropped 11 of their 14 games in the month of March to slip seven points behind the Chicago Blackhawks in the Central Division and just two points ahead of the Anaheim Ducks for third-place in the Western Conference. Not only is Minnesota in danger of slipping behind the Ducks, but they could very well fall as far as fifth in the West as they sit just four points ahead of both the San Jose Sharks and Edmonton Oilers.
With games against the league-leading Washington Capitals and an Ottawa Senators team that is still jockeying for position in the Eastern Conference. Only seven regular season games remain for Minnesota and with the schedule not getting any easier the Wild recognize that they need to put their entire month f March behind them and start playing better before the Playoffs begin.
"Forget about what's gone on in the last couple weeks here and just play our game," Dubnyk said. "It's not going to be perfect every night, but if we work and work and get pucks deep and stick to the identity that we've created this year, that's what we need to do to build towards playoffs here."