STOCKHOLM — The Wild flew halfway around the world to play in Sweden, but their defense traveled back in time.
Following their messiest loss of the season, they did a deep clean in their own zone that included getting the penalty kill spotless after its worst performance in franchise history.
This effort was a throwback to last season when the Wild were known for their stinginess, but the rest of their game is still stuck in their present rut.
In a feel-good homecoming for their Swedish players and the team's first European appearance in 13 years, the Wild were denied 2-1 in a shootout by the Ottawa Senators on Saturday in front of a pro-Wild crowd of 13,213 at Avicii Arena in Stockholm.
As a result, the Wild have dropped a season-high four in a row for the second time in a 10-game span.
They'll wrap up the NHL Global Series on Sunday vs. the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"We were still squeezing a little tight and making some silly mistakes through the neutral zone, as far as turning the puck over and backhand, sauce plays," coach Dean Evason said. "There's certain areas, certain situations, that our puck management can be better, but we competed for the most part — most of the guys — so we're happy with that."
Ottawa's Josh Norris had the only conversion in the shootout, capping off a comeback for the Senators that started 3 minutes, 22 seconds into the third period when Erik Brannstrom seized open ice on a Wild line change to end Filip Gustavsson's shutout bid.
Still, Gustavsson's 30 saves were reminiscent of the right-place, right-time goaltending he delivered last season when the Wild had the sixth-best defense in the NHL.
Gustavsson had his family at the game and called the start "nerve-wracking," although his play didn't show it.
"He looked very calm," Evason said. "Wasn't out of position, and most of the saves were smothered. Yeah, he definitely looked more like himself."
What was also sharp was the setup in front of Gustavsson, and the best indication of the Wild's improvement came on the penalty kill.
After surrendering a franchise-high five power play goals in the 8-3 dismantling by the Stars last Sunday, the Wild were a perfect 4-for-4 in shorthanded situations. The difference? How meticulously they protected the middle of their zone, laying off the extra-aggressive pinches that made their structure flimsy.
"Lately we've been running around a little bit too much," said Jonas Brodin, who had around 30 family members and friends in attendance. "I thought today when we had the pressure, the time, we pressured and then when we didn't have it, we stayed in tight."
But the special-teams battle was a wash because Ottawa's penalty kill also went 4-for-4; two of those whiffs by the Wild power play came in the third period when the go-ahead goal was up for grabs.
"Fix one, and you've got to work on another," Evason said.
The Wild also had a penalty shot, awarded after Brannstrom covered the puck with his hand in the crease early in the second, and that try from Marcus Johansson was stopped by Anton Forsberg (24 saves total).
Soon after, Marco Rossi tipped in the icebreaker at 6:22 for his sixth goal of the season, which is tied for second among NHL rookies.
But the Wild never built a thicker buffer, and that was costly.
Matt Boldy had a team-high nine shot attempts stay out (same with Johansson's seven looks), while Kirill Kaprizov had one shot reach the net and another miss the target.
He, Mats Zuccarello and Joel Eriksson Ek were unsuccessful in the shootout.
"The bottom line is [Kaprizov's] gotta get back to just getting forward and working and competing," Evason said. "He's doing that, and we hope one of these games hopefully he has one of those breakout games that we've seen before that jump starts not only him but the hockey club as well."
The Wild still need that jolt because their outcomes remain off, even as they're solving some problems.
"This is us," Gustavsson said. "We have to keep trying like this."