The Wild’s seven-game road winning streak ended Saturday, but it’s road point streak reached nine games (7-0-2, tied for 2nd-longest in franchise history) during a 4-3 overtime loss at the Los Angeles Kings.
The Wild has points in 19 of the past 21 games overall (15-2-4) and 12 of its past 13 road games (8-1-4), but Bruce Boudreau yet again wasn’t thrilled after the Wild gave up four goals for a fifth time in six games (22 total, still 4-1-1 somehow in that span).
He wasn’t celebrating that the point – provided by Zach Parise’s last-minute power-play goal off an Eric Staal setup -- gave the Wild 53 points in 38 games for the best first half in franchise history three games before the first half’s even over. And, he wasn’t celebrating that the Wild’s .697 points percentage (best in the West) assures that it’ll still have the best points percentage in the Central by the end of Tuesday night. That means Boudreau, who has come close in the past but missed either because of a late loss or an Olympic year, will coach in his first NHL All-Star Game later this month right back here in the Staples Center.
He quipped, “So, I have to come back here? %$&#!!!”
In all seriousness, Boudreau said he’d rather have the other point tonight and the only accomplishment that matters is winning a Stanley Cup and the Wild cannot consider itself a “legitimate, good team” if it doesn’t reverse this leaky trend and start defending and checking well again.
Tonight, after Mikko Koivu and Charlie Coyle gave the Wild a 2-0 lead by the 7:27 juncture, Darryl Sutter called time, gave it to his team and the Wild tried to defend its way to victory. The Kings got pucks deep, controlled the neutral zone to force turnovers and didn’t allow the Wild any ability to generate consistent pressure.
As Parise said, the Wild couldn’t do anything clean, couldn’t get pucks away from the wall (where the big, strong Kings thrive) and couldn’t get them out of their face.
Darcy Kuemper struggled, giving up a bad goal to Jeff Carter to begin the Kings comeback and another leaky goal on Jake Muzzin’s go-ahead power-play goal early in the third. In between, Marian Gaborik took a shot that caromed off Kuemper, then Ryan Suter’s visor, and in.
The Wild couldn’t generate much in the third. In fact, with 2:25 left, the Wild registered two shots in the period. But the Wild drew its third power play in a 10 ½ minute span, and with 43 seconds left, Parise scored his second goal in two games.
In overtime, Tanner Pearson scored the winner with 1:28 left when he beat Jason Zucker to the net and deflected in Alec Martinez's pass.
Also, Koivu had a goal and assist, meaning he has 10 goals and 22 points in the past 21 games.
Boudreau: “We fought back. Every point is a good point, there’s no doubt. I don’t like the trends that are happening in the last six games. If we want to be a legitimate good team, we’ve got to correct these things.
“We stopped playing after they called the timeout. We just sort of said, ‘Hey, let’s defend the lead,’ and for the next 32 minutes, we were in our zone.”
Boudreau started the game with Nino Niederreiter and Jason Pominville playing their off wings. When he wasn’t pleased with what was going on, he quickly moved everybody back to their natural positions because they only had one practice with this look.
So, we’ll have to see what the lines look like Sunday in Anaheim.
On the 22 goals in six games, Boudreau said, “You go through these things. We need one really good game where we’re back to checking everybody and not giving up a lot of good scoring chances. When we give 10 and under, we’re a good team. When we give more than that, it’s more difficult.”
The ice was a joke tonight. Notoriously bad at the Staples Center because of the constant changeovers and weather, tonight was insane the way players and officials were falling inexplicably or the puck was bouncing like a ball.
I asked Parise about it. He was just answering the question, so he wasn’t using it as an excuse, but he concurred that “It was bad. It was slow. They’re playing on it, too, but it was very slow and tough to keep the puck flat. It felt like took three strides, and no glide.”
On Boudreau coaching the Central later this month during All-Star Weekend, it’s a pretty neat achievement by the Wild.
“It says a lot about our team, it says a lot about him, the coaching staff as a whole,” Coyle said. “We’re heading in the right direction here. Hats off to him. We want to keep getting better. I think we can still keep getting better as a team here.”
That’s it for now.
In Sunday’s Strib, please check out my game story, the notebook on analyst Ray Ferraro raving about all four of the Wild’s prospects in the world junior championships and my feature on Boudreau’s first return to where he coached previously, Anaheim.
Devan Dubnyk in goal against the Ducks. Not sure yet if there will be a morning skate, so you may not hear from me until right before the game. Talk Sunday.