The locker room was silent and crestfallen — a common postgame environment lately for the imploding Wild. But this time, it was different. Stunned players sat with blank “What just happened?” looks after the Wild, in desperate need of a victory, somehow blew a three-goal lead at home Sunday night to a New York Islanders team that is near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, played the night before and deployed its backup goalie. Wild players were booed off the ice by many of the announced 18,851 irritated spectators after the 5-4 loss. The besieged coach had a hard time finding words. The scrutinized captain didn’t know what to say either. “There’s no explanations,” said Mikko Koivu, who assisted on goals by Jonas Brodin and Nino Niederreiter on back-to-back, first-line shifts to give the Wild a 3-0 lead only 2 minutes, 59 seconds into the second period. “It just can’t happen. If you ask what happened, I really don’t know right now. I don’t want to say things that I don’t mean.” Coach Mike Yeo, whose seat has to be scalding with this season disintegrating, said: “I’ve been thinking about it since the game ended and I can’t find the word to describe the feeling right now. … Believe me, it’s our job to find explanations, but holy cow, that’s a tough one to find an explanation for. There’s no reason, no excuse for what happened.” Bloomington’s Kyle Okposo, one of three former Gophers in the Islanders lineup, scored two third-period goals, including the winner past Josh Harding 27 seconds after Justin Fontaine tied the score at 4-4. Despite its first three-goal lead since Nov. 5, the Wild coughed up such a margin at home for the first time since Jan. 31, 2012. The Islanders rallied to win from a three-goal deficit for the first time in almost 20 years. The Wild has now lost five in a row, given up 24 goals in that span and has picked up only 11 points out of the last 34 available to fall to 10th in the Western Conference. “It’s hard to find the words for this because this is beyond disturbing,” Yeo said. “We have to find a way to win that game.” Following Niederreiter’s goal against his old team, the Wild had four shots in the final 17 minutes of the second period. John Tavares scored to cut New York’s deficit to 3-1, but the turning point came on a goal by former Wild winger Cal Clutterbuck.
Wild coughs up three-goal lead in loss to Islanders at the X
Minneapolis Star Tribune | Dec 30