There were no TV timeouts the first 15 minutes, 7 seconds of the third period. Just continuous play for the most part with the Wild tilting the ice in Carolina’s zone.
Finally, with 4:53 left in the game, a stoppage … and the advertisers could get their money’s worth.
The stoppage came because Eddie Lack – the backup with a 2.97 GAA and .886 SV% that had his coach rip him to pieces a few weeks ago -- made a trio of saves in a 1-1 game to stop Eric Staal, Charlie Coyle and Matt Dumba in a row.
About 90 seconds later, Devan Dubnyk couldn’t do the same and the Hurricanes skated off with an eventual 3-1 win to end the Wild’s 1-4 road trip.
Watching the Wild push hard and waste so many chances by not burying pucks in the third (the shot edge was 17-6 in the period) left a bad feeling that one soft shift would do them in.
It finally happened when with 3:24 left, talented youngster Victor Rask snapped the 1-1 tie by putting a puck through Dubnyk.
Matt Dumba didn’t knock Elias Lindholm off a puck, then after a switch, Rask cut to the net on defending Jason Zucker and scored.
“I can’t let freaking guys beat me out of the corner and score a goal with three minutes left,” said Zucker, quite the contract to when he scored an overtime winner in this rink. “That’s completely my fault. I let down my line, my teammates, everybody. That’s my fault tonight.”
The Wild is now 2-6 in its past eight games. That’s the same amount of regulation losses in had in its previous 38 games (30-6-2)
The Wild’s power play went 1 for 16 on this trip, and go figure, despite being best in the NHL on the power play at home, it ranks 29th on the road.
The Wild has given up the first goal in nine of the past 11 games.
The Wild has led for 12:40 of the past 360 minutes (1-5).
Just a shell of the team it was when it went 26-4-2 from Dec. 4 to Feb. 12.
Not fast, not exciting, no vigor.
It’ll have to work hard to pick up the pieces and rediscover the confident bunch they were a month ago.
Not positive Martin Hanzal will be able to play Saturday because the Wild’s not practicing Friday and he hasn’t played since last Friday at Florida.
“The guys are feeling it,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “It’s been a long trip. We had opportunities. We just didn’t score.”
Dubnyk wasn’t tested often. The first goal wasn’t a good one to give up, but on an ensuing Canes power play, Mikko Koivu set up Mikael Granlund for a highlight-reel shorthanded tying goal.
Granlund corralled a bouncing puck at the Wild blue line, fed the puck ahead for Koivu to trigger a 2-on-2 with speed. As Granlund skated to the left of Koivu, he crossed the Hurricanes blue line and slipped behind Carolina’s defense. Koivu thread a pass between Noah Hanifin and Lee Stempniak to
Granlund, who got in tight on Eddie Lack but still was able to impeccably go backhand, forecheck in one silky-smooth, snug motion before roofing his team-leading 24th goal.
With the assist, Koivu passed Wes Walz for the team record in shorthanded points (22).
Granlund picked up his 65th point, tied for eighth-most in a single season in Wild history.
But the second period, the Wild killed some more and generated little offensively.
Third period, like I said, couldn’t finish. Eric Staal was stopped six times in the game, Charlie Coyle, who has one non-empty-net goal since Jan. 7, was denied four times and wasted a couple golden opportunities, one by not getting the puck up with Lack seemingly down and out.
Coyle said, “We gotta bury that puck, including myself there. It was right there. We had to capitalize on those chances and we didn’t.”
The winning goal may have been the second scoring chance of the period, Boudreau said.
Boudreau said he believes this team can claw its way out of this.
“I’ve seen them play great, so why wouldn’t I think that they’re going to fight their way out of it?” he said. “It doesn’t make any sense to think they wouldn’t from what you’ve seen, from the body of work, why would you think that they’re not going to fight their way out of this?”
Asked what they have to do, he said, “We eliminated the shots. What’d they have, 23 shots today, and I bet you they had less than 10 scoring chances. And that’s what you want to do defensively. We still made mistakes, and our chances to score, we’ve got to start putting pucks in the net. If you score the first goal of the game, then you usually at least feeling good about yourself. You’re not always playing catchup. And lately we haven’t scored the first goal of the game.”
Very tough game to watch and probably to play.
“They play that style of hockey where you have to chip the puck a lot, so you don’t go through the neutral zone with a lot of speed unless you counterattacking quick,” Zach Parise said. “In spurts, we got some good zone time. A lot of it was along the wall though. We have to figure out a way to put some pucks in the net.”
That’s it for me. Off-day Friday. Talk to you Saturday. Gut check time for the Wild, which fell three back of the Chicago Blackhawks tonight.