The Wild had another third-period lead disappear.
It dropped two in a row on home ice for the first time this season.
And a once three-point lead for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference evaporated.
But as the team wrapped up its five-game homestand Saturday afternoon at 2-1-2 after a franchise-long 11-round shootout ended with a 3-2 loss to the Ducks in front of 19,192 at Xcel Energy Center, the team sounded more encouraged by its effort than disheartened by what the setback signified.
“We played a good game,” goalie Devan Dubnyk said. “We played the right way. We played hard. That’s all that we can ask for. We are going to end up on the right side most of the time.”
After opening this home stretch with an overtime loss to the last-place Coyotes after taking a three-goal lead, the Wild ended it with another extra-time defeat. But the ramifications of this one were much more critical.
Anaheim entered the game one point behind the Wild after sitting three back only days ago and, by pocketing two points on winger Nick Ritchie’s 11th-round shootout goal, it tied the Wild at 69.
And with the Wild coming off a loss to the Capitals on Thursday, this was the team’s last chance to ensure one of its direct competitors for a playoff spot didn’t pick up points, with a three-game road trip against Eastern Conference foes on tap.
But if anything, the action between the Wild and Ducks suggested a back-and-forth struggle the rest of the season.
“We played some good hockey and easily could’ve had this one,” said Dubnyk, who made 29 stops and another eight in the shootout. “This was like a playoff game.”
A sluggish start put the Wild in rally mode.
Winger Nino Niederreiter committed a holding penalty just 27 seconds into the first and at the 50-second mark, the Ducks capitalized when winger Corey Perry slid the puck around Dubnyk.
A better push from the Wild culminated in the tying goal at 15:36, a windup from captain Mikko Koivu. That improvement continued in the second, with the Wild eventually finding the go-ahead goal — after another Niederreiter penalty. Overall, the Ducks finished 1-for-3 on the power play, while the Wild was 0-for-3.
After winger Jason Zucker skated into the slot from the corner, he lifted his stick to redirect a Nate Prosser shot down and through John Gibson’s legs 7:56 into the second. The goal was immediately waved off but after the officials discussed the play, the deflection counted for Zucker’s 23rd goal — which set a career high.
But the Wild wasn’t as eager in the third period, and it proved costly. Only 6:12 into the period, the Ducks tied it at 2-2 when winger Ondrej Kase stopped a Hampus Lindholm shot at the top of the crease and directed it around Dubnyk.
“That’s kind of been our Achilles’ heel all year,” Zucker said of another blown lead in the third. “We’ve done that too many times.”
The Ducks continued to press, but the Wild also pushed back, on the way to an even finish and record-breaking shootout, during which winger Zach Parise and Niederreiter scored for the Wild and captain Ryan Getzlaf and Kase converted for the Ducks before Ritchie’s clincher. Gibson had 36 saves and nine more in the shootout.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t get two points,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Not disappointed in the way our team played.”