NEWARK, N.J. – One bad pinch in the third period by a defenseman and a defensive-coverage mistake by two veterans in overtime were the most glaring reasons for the Wild’s 2-1 loss to the Devils on Saturday night.
But the Wild was playing with fool’s gold anyway because of yet again (figuratively) arriving late for a hockey game and playing as poor a first period as this team’s likely capable of playing.
The Wild coughed up pucks left and right, fell down constantly, couldn’t complete passes and attempted five total shots (that includes misses and shots blocked) in the first 20 minutes.
“I’m going to have to start telling them the game’s at 6:30,” coach Bruce Boudreau said of his 3-1-1 team. “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.”
Boudreau may want to specify to his players, though, that Sunday’s game in Brooklyn against the Islanders is actually an early 6 p.m. Eastern Time start, so 6:30 also won’t cut it.
The Wild opened a four-game road trip and stretch of eight games in the next 10 outside of St. Paul by wasting a strong performance by Devan Dubnyk and teenager Joel Eriksson Ek’s first career goal in his first career game.
Clinging to a 1-0 lead in the third period, defenseman Marco Scandella made a poor decision to pinch down the wall. The puck got free and New Jersey flew up ice. Despite Dubnyk making a half-dozen spectacular saves to preserve the lead, P.A. Parenteau forced OT by letting one rip from atop the right circle with 8:04 left.
In 3-on-3, Boudreau got his first chance to see how the Wild could be a ghastly 1-9 in overtime last season. He started Mikko Koivu, Ryan Suter and Mikael Granlund. After Koivu and Granlund couldn’t connect offensively, Taylor Hall ended it 29 seconds in.
“It seemed like it kind of came out of nowhere. They weren’t flying or anything,” Dubnyk said.
It came out of nowhere because Koivu crossed behind Suter to defend Adam Henrique on the right wing boards. Suter, about to cover Hall in the middle, suddenly stopped and also skated at Henrique.
“It’s man-on-man in overtime. There’s no switches,” Boudreau said. “Now they’re both on Henrique. That leaves one man open, and the most dangerous guy. So that’s what happens.”
A minute into the second, Eriksson Ek became the seventh Wild player in history to score in his NHL debut and first since Granlund in 2013. He scored off a Jason Zucker rebound to give the Wild the first goal in a game for the first time this season.
“We couldn’t get that second one,” Zach Parise said. “You can’t rely on winning a 1-0 game. You need to get that second goal. Unfortunately we weren’t able to.”
Eric Staal was denied on a breakaway. Schneider robbed Granlund. Another reason? It seems teammates are intent on trying to get Parise, without a goal through five games, that elusive 300th goal. Both Staal and Suter tried to feed Parise on odd-man rushes.
“There were 2-on-1s all over the place and instead of shooting we’re trying to force passes to him,” Boudreau said.
Dubnyk made 30 saves. In the second, he made outstanding stops to deny Parenteau, Hall, Kyle Palmieri and Beau Bennett. In the third, he robbed Pavel Zacha and Mike Cammalleri. The Bennett one included a pad stack, snow angel combination.
“I’ve felt good all year, right from the first game of the season,” Dubnyk said.
The Wild fell to 1-5-4 all-time in the Garden State.
“We have to let this one get out of our heads,” defenseman Matt Dumba said. “We got a point. Now let’s get out of New Jersey.”