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Loss to Predators was another kick to Wild's playoff hopes

The easiest way to move up the standings is to win against the teams higher on the leaderboard, and that's exactly what made the Wild's latest loss a stinger.

Facing a four-point swing, the Wild missed, and their 3-2 whiff vs. Nashville on Thursday at Xcel Energy Center slid them six points back of the Predators and the final playoff spot in the Western Conference instead of lifting them two points shy.

But the Wild could be in this situation again.

Their schedule after the All-Star break is filled with teams blocking their path to a wild-card seed, a chance to stay in the race if the Wild can capitalize and start to close the gap on their competition.

"Obviously, we are going to get more opportunities and more cracks at it to keep climbing and chasing the teams that we're behind," defenseman Zach Bogosian said. "But at the end of the day, we obviously have to get those two points."

What prevented the Wild from collecting on Thursday was three third-period breakdowns.

They blew their 1-0 lead in 35 seconds, Nashville converting off the rush before scoring on a deflection. Another redirect later in the period, this time off rookie defenseman Brock Faber's jersey as he stood in front of goaltender Filip Gustavsson alongside the Predators' Ryan O'Reilly, capped off Nashville's comeback and handed the Wild their first regulation loss when they led after two periods.

"If you give easy looks, a lot of times it ends up in the back of your net," coach John Hynes said, "and I felt that was the difference."

NHL standings

The lesson Hynes wants the Wild to learn and apply the next time they're in a game of this magnitude is how critical attention to detail is.

"They're coming in the game saying, 'We want to push it to six points,'" Hynes said. "We're coming in the game we want to push it to two points. And at the end of the day, when it mattered the most, we weren't at our best, and that's the challenge for our group coming out of this game."

This is a timely lesson.

The Wild will still play every team standing between them and a playoff berth except Calgary; they take on Arizona a week after restarting their season following their bye week and the All-Star break, and they will see Seattle, Nashville, St. Louis and Arizona during a six-game span that begins at the end of February.

But if the Wild don't pick up points in the meantime, that stretch may be irrelevant.

Their final test before the break is against Anaheim on Saturday and although the Ducks are behind the Wild and not threatening their playoff aspirations, closing out this homestand with a win would be huge.

Not only would that outcome seal four out of a possible six points for a week that started with a third consecutive victory, it would ensure the distance the Wild have to cover to catch up to the playoff pace in the Western Conference doesn't increase.

"We need those four out of six points," Gustavsson said. "Otherwise, we're going to trail just a little too much, and it's going to be an even bigger hole to get out of."