ST. LOUIS – Coach Bruce Boudreau had never seen a self-inflicted spiral like the one his team experienced Tuesday, a third-period collapse in which three consecutive goals by the Stars caromed in off Wild players.
“That being said, we did things wrong to create those problems,” Boudreau said. “If we hadn’t have done the wrong things, I don’t think those things would have occurred.”
And bad bounces or not, the dramatic turn that morphed a 3-0 Wild lead into a 6-3 stinker in Dallas continued the team’s knack for fading after decent starts — particularly on the road.
“We’ve got to figure out the reasoning why,” Boudreau said.
After Tuesday’s setback, the Wild had given up 19 third-period goals (tied for the third-most in the NHL). Same with its second-period clip (18). But in the first period, the Wild is one of the stingiest league teams — its six goals against were tied for the fewest.
“We just seem to lose momentum in the second periods,” center Eric Staal said. “It’s been pretty evident.”
Boudreau doesn’t believe the long change from the bench in the second period is the cause since he has noticed teams haven’t exploited the stretch pass against the Wild. But the issue is a concern, especially when the opposition seems to flip one goal into two or three like the Stars did.
“On the road with us this year, it seems like we’re very fragile that teams score one goal at home [and] they’re excited,” Boudreau said. “They go. We don’t meet their push right off the bat, and at home we can stem the tide. But we haven’t been able to stem the tide here on the road.”
Devan Dubnyk returned to the crease Wednesday vs. St. Louis, his first start since he fell on his back and suffered an upper-body injury Oct. 22 after a sliding Ryan Donato crashed into him.
The Wild also changed up its fourth line. Kevin Fiala subbed in for Donato after Fiala was scratched Tuesday.
This is the second time this season Donato has been a healthy scratch. Tuesday, he committed a turnover before defenseman Jonas Brodin took a tripping penalty. On the ensuing power play, Dallas scored to make it 3-2.
Through 11 games, Donato has two assists. “It’s just growing pains,” Boudreau said. “ … He’s still learning the 200-foot game, how to play without the puck. I think right now he wants to look really good, and he’s trying to do plays he shouldn’t be doing because he wants to make an impression, a good impression. Sometimes it backfires on you.”
Grinding down opposition
Before the Wild fell apart against the Stars, Staal’s line with wingers Jason Zucker and Mats Zuccarello combined for five points.
Although Staal’s goal came on the power play, Zucker’s goal only 2 minutes, 50 seconds into the first period was the direct result of a strong forechecking effort by Staal. The trio remained intact for the start of Wednesday’s game.
“They were getting the puck deep, which is what our team has to do,” Boudreau said. “Yeah, they got guys that can handle the puck, but our game is predicated on getting the puck behind their defense and forechecking.
“I’d love to be able to say we’re going to get a lot of pretty goals, but we just haven’t been able to do that. So the rush goals are not what I’d like to be, so we’ve got to get it behind their ‘D’ and play a grind it out game. In our wins, that’s what we’ve done and that’s what we’ve been successful at.”
Wednesday was Luke Kunin’s first NHL game in St. Louis. The Wild winger is from nearby Chesterfield, Mo.