One of the hottest young players in the NHL wasn’t in the lineup, gift-wrapping a chance for the Minnesota Wild to leave Toronto with two points. Instead, the Wild dropped their third game in a row, failing to take advantage of the Auston Matthews absence.
The Wild (5-7-2) lost 4-2 to the Maple Leafs (10-7-0) Wednesday, snapping the Wild’s seven-game winning streak against Toronto.
It doesn’t matter how many fluky goals go in for the other team or how much your team tried to complete a third-period comeback. The Wild have to find a way to get back to that before the hole they’re in gets any deeper.
“At the end of the day, it’s about results and wins,” said Eric Staal. “And we didn’t get that tonight.”
It’s not the first time this season the Wild have had pucks go in off their own players or see weird bounces end up in their net. Still, coach Bruce Boudreau’s postgame comments were a far cry from his frustration the other night. He thought his team played much better, even if it didn’t get the result.
They outshot the Maple Leafs 37-19 in the game and controlled the puck for much of the night.
“I thought we played a pretty complete game, for the most part,” Boudreau said. “Hopefully, it’s something to build on.”
The Wild were down by a goal headed into the final 20 minutes of regulation. Then they were down by a pair. They pressured and made it a 3-2 game with a much-needed tally on the power play as Jason Zucker scored his second of the game and fifth of the season with 4:59 left in the third. But with time ticking down and an empty net for the Wild, Zucker tried to play the puck along the boards to Ryan Suter at the point. Connor Brown intercepted and put the puck in the Wild’s empty net.
In their last game, it was a similar situation for the Wild. They were down 4-1 in Boston before mounting a comeback to get within a goal before a 5-3 loss with an empty-net goal.
What was different against the Maple Leafs was the Wild did a better job of getting the puck on net and controlling play. They didn’t allow a Maple Leafs shot on goal until nearly nine minutes into the game.
Boudreau said he was pleased with almost every Wild player’s game.
“If you keep doing those positive things, things will eventually turn around,” Boudreau said.
The Maple Leafs took a 1-0 lead in the first period when a point shot bounced off the end glass and behind Devan Dubnyk. The puck found its way into the net off Dubnyk’s skate.
Zucker scored his first goal of the game late in the period to tie the game and give the Wild a boost headed into the second period, but that’s when Patrick Marleau scored his sixth of the season. No bad bounce there; he was left alone in the slot and fired it in the net.
Connor Carrick made it 3-1 early in the third after a misplay from Gustav Olofsson, who cleared the players out from in front of the net to avoid a screen on Dubnyk. But once a shot came through, Olofsson got his stick in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“It is tough, and it is deflating, but I thought we handled it well,” Boudreau said. “You’ve got to build on things.”
What must be disappointing for the Wild is they’ve left four points on the table against two teams they’ve played very well against in recent history. They beat the Maple Leafs seven times in a row before Wednesday. They had a six-game winning streak in Boston snapped Monday. Now the Wild will have to regroup again with a quick turnaround as they face Montreal for the second time in a week.
“We’ve got to get out of this now,” Staal said. “Best opportunity is tomorrow night.”
Dubnyk (4-6-1) with 18 saves. Frederik Andersen (8-6-0) with 35 saves.
The Wild are 0-4 when trailing after two periods.
Empty-netters or not, the Wild have allowed three or more goals in eight of their 14 games.
It was another perfect night for the Wild penalty kill, going 2-for-2. With Zucker’s power-play goal in the third, the Wild snapped a 1-for-26 skid with the man advantage.
Staal assisted on both of Zucker’s goals. He has six assists this season.
The Wild finish off their second back-to-back series with a game in Montreal. The Wild beat the Canadiens 6-3 in St. Paul a week ago.
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