The Wild was in charge, leading by a goal after the first period and again following the second, but coach Bruce Boudreau wasn’t comfortable — telling his players on the bench, “We are going to need more than this to win.”
His intuition was accurate.
Despite containing a desperate Islanders team that had faltered of late, the Wild allowed a two-goal spurt in 1 minute, 37 seconds to New York in a 3-1 loss Sunday in front of 17,506.
It was only the Wild’s the third regulation loss at Xcel Energy Center this season at the start of a four-game homestand.
“It’s hard to shut out teams and win 1-0,” Boudreau said.
The Islanders’ blitz began only 4:24 into the third period when Ryan Pulock’s heave at the net clipped winger Mats Zuccarello’s stick, disappeared into goaltender Devan Dubnyk’s equipment and then trickled through the goalie and over the goal line — a sequence that Dubnyk, who made 25 stops, protested.
“I just thought the puck was in me for long enough that a whistle could have been blown,” he said.
By 6:01, New York had moved ahead after Matt Martin buried a backhand pass from linemate Leo Komarov. With 2:31 to go, the Islanders added Tom Kuhnhackl’s first goal of the season — a shot off the post that tumbled into the net.
“When you have a lead going into the third period in this league, you’re supposed to win,” Boudreau said.
Before the Islanders rallied, the Wild had ample opportunities to grow its advantage — which emerged 15:43 into the first period when winger Ryan Donato shoveled in a loose puck in the crease. His five goals since Dec. 7 are the second most on the team in that span.
With assists on the play, defenseman Ryan Suter maintained a point-per-game pace over his past nine and center Joel Eriksson Ek stretched his point streak to three games, matching the longest of his career.
“Always go to the front of the net,” Donato said. “That’s where goals are scored.”
But the Wild couldn’t capitalize again, sending two deflections off the post and putting up a tepid push in the second that resulted in just five shots on goalie Semyon Varlamov — who ended up with 25 saves.
“We had chances to make it two,” center Eric Staal said. “If you could make it two, it’s real difficult for them to come back into it. But we missed a couple real, real good chances, and then it was just a couple breaks against us and then you’re down and it’s pretty gritty to try to get it tied up. We just didn’t have enough or a bounce here or there to get it.”
That included three blown power plays, which yielded just one shot. New York also went without a goal in two looks. Overall, the Wild has just three goals in its past 34 power plays.
“We had some really good looks, zone time, but we’re not getting any results,” Boudreau said. “That’s concerning, but we’re getting good looks and we’re trying to stay upbeat and positive about it.”
This return home, after already logging 24 road games, has been hyped as a launching pad for the Wild considering it has mostly been dominant in St. Paul (10-3-3).
And although the team debuted with a dud, it has plenty of time to recover to still make this stretch meaningful.
“We know what kind of team we can be at home,” Donato said. “Hopefully we can move forward after this one.”