RALEIGH, N.C. – In a mind-numbing game that probably required some inside PNC Arena a combination of NoDoz, Vivarin and an Americano to remain conscious, the stumbling Wild eventually got done in by an opponent in danger of missing the playoffs for an eighth straight year and a goalie ripped to shreds by his coach a few weeks ago.
The Wild hardly looked like a Western Conference power during a 3-1 defeat to Eddie Lack and the Carolina Hurricanes that completed a 1-4 road trip Thursday night.
“Really disappointing. Disappointing road trip for us,” said Zach Parise, held to one shot by the Hurricanes in nearly 20 minutes of ice time. “You knew it would be a hard one as it was, but at least we had a chance to finish with a win heading home, but we couldn’t do it. Very frustrating.”
The Wild pushed hard in the third period, outshooting Carolina 17-6. But emulating the recent performances of opposing goalies Jake Allen, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Corey Crawford and Braden Holtby, Lack exasperated Wild shooters.
In a 1-1 game with five minutes left, Lack made back-to-back-to-back saves to rob Eric Staal, Charlie Coyle and Matt Dumba.
“It was a wonderful job in a 1-1 game. He was big tonight,” Carolina coach Bill Peters said.
Conversely, on what coach Bruce Boudreau guessed was Carolina’s second scoring chance of the period, Devan Dubnyk let Victor Rask’s attempt slithering through the goalmouth squeeze under his body and a few inches over the goal line for the winning goal with 3 minutes, 24 seconds left. Dubnyk also served up a sloppy rebound for the Hurricanes’ first goal — the ninth time in 11 games the Wild was scored on first.
Still, Boudreau didn’t blame his recently leaky goalie, saying: “We allowed two [goals]. We should be able to score three in a game.”
On the Canes’ winner, Dubnyk got no help from Dumba, who didn’t check Elias Lindholm off a puck moments earlier, nor Jason Zucker, who let Rask cut to the net from the corner.
Zucker, steaming as he removed his gear, said: “I can’t let guys beat me out of the corner and score a goal with three minutes left. That’s completely my fault. I let down my line, my teammates, everybody. That’s my fault tonight.”
The Wild, losers of six of eight and now three points back of the Chicago Blackhawks, returned to Minnesota reeling, and the schedule doesn’t lighten up. The Wild plays back-to-back games this weekend against the Rangers and at Winnipeg 22 hours apart, then at home against Pacific Division-leading San Jose on Tuesday.
“The guys are feeling it,” Boudreau said. “It’s been a long trip.”
Thursday’s game was disjointed and hard to watch. Pucks were bouncing everywhere, there was little flow. After Derek Ryan’s power-play goal, Mikko Koivu did connect with Mikael Granlund to set up a highlight-reel shorthanded tying goal. The goal was Granlund’s team-leading 24th, and Koivu broke Wes Walz’s team record with his 22nd career shorthanded point.
After allowing at least four goals in seven of the previous 10 games, the Wild clamped down and gave up only 24 shots. But the Wild couldn’t finish. Coyle had four shots and couldn’t lift a puck at one point with Lack down and seemingly out. Staal, in his second return to the place where he captained and won a Stanley Cup, was stopped six times.
“We’ve got to bury that puck, including myself there,” Coyle said.
Carolina halted a six-game losing streak to the Wild, which was frustrated over and over again.
“I played here a long time; I know how they play,” Staal said. “They’re tight, they’re well-coached, they work hard, they compete and they make it difficult for you. I thought we did the same. There wasn’t a lot of room.
“We had, I thought, the better end of it in the third, and we just have to find a way to get one by them, and we didn’t. They did.”