Not all three-game losing streaks look alike. They certainly do not feel the same.
The Wild woke up Sunday morning at the business end of a bona fide skid, an unfortunate 5-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday night that blemished their best effort of a losing week.
They pumped 41 shots on goal and had several odd-man rushes but could not put the finishing touch on a go-ahead goal after rallying from a 2-0 deficit and forcing the Leafs to skate uphill in the second and third periods.
More grating were the unlucky bounces Minnesota gagged down when two Toronto centering passes deflected off defenseman Nick Seeler into his own net.
The Wild deserved better. But as Clint Eastwood memorably growled in “Unforgiven” before pumping Gene Hackman full of lead, “Deserve’s got nothing to do with it.”
“That’s what you think about when you’re staring at the ceiling at night, but that’s just the way this game goes sometimes,” said goaltender Devan Dubnyk, who absorbed his third straight defeat. “Sometimes they seem to all collect at once in one stretch.”
The Wild were off Sunday as they prepare to hit the road again Monday for a three-game trek through western Canada — a mental health day for sure as they try to flush three markedly different losses that has them clinging to the final wild card spot in the Western Conference after starting the week in third place.
There was a ghastly collapse at home to Arizona, a frustratingly uneven performance in Columbus and Saturday’s dominant loss. Play 10 more games like that against the high-powered Maple Leafs and Minnesota might win nine of them.
At least that is what they told themselves afterward in the dressing room.
“We’re happy with the way we played, we’re just not happy with the result,” said defenseman Jared Spurgeon. “You’re never happy when you lose, but I think we’re trending the right way. I think we had the better of the chances. We just didn’t put them in. There’s two pretty weird ones. The next game we play, that won’t happen. We can use that as a positive going on the road trip.”
The Wild played their best hockey of this nascent season during a marathon seven-game, 15-day road stretch when they went 5-2. It was part of an overall streak in which they won 11 out of 13 in regulation to rocket up the standings in the ultra-competitive Central Division.
One of their two losses was a lopsided 5-2 afterthought at Vancouver, where Minnesota plays again Tuesday night followed by back-to-back games at Calgary and Edmonton.
“We’ll be hungry in Vancouver,” Dubnyk said. “We owe ’em one from last time there and it will be a good place to get the road trip started.”
Against the Leafs, Dubnyk played decidedly better than he did while stopping just 10 of 14 shots against the Coyotes and insecurely surrendering four goals versus the Blue Jackets.
Besides the friendly fire deflections he yielded the game’s first goal to Toronto superstar, Auston Matthews, who picked the short-side corner on a power-play like a superstar should, Dubnyk was solid.
“I don’t think anybody in the world would have stopped Matthews’ shot in the first period, so he made the saves he had to make,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “When they got a goal, they came right back at one point and he made a great save on (John) Tavares — sort of stopped the flow of everything. He was like the rest of the guys. They played really good.
“I think if you take this game out west, it’s good. If you don’t, it’s going to be an uphill climb.”