Still chasing their first playoff berth in five seasons, the Minnesota Wild picked a bad time to deliver one of their worst defensive performances of the season. They also have plenty of room for improvement on the offensive end as they return to St. Paul.
Minnesota will try to snap a season-worst four-game home losing streak on Sunday night against the Calgary Flames.
After finishing no better than third in the Northwest Division since their last postseason series in 2008, the Wild (24-17-3) are still in contention to end Vancouver's four-year run atop the division. Minnesota is a handful of points off the Canucks' pace, but it also could easily fall out of the top eight in the Western Conference.
The Wild fell to seventh on Thursday – two points ahead of the eighth seed – with a 6-1 loss to San Jose. It was the most goals allowed by the club all season.
"We didn't deserve anything today," goaltender Niklas Backstrom told the league's official website after getting pulled following five goals allowed. "…. We have to get back to playing our game. If we play the right way, we'll be fine.
"Sunday is the biggest day of the season for us. We have to make sure we get better by then."
The Wild, who open a three-game homestand before closing the season at Colorado on Saturday, can't get much worse at Xcel Energy Center, where they've scored three goals in four games this month. Minnesota's last five-game skid on home ice was from Feb. 28-March 17, 2012.
Hosting a Flames team finishing off a fourth straight non-playoff season is no guarantee the Wild can get back on track. Calgary (18-22-4) arrives following its fifth win in seven games, 3-1 over Anaheim in Friday's home finale, and seeking a season-high third straight victory. The star Friday was veteran goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, who made 32 saves in what could have been his final game in Calgary.
"It's up to him (if he wants to retire), it's his decision and what he wants to do with his life but if it is his last games, then completely fitting," said Michael Cammalleri, who set up two goals. "He was awesome.''
Kiprusoff has been outstanding in his last five starts against the Wild – going 4-0-1 with a 1.77 goals-against average – but he has not been in net for any of the four matchups this season. If Kiprusoff doesn't make a third consecutive start, Joey MacDonald will be between the pipes as the Flames go for their first three-game winning streak since a five-game run from March 6-15, 2012.
MacDonald, who inked a one-year deal on Saturday, has started the last three games between these division rivals. He stopped 28 shots in a 2-1 overtime loss at Minnesota on Feb. 26 then made 23 saves in Monday's 4-3 home loss.
Minnesota newcomer Jason Pominville scored twice in that contest, giving him goals against every NHL team except for Buffalo, where he spent his entire career before being traded on April 3. No other Wild player has more than one goal against the Flames this season.
Jiri Hudler, Matt Stajan and Alex Tanguay, who is out for the season with a sprained MCL, each have found the back of the net twice to lead Calgary in the season series.
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