To be a fly on the wall inside the Wild locker room on Friday night at Enterprise Center. It’s not hard to imagine coach Dean Evason lighting into the Wild after an abysmal opening 20 minutes of play against the St. Louis Blues.
Especially after the 56-year-old coach warned about the dangers of coming out flat against the Stanley Cup champions from a couple of season ago.
Who cares that the Blues have struggled as of late? Who cares that the Wild were fresh off a blowout win over the rival Colorado Avalanche? Neither of those things mattered to Evason in the hours leading up to this particular matchup.
“Our game should not change,” Evason said before the game. “It has to be the same. It doesn’t matter who, where, or when we play. As soon as that puck is dropped, we should play the same way.”
Those words clearly didn’t resonate as the Wild stumbled out of the gates and limped their way to an embarrassing 9-1 loss. The game itself was hardly competitive as the Blues gained the upper hand early on and never looked back
“I don’t know what to say,” Jonas Brodin said after the game. “That’s not us. We didn’t come out ready. Just a bad game.”
You almost started to feel bad for Wild goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen as time progressed. Though he clearly wasn’t on his “A” game between the pipes, his teammates were basically nonexistent in front of him.
“Not a fun experience,” Kahkonen said. “That was embarrassing for myself. I felt I let my team down. Just a tough night.”
Asked whether he considered taking Kahkonen out of the game to preserve his confidence Evason responded, “Nope. Not at all.”
To that point, Kahkonen responded, “It’s not my decision. I just try to stop the next puck whatever the score is.”
Things started to go off the rails for the Wild early in the first period as the Blues got a goal from Zach Sanford to make it 1-0, then a goal from Jaden Schwartz a few minutes later to make it 2-0.
While the Wild cut the deficit to 2-1 with a goal from Zach Parise later in the first period, Schwartz responded with another to help the Blues restore their lead to 3-1. Not long after that Sammy Blais made it 4-1 late and essentially put the game away for good.
“There’s a lot we can take from the game,” Parise said. “We can learn from the mistakes. I thought their puck support was really good. They were able to hit the middle a lot and make short passes to get out of the zone. It seemed like they always had two guys around the puck and we were getting outnumbered. Usually that’s us outworking the other team.”
If the there were any thoughts of a Wild comeback in the second period, Ryan O’Reilly quickly put an end to that with a goal to make it 5-1. He followed it up with a shorthanded goal few minutes later to make it 6-1, then South St. Paul native Justin Faulk increased the lead to 7-1 shortly after that.
That set the stage for the third period where both the Wild and the Blues look content to run out the clock. Well, except for Jake Walman, who scored midway through the third period to make it 8-1, then Ivan Barbashev, who finalized the score at 9-1 down the stretch.
“Everything that’s been poorly done all season was poorly done not only early but often and throughout the game,” Evason said. “It was just one of those nights where absolutely everything went wrong.”
Luckily for the Wild, they won’t have to think about this loss for too long. They have rematch with the Blues on Saturday night.
“It’s a game that we just toss away,” Evason said. “It has to be. We play tomorrow and that’s the best part. We don’t even have that day off in between. We don’t have to dwell on it. It’s gone and we’ll get prepared for tomorrow night. ”