For the first time all season, the Minnesota Wild have encountered a minor hiccup: slow starts that are forcing them into frenetic third periods.
The Wild will attempt to halt their second two-game losing streak of the season Wednesday night when they visit the New Jersey Devils in Newark, N.J.Minnesota's 64 goals are among the best in the NHL and part of the reason they got off to a 9-3-0 start following a 5-2 win over the host Arizona Coyotes on Nov. 10. Since then, the Wild are 2-3-1.
Three of those losses came by one goal, including Sunday's visit to the Tampa Bay Lightning when the Wild took a 5-4 loss in a shootout. Minnesota never led but forced overtime when Joel Eriksson Ek scored in the final minute of regulation.
Marcus Foligno, Brandon Duhaime and Kevin Fiala also scored but the Wild were unable to score in the shootout.
"It's not like we are just waiting to get behind and then start getting our game going," Foligno said. "It's the way the games have gone."
It was the second straight game Minnesota never led and fought back in the third period. On Saturday, the Wild erased four two-goal deficits before taking a 5-4 loss to the Florida Panthers.
"Clearly we want to play with a lead and we want to play right," Minnesota coach Dean Evason said. "But we have to learn how to do that and we will. But in the meantime, we were pretty excited about how hard we pushed to come back for each other."
The Devils are off to a respectable start in a division where the Carolina Hurricanes, Washington Capitals and New York Rangers have surged into the top three spots.
New Jersey scored 11 of its 48 goals on the season during the final two games of a three-game winning streak when it notched home wins over the Florida Panthers and Rangers. Since then, the Devils are 1-3-1 in their past four games.
On Saturday, the Devils stopped their second three-game skid of the season by earning a 5-3 win at Tampa Bay. Like Minnesota, New Jersey overcame a two-goal deficit but was able to complete the comeback by scoring three times in the first 9:34 of the third and four times overall in the final 20 minutes.
Dawson Mercer, Jimmy Vesey and Yegor Sharangovich scored before Tomas Tatar got an empty-net goal to highlight a third period that saw goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood stop a penalty shot.
Two days after the dramatic win, the Devils got a slight lift when Jack Hughes skated briefly at practice Tuesday. The Devils focused on working on some things, such as fixing a power play that 1-for-10 in the past four games.
"We've worked on a lot of stuff system-wise," New Jersey defenseman Dougie Hamilton said after Tuesday's practice. "We can still get a lot better at certain things, working on the power play and special teams. Special teams is huge."
The teams are meeting for the first time since Minnesota posted a 3-2 win in Newark on Nov. 26, 2019.
--Field Level Media