Nino Niederreiter punched home a rebound in front of the net for a 1-0 Minnesota Wild lead early in the first period Monday night in Boston. In the third period, Mikael Granlund scored his first goal of the season, and Eric Staal scored on a breakaway. Unfortunately, a lot happened in between, and the Wild lost 5-3 to the Bruins.
It was a game that prompted a sharp response from coach Bruce Boudreau in his postgame remarks.
“Well. I mean, you saw it,” Boudreau said. “We weren’t very competitive. That was possibly the most embarrassing two periods I’ve been involved with.”
The Wild (5-6-2) dropped their second straight game against an injury-plagued Bruins team (6-4-3). It was not quite the result the Wild were used to against this Eastern Conference opponent it sees twice a year. The loss snapped a six-game winning streak for the Wild in Boston; it was only their third loss there in team history (8-3-0).
With the Wild up 1-0, the Bruins got on the board at 10:23 with a shot from Jake DeBrusk that deflected in off Ryan Suter. Maybe it was an omen for what was to come through the first 40 minutes of the game. Frank Vatrano scored his first of the season for a 2-1 Bruins lead at the first intermission.
The Wild started the second period on the penalty kill. They played a sloppy middle frame, getting outshot 15-4 in the second. As the shots-on-goal mark indicated, the Bruins dominated. Sean Kuraly and Torey Krug scored a couple minutes apart for a 4-1 Bruins lead. The Wild had trouble connecting with passes, getting the puck into the offensive zone and generating any offense in the second.
“We had a good start to the game and just got away from what we need to do… about as far away from how we want to play,” said goalie Devan Dubnyk.
Dubnyk appeared to get up slowly a couple of times from saves he made, but he stayed in the game. Boudreau made no motion to change goaltenders -- until the start of the third period when Alex Stalock made his way to the net after Dubnyk surrendered four goals on 24 shots through two periods. Last year, Dubnyk helped shut out the Bruins 5-0 and 1-0.
Boudreau said he wanted to get Stalock some ice time, since he hadn’t played in a week.
“Maybe to spark something with the group,” Boudreau said. “In today’s hockey, what used to be insurmountable is not insurmountable anymore.”
There was at least the flicker of a spark from the Wild to start the third period. Less than two minutes in, they capitalized on a turnover in the Boston zone, with Matt Dumba making a cross-ice pass to Granlund in front of the net. Granlund buried his first goal of the season to the glove side of Tuukka Rask to get within two.
Then the Wild kept the puck in the offensive zone during their first power play of the game. While shorthanded, Granlund had a chance to make it a one-goal deficit with a penalty shot. He skated in with the puck but was unable to beat Rask this time, shooting the puck into his pads.
The Wild got within a goal at 4-3 with 4:04 left in the third with Staal’s breakaway while shorthanded. Kyle Quincey finished a check in the Wild zone, and the puck squirted away and onto Jason Zucker’s stick. He passed it up to a streaking Staal, who buried his fifth goal of the season (second shorthanded) to the blocker side.
Despite the improved play to start the third period, the Wild couldn’t complete the three-goal comeback. They pulled Stalock with 2:40 left, and Tim Schaller scored an empty-netter with less than a minute left to become the fifth different goal scorer of the night for the Bruins.
“It’s too little, too late,” Boudreau said. “You have to play 60 minutes in this game.”
The loss gives the Wild back-to-back regulation losses for the first time this season.
Dubnyk (4-5-1) with saves in two periods; Stalock with nine saves in the third period. Rask (3-4-2) with 24 saves.
It was the first time Dubnyk was pulled in a game this season.
Luke Kunin engaged in his very first NHL fight. He dropped the gloves with Matt Beleskey who, upon a closer look, jammed his stick into Dumba’s groin area earlier in the play. Dumba dropped the gloves and took an unsportsmanlike penalty while Kunin came in to defend his teammate.
Granlund’s penalty shot was the first opportunity for the Wild this season. It came with 13:05 left in the game and the Wild shorthanded. Overall, the Wild have not scored on their past six penalty-shot attempts. Granlund has taken the last two.
The Wild outshot the Bruins 12-10 in the third period as they tried to mount a comeback, but the Bruins lead shots-on-goal 34-27 for the game.
The Bruins were held scoreless on the power play, going 0-for-4. Their power play is 4-for-64 all-time against the Wild.
The stay in the Eastern Conference continues with the first of back-to-back games Wednesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Boudreau said Stalock will probably start in goal.
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