On the bright side, the Minnesota Wild had oodles of chances and hung with the NHL’s best team for nearly 60 minutes.
Unfortunately, they lost the game 3-0 when the Tampa Bay Lightning scored all three goals in the span of about two minutes near the end of regulation, breaking a scoreless tie.
“It’s unfortunate that last two minutes ended like it did,” said head coach Bruce Boudreau. “I told them after the game, if they play like that, they’re going to win a lot of hockey games.”
There’s a reason top teams in the league find ways to win. The Lightning have rattled off nine victories in their last 10 games and have won seven straight at home.
The game-winner, and first goal of the game, didn’t come until the 17:18 mark of the third period. Naturally, it came from Dan Girardi for just his second goal of the season. No, it wasn’t a goal from Steven Stamkos or Nikita Kucherov, two of the league’s best. That’s just how it goes sometimes.
Goaltender Alex Stalock didn’t have a chance at stopping the bang-bang play after the pass in traffic from Point. All Girardi had to do was get his stick on the ice for the tap-in goal.
The Lightning added another on a screened shot by Tyler Johnson with 1:50 remaining. Not much Stalock could do about the one either. Then the empty-netter came from Kucherov with 53 seconds left for a 3-0 lead.
“Let’s not look at it as 3-0 here,” Boudreau said. “In my mind, it’s 1-0.”
The Wild finished their four-game road trip 1-3-0 and have lost four of their past five games on the heels of a four-game winning streak.
Mike Reilly clanked iron. Charlie Coyle had a couple chances in the breath of a few seconds, going in alone with the goalie and poking the puck against his pad. Mikael Granlund had an almost-goal in front. Still, for all the chances, the Wild only generated 22 shots on goal.
The Wild’s penalty kill remained perfect for another night, at least, going 6-for-6 and 30-for-32 over the past seven games for their kill that’s ranked third in the NHL. They kept the top-ranked power play in the league off the board, including more than a minute of 5-on-3 time in the middle of the third period.
It was a night filled with penalties on all sides, and the referees did their best to keep things even. The Wild went 0-for-6 on their power play.
With a fast-paced, exciting hockey game, Boudreau did not seem pleased with the number of penalties called.
“There was absolutely no reason for 13 minors in that game,” Boudreau said.
Boudreau didn’t have much of an update on the injured Nino Niederreiter, who left the last game in the first period with a lower-body injury and did not play in Tampa.
“His foot’s in a boot for a couple days, and then he should be OK,” Boudreau said.
Stalock (6-7-1) with 28 saves. Andrei Vasilevskiy (23-5-1) with 22 saves.
The Wild are 2-3-0 on the second night of back-to-back situations this season.
Ryan Suter, playing in his 200th consecutive game, went to the box three times – once for slashing the stick right of an opponent’s hand. He also registered two hits, two blocked shots and one shot on goal.
It was just the third time the Wild were shutout this season, the first since a 2-0 loss to Chicago on Nov. 4.
The NHL will take a break for Christmas. The Wild return to action Dec. 27 at home against Dallas.