NEWARK, N.J. – Before re-turning home after its NHL-leading 17th road game, the Wild exorcised the spell that had been cast over the team on its latest excursion — the one in which the group crumbles in the final minutes of regulation before losing in overtime.
That’s how the first two tests played out, last Saturday in Boston (5-4) and Monday in New York (3-2).
But this time was different.
And by holding on to preserve a 3-2 decision in front of 14,627 at Prudential Center, goalie Kaapo Kahkonen (32 saves) won his NHL debut and the Wild (10-11-4) pocketed four out of a possible six points on the trip and pushed its season-high point streak to seven games (4-0-3).
“They were determined,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “It was like, ‘We aren’t letting this happen again.’ ”
The Wild might have had a bigger lead, though, had the Devils’ first goal not mistakenly counted.
After winger Zach Parise tipped a Ryan Suter shot on the power play 5 minutes, 30 seconds into the first period — Parise’s second goal in as many games and team-leading 10th — New Jersey evened it at 12:44 when Jesper Boqvist’s shot clipped winger Luke Kunin’s stick and slid five-hole on Kahkonen.
The Wild issued a coach’s challenge because Wayne Simmonds high-sticked the puck in the neutral zone to himself in the offensive zone before setting up Boqvist.
After a video review, the NHL ruled the goal counted.
But it shouldn’t have.
According to a clarification issued Oct. 1 by the league to a previous rule change announced at the draft that broadened the scope of what coaches can challenge, “If the missed game stoppage is a batted puck committed by the attacking player from the neutral zone to himself or a teammate in the offensive zone” the challenge would be successful.
“We knew the rule, and we called it so there was a little shock,” said Boudreau, who thought he was told by the official that the sequence was unchallengeable.
Referee Brad Meier apologized on behalf of the NHL at the start of the second period, and the league e-mailed an official apology to video coach Jonas Plumb.
The NHL’s situation room also issued a statement that confirmed “a missed game stoppage event occurred” and “Minnesota’s challenge should have resulted in the New Jersey goal being disallowed.”
“I think it’s good for everyone, also good for the refs, that we end up winning the game,” captain Mikko Koivu said. “The league is too tight for that kind of mistake to happen, and I’m not blaming them. But that’s the reality. I’m sure they want to take that back, but good thing that didn’t matter at the end.”
The ruling didn’t sway the outcome because of what happened next.
Winger Jordan Greenway picked up a turnover forced by center Joel Eriksson Ek and wired a puck glove-side on goalie Louie Domingue during a partial breakaway at 10:07 of the second for a 2-1 lead.
Just 3:21 later, New Jersey answered back on the power play: A redirect by Kyle Palmieri as he crashed the net.
But three minutes into the third, Suter converted on a rising shot past Domingue, who ended up with 26 saves.
That finish put the Wild in the exact same situation it was in the previous two games, but the team staved off New Jersey and Kahkonen was a major reason why.
“He was outstanding with his rebound control, outstanding with just moving the puck,” Boudreau said. “Nothing seemed to faze him.”
Kahkonen became the sixth Wild goalie to earn a win in his NHL debut, an accomplishment the 23-year-old expects to sink in in the future.
“I don’t really know how to feel right now,” Kahkonen said. “Obviously, I’m really happy. It’s good to build on this, for sure.”