If not for Saturday’s first period and eventual overtime loss at New Jersey, it’s very unlikely Bruce Boudreau would drag the Wild down to Barclays Center on Sunday morning.
The Wild plays Sunday night and in an earlier than normal game (6 p.m. puck drop ET, 23 hours after Saturday’s), so typically you’d have your meetings at the hotel.
But after Boudreau scrapped Saturday’s morning skate so the team wouldn’t have to make two trips from Manhattan to Newark and the Wild still came out with that ugly first period display, he’ll get the boys down to the rink in the morning and have an optional morning skate and meeting.
There’s something about the personality of this team. I’ve been saying it for years. When they don’t skate, they usually look awful at the start of games, and maybe Boudreau will learn that as he discovers the personality of this team. Tonight was as bad a first period as the Wild could have. Passes couldn’t be made, turnovers galore, guys inexplicably slipping all over the ice, five total shots attempted, three on.
Boudreau may also learn different overtime personnel deployment after tonight. The Wild was 1-9 in OT for a reason last season, and Mikko Koivu and Ryan Suter were out together for a good bunch of them. Tonight, they teamed for the defensive-zone mistake that led to Taylor Hall’s goal 29 seconds left.
I don’t know if Suter got crossed up because Koivu crossed behind him as New Jersey entered the zone, but nothing turned into something in a big hurry when Suter switched and suddenly covered Adam Henrique with Koivu. That left Hall all alone in the slot, and despite a whole bunch of terrific saves tonight by Devan Dubnyk, Hall buried this one and the Wild fell to 3-1-1 in the first of a four-game road trip and stretch where the Wild plays eight of 10 on the road.
“It’s man on man in overtime,” Boudreau said. “There’s no switches. So when Hall went to the middle and then Suts started to go, then he stopped, and then Mikko was going to take Henrique, and now they’re both on Henrique. That leaves one man open, and the most dangerous guy. So that’s what happens.”
Joel Eriksson Ek, who scored in his first North American pro game with Iowa, became the seventh Wild player in history to score in his NHL debut tonight. He popped home Jason Zucker’s rebound a minute into the second to give the Wild a 1-0 lead.
Here are the others:
Gaborik, Marian 10/6/2000
Dupuis, Pascal 04/02/2001
Wallin, Rickard 12/12/2002
McMillan, Carson 04/03/2011
Rau, Chad 01/21/2012
Granlund, Mikael 01/19/2013
But from there, Dubnyk made a half-dozen outstanding stops to preserve that lead, but the Wild couldn’t build on it despite golden chances like an Eric Staal breakaway, a Nino Niederreiter cut to the net and Mikael Granlund point-blanker after a brilliant move.
Also, Staal and Suter each tried to force passes to get Zach Parise his 300th goal.
“You could tell,” Boudreau said. “There was 2-on-1’s all over the place and instead of shooting we’re trying to force passes to him.”
Finally, with the third period momentum starting to feel like it was turning, Marco Scandella made a careless pinch down the wall in a one-goal game. The puck freed and the Devils came with speed before P.A. Parenteau tied the score and forced OT.
“We made one bad play I thought in the third period, and it cost us,” Boudreau said. “Other than that, I thought we were pretty good. Second period though, we should have had two or three goals and get that killer instinct to put it away.”
On the first period, Boudreau said, “It wasn’t very good. I’m going to have to start telling the game’s at 6:30. We fall asleep and then we come back in the second and third and play really hard and really well. We’ve got to be prepared to play the game. The first five games, the first period, we haven’t been ready yet.”
In the final minutes, he played Eriksson Ek at age 19 with Koivu and Granlund because Chris Stewart had as poor a night as you can imagine.
“He had a good game and he’s a responsible player,” Boudreau said on Eriksson Ek. “I needed what I thought to at least salvage the point to get the most responsible players I had on the ice.”
On Stewart, “I knew,” he just didn’t have it. “I was just waiting for the right time. I could tell when he has it and when he doesn’t have it.”
Eriksson Ek called the NHL debut a “dream come true. I think every hockey player wants to play here. Really glad.”
On the goal, he said, “It felt like the puck was going in in slow motion.”
On playing late, he said, “You feel you can handle the level. I never tried it before. Felt better and better each shift. It means a lot to get the confidence.”
Matt Dumba had a real good game. He played with attitude and was physical.
The d, except for that one play when scandy went down in the corner, was pretty good. We did a lot of good outlets, we didn’t give them a lot, we played pretty solid
“Dumba played the best I’ve seen without the puck. I thought he was really good,” Boudreau said.
Parise said, “We had a lot of really good looks. We couldn't get that second one. You can't rely on winning a 1-0 game. You need to get that second goal. Unfortunately we weren't able to.”
On why the bad start, Parise said, “I don't know. I'm not really sure. I thought they had a good start. They were in our face all over the ice. They work hard. They make teams earn what they get. There probably sometimes that we passed up shooting. You've got to throw a couple more on the net. I think once we started to do that in the second period we really broke down their coverage and started getting more sustained time. It would've been better to start the game that way. Maybe get a little better feeling with some more attempts and more chances in the first.
“Outside the first period it was a pretty good game for us. A lot of good chances. Some grade As. We couldn't converted on them. It is frustrating for us to only come out with one point.”
Dubnyk said, “It's disappointing. Usually we're able to squeeze those ones out. Just couldn't get one. We had some chances to get some other ones and (Schneider) played well.”
On his game, “I've felt good all year, right from the first game of the season. I'm just going to keep concentrating on the things that I'm doing that are letting me feel good in the net. It doesn't mean that it's going to be perfect every night. I'll just keep concentrating on those things.”
On the game-winner, he said, “It seemed like it kind of came out of nowhere. They weren't flying or anything. Obviously he's a dynamic player and I was able to get over there on him and he likes to rip it. He had his head up and saw that I was on my feet still and then he snapped it real quick.”
Please check out the Star Tribune Wild page for my game story, notebook and Sunday Insider.
That’s it for now. Talk to you Sunday.