When a team has already earned a trip to the playoffs but still has regular-season games on the schedule, the pressure is off and the style of play can take a foot off the accelerator. The Minnesota Wild didn’t play an outstanding game Wednesday in Anaheim, but it wasn’t a horrible game either.
The Wild lost 3-1 when a late Ducks goal in the third period followed by an empty-netter in what was a pretty even game.
“It was pretty boring both ways, to be completely honest,” said Wild forward Eric Staal. “Not a lot of looks… touch bounce on the game-winner. We want to win those battles.”
Staal, who had a team-high six shots on goal, was wearing the “A” on his sweater with Ryan Suter out injured.
There is one positive though: Playing Anaheim seems to agree with Wild defenseman Matt Dumba, who scored the Wild’s lone goal Wednesday. As become his trademark, Dumba scored his 13th goal of the season on a point-shot blast on the power play that Anaheim goaltender Ryan Miller didn’t appear to even see for a 1-0 Wild lead at the 6:08 mark of the second period. He also scored the overtime winner in the 3-2 win in Anaheim back in December.
“I thought the first two periods were really good,” said Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau. “They got a fluke goal to tie it up, I thought.”
The Ducks, fighting for their postseason lives, came out like they had something to play for in the third period. They didn’t give the Wild much room to work offensively, keeping the puck in the Wild’s zone more often than not. The Ducks scored the game-winning goal with 3:56 to play in regulation when Ondrej Kase scored his 20th of the season off a juicy rebound in front on a bang-bang play. The 2-1 lead was all they needed.
With an offensive-zone faceoff late, Boudreau pulled Dubnyk, but Andrew Cogliano beat the Wild down the ice to the puck (potential icing on the play had the Wild won the race) and scored the empty-net goal. They outshot the Wild 11-4 in the third period (30-27 for the game).
“It was a great test,” Boudreau said. “The third period, they definitely outworked us… but it was a good test.
“Maybe it’s a cheap lesson learned.”
The victory for the Ducks (42-25-13) gave them a sixth-straight playoff berth, joining the Wild and Pittsburgh as the only teams in that boat at the moment. Anaheim has also won three straight games.
The other good thing for the Wild? They kept the penalty-kill streak intact. They went 3-for-3 on the kill against the Ducks, bringing their streak to 20-for-20 over the past seven games.
Zach Parise saw his season-high, seven-game point streak come to an end. It was the first time in four games where he didn’t score a goal. Still, he’s one of the top scorers in the league since the beginning of March.
Dubnyk (34-16-7) with 27 saves on 29 shots. Miller (10-6-6) with 26 saves on 27 shots.
The Wild finish the first-half of back-to-back series this season with an 8-6-1 record.
Jonas Brodin and Jason Zucker assisted on Dumba’s goal.
The Wild finish the season series against the Ducks with a 1-1-1 record.
The Wild have two games left before the playoffs. They’ll finish their last back-to-back with a game Thursday night in Los Angeles.
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