BUFFALO, N.Y. – Evening up the score hasn’t been a problem for the Wild lately.
Securing the go-ahead goal has, an issue that popped up again in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Sabres on Tuesday in front of an announced 16,847 at KeyBank Center — a trend that’s simultaneously encouraging and frustrating for a Wild bunch that’s winless (0-1-2) since it resumed its second-half playoff push after an eight-day break.
“It’s both,” Zach Parise said. “You have to have that ability to come back, but you’d love to see us play with a lead a little bit.”
That didn’t happen at all Tuesday, as the Wild tied it up on three occasions to force extra time and acquire at least a point for its effort — all done without their captain.
Mikko Koivu left in the first period because of a lower-body injury after he collided with Buffalo’s Tage Thompson, with the two smacking right legs near center ice as Koivu carried the puck.
Coach Bruce Boudreau had no update on Koivu’s status after the game.
“Hopefully it’s not too serious, and we won’t miss him for that long,” Parise said.
Without Koivu, Charlie Coyle shifted to the middle — anchoring Parise and winger Luke Kunin — and the three helped the team keep rallying. They were on the ice for three Wild goals. The last one came when Parise whacked in a loose puck with 1 minute, 37 seconds left in the third to even it at 4-4 while goalie Devan Dubnyk was on the bench for an extra attacker. Before that, winger Sam Reinhart put the Sabres ahead 6:25 into the period when he directed in a Jake McCabe pass.
“They never quit,” Boudreau said.
After a scoreless overtime that featured close calls for both sides, Reinhart scored the lone goal in the shootout — settling the game for the team that had control early.
A rising shot from center Evan Rodrigues on the power play just 4:31 into the first put the Sabres up 1-0, but the Wild tied it 6:29 into the second when defenseman Jared Spurgeon batted the puck out of midair past Buffalo goalie Linus Ullmark.
The goal capped off a 10-1 edge in shots for the Wild to start the period, but the team’s offense sputtered after that — and the Sabres pounced.
First, Buffalo retook the lead only 63 seconds after Spurgeon’s goal when winger C.J. Smith buried a Reinhart pass that sliced through a breakdown in the Wild’s zone. And at 11:33, the Sabres converted their second power-play goal on a shot through traffic by rookie defenseman Rasmus Dahlin.
Buffalo finished 2-for-2 with the man advantage; the Wild went 0-for-3.
Eventually, the Wild recalibrated.
Spurgeon scored off a wraparound at 13:43 — set up by Kunin — on the Wild’s first shot since Spurgeon’s goal earlier in the period.
And with 2:55 to go in the second, Coyle crashed the net to finish off a shot by Kunin that hit the post, tying the score. Overall, the Wild amassed 19 shots on net in the middle period.
But that momentum didn’t sustain the Wild in the third period, and the team repeated a familiar cycle — falling behind before clawing back, but not enough to pull ahead.
Dubnyk posted 35 saves, while Ullmark had 41 before stopping Victor Rask, Jason Zucker and Parise in the shootout.
“You stress yourself out always fighting, coming from behind,” Parise said. “We’ve got to get ourselves a lead.”