Remember that awful Wild power play from the first half of the season, the one that scored on only three of its first 50 opportunities? It’s back at the most inopportune time.
After going 0-for-2 in six minutes with the man advantage in Saturday’s 4-0 Game 4 loss to Vegas, the Wild power play is 0-for-8 in the series, and coach Dean Evason is looking for answers.
“Honestly, I don’t know. We’re doing the same thing, right?” said Evason, whose team faces elimination Monday night in Las Vegas. “We’re getting those quality looks and obviously [Marc-Andre] Fleury’s been phenomenal, but we were getting the same looks against great goaltenders all year and we were able to score. We’re just not finding the net.”
Things got even worse late in the second period. Trailing 2-0 but on a four-minute power play after Zach Parise was high-sticked by Zach Whitecloud, the Wild surrendered a shorthanded breakaway goal by Mark Stone after Matt Dumba lost control of the puck in his own zone.
“Those are big momentum killers or can swing a lot of momentum in your favor if it gets going,” Wild forward Marcus Foligno said. “We had a chance there early. It’s a rolling puck, it slides up Dums’ tape, and give credit to Stone, he anticipated it.”
Kevin Fiala, scoreless in the series, sees more precision needed on the power play. “We just have to move the puck quicker,” he said. “They’re running around and doing a great job. Especially, on our breakouts, we couldn’t get in clearly and make something, so we just have to bear down on the faceoffs and help on the draws and do everything to win them back.”
Winning faceoffs would be a good start in improving the power play. The Wild’s 42.2 faceoff win percentage ranks last among playoff teams, and in Game 4 the Wild won only two of six power-play faceoffs and one of five in its offensive zone.
Mulling over lineupEvason said he hasn’t yet decided on his Game 5 lineup but hinted that he won’t make drastic changes.
“You don’t go through a regular season and have some success, as we did, without having that chemistry built up through your lines and your pairs and ultimately through your team,” he said. “What we did in the regular season, you’ll probably see that.”
He acknowledged that the Wild has “some banged-up guys” but added, “Guys are resilient and tough and will play through it if they can.”
Extra attentionRookie winger Kirill Kaprizov, who led the Wild in scoring this season, has been limited to one assist in four playoff games. He is receiving extra attention from defenders.
“He’s not backing down from anything,” Evason said. “He hasn’t, he won’t, and I don’t think he ever will. He’ll just keep sticking his nose in there until he gets that opportunity.”