It would have been OK, Bruce Boudreau figured, if the Wild hadn’t managed to pull out a 4-2 victory at Calgary on Saturday. “We needed it,’’ he said. “But if it hadn’t happened, we would have gone back to the drawing board and worked. Because we weren’t going to give up.’’
Yet there was no time like the present. Boudreau looked and sounded a little relieved after the Wild finally broke its pattern of being in position to win in the third period, only to lose its grip. It was all the more impressive that it happened in the second game of a back-to-back set in Winnipeg and Calgary, a night after a disappointing loss to the Jets.
The Wild looked tired in the first period, but a marvelous performance by goalie Alex Stalock allowed them to stay even until they got the offense going. Earlier on Saturday, Boudreau was lamenting how every mistake the Wild made seemed to cost it dearly; against the Flames, they made some significant blunders, but they managed to win anyway.
Some postgame thoughts and quotes:
--Boudreau readily admitted his own error in challenging Calgary’s tying goal late in the second period, scored by Sean Monahan with 27.5 seconds left. It wasn’t a good choice, and it put the Wild in a tough position when the challenge was lost. Teams now are assessed a minor penalty when they lose an offside challenge.
That put Calgary on a power play to start the third period with the score tied 1-1. Things were made worse when Ryan Suter was penalized for slashing, giving the Flames a five-on-three for 1:11. Kris Versteeg walked the goal line from the left, used some fancy stickwork and scored to give Calgary its first lead.
“I was so mad we gave up another goal in the last minute of the period,’’ Boudreau said. “Once I (made the challenge) and (the official) started going over it, it’s funny how fast you have to look at that thing. Then I looked at it more and said, ‘Oh, crap. It’s not offside.’
“But (the Wild) came back. They were determined.’’
--Suter scored the tying goal at 10:33 of the third on a nice drop pass from Erik Staal. After the game, Boudreau jokingly thanked Suter for bailing him out after his lost challenge. Suter was glad to bail himself out, too, after taking that slashing penalty that helped the Flames take a 2-1 lead 43 seconds into the third period.
“It was important to have a good third period,’’ Suter said. “We talked about it before the third. Going down five-on-three and them scoring a goal doesn’t help us, but we found a way to battle back, and that’s what good teams do.’’
Spurgeon’s winning goal was a beauty, a hard, high shot from the right circle that sneaked past goalie Mike Smith’s shoulder and under the crossbar. Spurgeon also blocked four shots as the Wild registered 22 blocks.
--Luke Kunin took a step forward in his third NHL game. He had two assists—his first two NHL points—and four hits. He played with poise and confidence, earning minutes in key situations as the game wore on—including a big penalty kill in the final four minutes.
The Wild will take a day off Sunday, then resume practice Monday before starting that six-game homestand Tuesday against Vancouver.