Reeling Wild ’embarrassed’ in last loss, 7-3 in Calgary
CALGARY, Alta. — The Wild and the Flames are neighbors in the Western Conference standings, but the season opener between the two teams did not confirm their similar addresses.
Calgary trailed the Wild 7-3 on Saturday in front of 9,639 fans at the Scotiabank Saddledome, sending the Wild home after a week-long road trip to Canada on a three-game losing streak.
Overall, the Wild have lost five of their last six games.
“We were embarrassed tonight,” coach Dean Evason said. “Everyone, all of us, was embarrassed tonight. There wasn’t a single area of our game that was good.”
Matthew Tkachuk and Tyler Toffoli kicked off the Flames’ comeback after a first hole, each picking up three runs while Calgary scored five unanswered goals before tacking on a pair of empty nets.
In addition to capitalizing at 5-5, the Flames converted twice on the power play and once on the penalty kill.
“They just outplayed us, outplayed us in every area of the game of hockey,” Evason said.
After back-to-back losses in Ottawa and Toronto, the Wild had the day off Friday and did not skate Saturday morning; Evason called it “expiry” and a chance for players not to conserve energy before the game.
But that still didn’t help the Wild, who floundered after Frederick Gaudreau deflected in a Jon Merrill shot 1 minute, 36 seconds into the first period for Gaudreau’s second goal in as many games and his first career goal streak.
“We didn’t really follow with any kind of energy,” Nick Bjugstad said. “We didn’t have enough pop.”
Toffoli was left all alone to capitalize on a rising shot at 10:29 and then 1:20 later Tkachuk buried his own rebound on the power play.
Meanwhile, the Wild went 11:01 between shots. But the Flames didn’t just have the advantage in possession of the puck; Calgary was also the most physical team, beating the Wild 29-15.
BOXSCORE: Calgary 7, Wild 3
“We didn’t have any bite in our game early on and although we tried to challenge it never materialized,” Evason said.
Before the end of Game 1, the Flames added another goal when Erik Gudbranson finished at 17:42. And if the score didn’t emphasize lag, the shot meter certainly did with Calgary edging the Wild 18-4.
“It’s an effort,” Bjugstad said.
In the second, the Wild increased their offensive pressure but couldn’t change the score. And that lack of execution took a nosedive, with the Flames scoring twice late in the period.
Andrew Mangiapane pounced on a rebound with 3:16 left, then Blake Coleman had a shorthanded breakaway at 19:19 — the second shorthanded goal given up by the Wild this season.
“That’s how it goes for us,” said Marcus Foligno. “It’s kind of our karma right now.”
It wasn’t until the third that the Wild finally started to close their deficit, with goals from Bjugstad (13:25) and Kirill Kaprizov (14:35).
But with goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen on the bench, Calgary dashed any hopes of a Wild rally: Tkachuk (18:06) and Toffoli (19:18) scored their second goals of the game in an empty net. Tkachuk’s arrival came on the power play; the Wild blanked on both occasions.
Kahkonen, who was making back-to-back starts for the first time since Jan. 21-22, finished with 28 saves, and Jacob Markstrom made 22 for the Flames.
And guess who will host the Wild when they finally play at the Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday?
That’s right, Calgary, which has now won 11 of its last 12 after bouncing back from losing its 10-game winning streak on Thursday.
“If we have that kind of effort, we’ll be embarrassed again,” Evason said. “Nobody wants to be embarrassed. They’re professional hockey players in this. We’ll respond.”