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All Aboard the Struggle Bus: Minnesota was unable to get back on track in Columbus

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The Wild continue to struggle as they lost 4-2 to the Blue Jackets Thursday night.

NHL: Minnesota Wild at Columbus Blue Jackets Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

It’s official.

The Wild are currently on the struggle bus. They bought their ticket in the 3rd period Tuesday night against the Coyotes after surrendering a two-goal lead and tonight they officially boarded and took their seat on the struggle bus.

The Wild were back on the road for a quick trip to Columbus to face the Blue Jackets, a trip that resulted in a very poor effort by the Wild, to put it kindly. The Wild fell to the Blue Jackets 4-2 and sit pat at 30 points in the standings.

Tonight, the Wild looked out of place and had somewhat of a different look to them while watching them play this game. Players were trying to create time and space by stick handling instead of their “meat and potatoes” mentality and play a dump and chase style of hockey that we are used to seeing this team play with. Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau alluded to this after the game stating, “Some guys are trying to be too cute”, calling out some of the Wild players in the process. Too many times tonight Wild players made too many extra moves rather than sticking to their game and doing what they know works well for them.

With all that being said, the Wild actually started the game playing rather good. They had their feet under them and were flying around playing fast. The Wild even got the first goal. Marcus Foligno scored his 2nd of the year on a deflection from Mikael Granlund. For Foligno, this was his 2nd goal when facing his brother Nick. The brothers have faced off 14 times against one another in their NHL careers.

It appears for the Wild right now, all good things come to a quick, crashing end.

The Blue Jackets answered back with a goal from Markus Hannikainen that tied it at 1-1. Hannikainen scored on a rebound tap in after a Riley Nash shot hit a skate in front of the net.

The second period was when the game swung in the favor of the Blue Jackets. Giving Columbus the lead was Cam Atkinson with a feed from Artemi Panarin for a one-timer from the right circle on a power-play. Atkinson who was red hot coming into tonight’s game, and extended his point streak to 9 games, which ties a career high for him. He has 15 points (10g, 5a) during his now current nine-game point streak. The Blue Jackets power-play made the Wild pay for a bad Jonas Brodin penalty.

Riley Nash was the next player to add his name to the goal-column for Columbus as he scored a beautiful redirection off a Zach Werenski slap-pass. The Wild had two chances to clear the puck out of the zone and failed. The little things like this, simply getting the puck in and out of the zone can have a lot of effect on a game’s outcome. The Wild didn’t get it out and Riley Nash capitalized on his chance to score his first goal in a Blue Jackets uniform.

It seems like every time the Wild play Artemi Panarin he finds his way onto the scoresheet. After already assisting on the power-play goal, Panarin scored with an absolute snipe. This goal marks back-to-back games with a goal for the “Bread Man”.

The Wild were caught puck watching and Panarin made them pay. Also, I have no idea what Nick Seeler was doing on this play. Maybe he thought Panarin was going to shoot the puck quicker? That being said, Seeler should have simply taken away Panarin’s time and space, going right at him forcing Panarin to get the shot off quicker. Leaving a player with a skill set of which Panarin has for that much time and space in the slot usually doesn’t end well.

The Wild were able to cut the lead back down to 2 goals as Zach Parise scored on a wraparound at the left post. The goal was a result of the Wild cycling the puck and not getting too “cute” with it. Parise now has 5 goals in the last 6 games and is leading the Wild with 12 on the year thus far.

A two-goal lead is the worst lead in hockey, right?

Wrong. In the third period, the Wild were very inconsistent and were unable to muster up many chances to get themselves back into the game. The best chance may have come around the 5 minute mark when Marcus Foligno had a very good opportunity to cut the lead to one goal after J.T. Brown set him up with a one-timer in the slot all alone but Sergei Bobrovsky made a great save and flushed out any luck for the Wild to come closer to tying the game.

The Zucker-Staal-Granlund was the only line that generated consistent chances all night. They were the most solid and all around line tonight, but when the other three lines do not show up, the production of the Granlund line was simply not enough to give the Wild a chance after the Blue Jackets grabbed a 4-1 lead in the 2nd period.

You have to think the defense pairings will be shaken up ahead of Saturday’s contest against the very dangerous Toronto Maple Leafs. I’d suspect Boudreau will put Matt Dumba back with Ryan Suter to try and ignite a little more confidence into Dumba’s game. The thinking behind this thought is to put a player that is struggling with your best player, or defenseman in the Wild’s case to help the struggling player to get his groove back. It’s not like Dumba has fallen off the face of the Earth, he has just had a couple of games recently that have not been good. He is forcing the puck and creating turnovers at a much higher rate than he was through the first 20 games of the season. Putting Dumba back with Suter might be just what the Wild and Dumba need ahead of their next game.

The Wild are back at home on Saturday as they host a recently returned to the lineup Auston Matthews and the Maple Leafs.

The Leafs have won their past 3 games and will have the luxury of an extra day off compared to the Wild. The Wild will have to bring their “A game” if they hope to get off the struggle bus.