RALEIGH, N.C. – Bruce Boudreau didn’t give his team a complicated strategy for Saturday night’s game at Carolina. The Wild coach expected the Hurricanes to “come out with guns a-blazin’ ” in their season opener at PNC Arena, and he instructed his players to match Carolina’s energy with smart, sound defense.
Boudreau saw exactly what he anticipated from the Hurricanes. His own team, though, left him shaking his head after a 5-4 shootout loss.
After seizing a 3-1 lead midway through the second period, Wild players grew more and more undisciplined, abandoning their defensive structure and taking far too many risks.
The team’s defensive lapses forced backup goaltender Alex Stalock, in his first start of the season, to make a bucketful of stellar saves just to salvage a point. And the Wild barely got that. After Victor Rask gave Carolina a 4-3 lead with 94 seconds to play, the Wild needed some very late heroics from Mikko Koivu, who poked in a loose puck with 0.2 seconds remaining and Stalock out of the net to tie the score and secure the Wild at least one point in the standings.
Koivu’s tying goal survived a review to determine whether there had been interference with Carolina goalie Scott Darling. Jaccob Slavin earned the extra point for the Hurricanes by scoring in the third round of the shootout, leaving Boudreau to give a thumbs-down review to a game that fell well short of his standards.
“We were way too loose,” Boudreau said. “We aren’t going to win a lot of games if we play like that and allow 40 shots on goal a game and have our goalie have to make 10 10-bell saves. It’s not the right way to play. It’s not the way we practice. It’s too loosey-goosey.
“We talked before the game. The whole game was built upon us playing solid defense, because I thought four goals was too much against us in [Thursday’s 4-2 loss at] Detroit. We were going for breakaways, trying for long-bomb passes, not coming back, not doing the right things in our zone. If we’re going to do that, we’re going to get beat all the time.”
Stalock made 38 saves as the Hurricanes outshot the Wild 42-27.
With Mikael Granlund sidelined because of a groin injury, Boudreau used all seven of his defensemen, scrambled his lines and used a rotating cast at right wing on the fourth line. Jason Zucker gave the Wild a 1-0 lead at 6:30 of the first period on a power play, slipping behind the defense to direct Matt Dumba’s picture-perfect pass past Darling.
Carolina’s first goal came on a Wild miscue. After blocking a shot by the Hurricanes’ Marcus Kruger, a tangle of players poked at the puck, and Joakim Nordstrom pushed it toward the goal. Koivu tried to get it to Stalock to cover, but it slipped under his pads at 11:26.
A Chris Stewart breakaway goal with 1:13 remaining in the first period restored the Wild’s lead. The second period started with a rush of firewagon hockey. Both teams dashed up and down the ice, with lots of odd-man rushes that tested both goalies.
After a masterful penalty kill by the Wild, which did not allow a shot on a Carolina two-man advantage that lasted for 1:28, Eric Staal scored to put the Wild ahead 3-1 at 14:43 of the second. But Derek Ryan’s redirection of a Justin Williams shot gave Carolina a power-play goal at 16:20 of the second, and Noah Hanifin tied it at 5:15 of the third.
Rask’s goal gave the Hurricanes a shortlived lead before the frantic end to the third period.
“We have to tighten things, especially when we have the lead,” Wild forward Charlie Coyle said. “We can’t stop playing. We have to play the right way, though. We can’t let them come back like that.”