The Wild was mere seconds, 5.6 to be exact, from banking at least a point and giving itself a chance to reclaim the second that slipped through its grip just minutes earlier.
But that shot at redemption never arrived and the Wild left the ice empty-handed, getting stunned 5-4 after a late Florida Panthers goal Monday in front of an announced 17,255 at Xcel Energy Center snapped the team’s brief two-game win streak.
“That one hurts,” winger Luke Kunin said. “It feels kind of like we just gave it away.”
Florida’s Noel Acciari delivered the gut punch, deflecting in a puck at 19:54 while tightly guarded by defenseman Ryan Suter — who actually had a hand on Acciari’s stick. The sequence was reviewed to determine if Acciari tipped the puck with a high stick, but video supported the on-ice call that his stick was at or below the height of the crossbar when it connected with the puck.
This was the Panthers’ first regulation win ever in St. Paul in 12 visits.
“It’s just a crazy goal,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I think Sutes held his stick and was lifting it up to get it out of the way, and the guy didn’t even know it hit his stick. I think it was a double deflection.”
Florida was in position to win in regulation after tying the score at 4-4 with 4:08 left on a Vincent Trocheck shot that sailed five-hole on goalie Alex Stalock, who was making his third straight start.
“I want the fourth one back, obviously,” said Stalock, who had 20 saves overall and called the fourth goal soft. “Probably a different game.”
Trocheck got the shot off after cutting to the middle past defenseman Greg Pateryn, who was set up too wide on the play.
“I don’t know how or why he was there,” Boudreau said.
Not only did those two Panthers goals in 4:02 pry two points away from the Wild, but they also overshadowed the positive plays that led to the Wild being on the brink of victory.
Despite giving up the first goal in each period, the Wild responded every time.
After Keith Yandle pinched from the blue line to bury a Mike Hoffman pass at 4:01 of the first, the Wild evened it at 19:43 on the power play — a shot from defenseman Jared Spurgeon along the goal line for Spurgeon’s second goal in as many games.
In the second period, Aleksander Barkov regained Florida’s lead on a breakaway at 7:28. But it was 2-2 by 10:59; that’s when Kunin scored on a one-timer for the Wild’s third shorthanded goal of the season.
Only 2:02 into the third, the Panthers were back on top after an Evgeni Dadonov deflection counted as Florida’s lone power-play goal in two tries.
But just 2:17 later, winger Zach Parise retaliated with his own power-play marker for his team-leading 19th goal and fifth in the past four games. Overall, the Wild’s power play went 2-for-4 and has capitalized in a season-high four straight games.
“The power play is going good, and we got a shorthanded goal,” Boudreau said. “When you get those things, you’re supposed to win.”
At 7:06, the Wild established its first lead when Kunin wristed a shot from the slot past Sergei Bobrovsky, set up by linemates Joel Eriksson Ek and Marcus Foligno. Bobrovsky totaled 29 saves.
But the Wild was better at chasing a lead than protecting one, whiffing in the waning stages and remaining seven points back of a playoff spot.
“Pretty disheartening,” Parise said. “From getting ourselves back into the driver’s seat and feeling like a few more shifts … to close it out to not getting a point out of it, that’s a tough one right now where we are. That’s a tough one to take.”