BOSTON – The sick keep getting sicker, and the injured keep getting more banged up.
With several gents with pale faces playing despite being unwell, and three forwards, including Zach Parise, already sidelined, the depleted Wild became an even bigger shell of itself Thursday night when it was forced to play the Boston Bruins without two of its top defensemen.
The absence of Marco Scandella and Jonas Brodin created a mishmash blue line, a mishmash performance and a 4-2 final score for the Wild’s latest road defeat.
As if chasing yet another hockey game from the outset wasn’t bad enough, the Wild then had to watch speedy, high-scoring winger Jason Zucker writhe in pain after the final buzzer. In the waning seconds, Zucker crossed into the Boston zone on a power play when Bruins winger Matt Beleskey slashed him in the back of the leg.
After a long time on the ice, Zucker didn’t put any weight on his left leg as he was helped off. After about 15 minutes in the medical room, he walked on his own power with a discernible limp.
Coach Mike Yeo didn’t have an update on his injury.
“I didn’t think it was that bad,” Beleskey said. “I did slash him but … I didn’t try to break his leg and I don’t think it did either, so hopefully he’s all right.”
The Wild better hope so, too. It can’t afford any more missing bodies. Parise, Justin Fontaine and Tyler Graovac are still out, and Scandella is now sidelined by a lower-body injury. With a bug crawling its way through the locker room, Brodin was unable to play Thursday.
It resulted in Gustav Olofsson’s NHL debut on a back end that also included Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Matt Dumba, Nate Prosser and Christian Folin.
“It’s tough, but there’s no excuse,” Yeo said. “We’ve still got players that are capable, and I give a lot of guys credit. We did battle. We don’t always make it easy on ourselves, but we had a lot of guys that were sick playing in the game.
“I give us credit for the work, but we’re not in the business of looking for consolation points here. We’ve got to win hockey games.”
The Wild is 1-4-3 in its past eight road games, when it has held a lead for all of 1 minute, 12 seconds.
By the 5 ½-minute mark Thursday, the Wild was trailing 1-0. Zucker tied the score early in the second after Devan Dubnyk made seven saves on two power plays, including a 1:16 5-on-3.
But Loui Eriksson responded with two of his three goals less than four minutes apart. Neither goal went off his stick, the first coming off Jason Pominville’s skate on a backcheck. It was the type of fluky goal Pominville could use.
“It’s been extremely frustrating, frustrating to even talk about it,” Pominville said of his career-long 18-game stretch without a goal.
Jordan Schroeder’s first goal of the season put the Wild within a goal, but in the third, Nino Niederreiter’s pass into Mikko Koivu’s skates on a 4-on-2 resulted in an odd-man rush and a Bruins two-goal lead.
The Wild suffered consecutive losses in regulation for the first time since Dubnyk arrived last season.
“We’ve got to find a way to rectify this,” Yeo said of chasing games. “It’s one thing if it’s one game, but it’s continuous. It’s game after game. It becomes a problem.”