MINNEAPOLIS — Mats Zuccarello didn’t hold back when discussing the Minnesota Wild’s start in the 2022 Discover NHL Winter Classic on Saturday.
“The first two periods, I don’t really have words,” Zuccarello said after a 6-4 loss to the St. Louis Blues at Target Field. “It’s embarrassing the first two periods. You have [38,619] people coming, freezing their [butts] off, and we were playing like that.”
The Wild were hosting their first Winter Classic and fittingly it turned out to be the coldest game in NHL history, with the temperature at puck drop minus 5.7 degrees.
But the Wild didn’t take their first shot on goal until 7:13 into the game [from forward Kevin Fiala], and trailed 6-2 after the Blues scored five times in the second period.
The five goals were the most in one period by a team in an outdoor game in NHL history.
“It’s hard to pinpoint it, right?” Wild coach Dean Evason said. “They played a couple of nights ago. It’s no excuse, we still have to play, but we haven’t played hockey for a long time (12 days). We’ve talked about that before, hockey players need to play hockey, not to practice hockey. We practiced well, got our touches, and all that stuff. But you get that rhythm of a season, we have some rust on us. The situation is exactly what it is, and we have to find a way to correct our game here quickly.”
In front of a sellout crowd, the Wild lost their fifth straight game (0-4-1) and are third in the Central Division, three points behind the first-place Blues and two points behind the second-place Nashville Predators.
The Wild won eight straight games prior to this latest skid. They said they’re not overly concerned by their losses, but they know they have to get back on track fast.
“We have to find it,” forward Marcus Foligno said. “It’s got to be on us. We go to Boston next [Thursday], a team that’s always been good, and you have to find a win and build off it. There’s no panic. It’s unfortunate losing a big game like this, but we have the leadership in the room, we have the mentality, we can get out of it. We just know we have to get back into the win column, so there are a lot of things going against us right now, injuries, the schedule, but we have to stay with it. We’re rested, and we should have a lot of energy going forward.”
Forward Ryan Hartman had a goal and an assist for the Wild. He has scored 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in the past 13 games. Forward Kirill Kaprizov had a goal and two assists, and Zuccarello had an assist.
After losing goalie Cam Talbot to a lower-body injury to start the third period, the Wild made a desperate attempt at a comeback, taking 18 shots and scoring twice to pull within 6-4.
“You have to give credit to St. Louis too. Heck of a team and they outplayed us for 40 minutes, for sure,” Zuccarello said. “A little pushback in the third, but it doesn’t really matter. You lose the game. There are no excuses.”