Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk was ready for winger Zach Parise’s pass.
And after he accepted the puck, Dubnyk looked up and saw pressure arriving from the Devils. So he shuffled the puck off the end boards instead of tossing it up ice and figured Parise would be there to retrieve it.
But Parise wasn’t.
The Devils were and after funneling the puck back to the front of the net, center Nico Hischier eventually buried it by Dubnyk to sink the Wild 5-4 in overtime Friday at Xcel Energy Center – a gut-wrenching finish after the Wild led 4-1 at one point.
“It’s frustrating,” Dubnyk said.
The mistake was a crushing blow for the Wild, but it shouldn’t have been in extra time – not when it had a three-goal lead late in the second period.
But a goal by defenseman Will Butcher late in that frame stung, giving the Devils momentum and the Wild flashbacks to previous collapses. A power play goal by winger Kyle Palmieri in the third to pull New Jersey within one compounded the problem.
“The guys are going, ‘Uh oh, here we go again,’” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “It becomes a dangerous situation even though we’re on the bench trying to tell them, ‘We’re all good. It’s all fine.’ Didn’t want to call a time out. Didn’t want to change the goalies. It got too late in the third period to change I thought after they got the third one. Just gotta go build them up.”
The Wild, however, didn’t respond – surrendering the tying goal with 2:45 to go on a shot by defenseman Ben Lovejoy that slid under Dubnyk.
“I don’t know if I gotta work harder to find pucks through guys,” he said. “It just feels like you’re trying to find it and go down and try to be big, and it just finds a way through right now. I gotta come up with a save there. I don’t know if I gotta do a better job of finding that shot, getting down, whatever it is. It’s just frustrating. It just feels like I’m constantly trying to find it.”
Asked if he can continue to trot Dubnyk out for starts, Boudreau said he’d confer with the other coaches and General Manager Paul Fenton Saturday when the team reconvenes for practice.
“They weren’t good goals,” Boudreau said. “Duby will be the first one to tell you. We gotta get that save. … He’s too good a goalie to be allowing that and having his confidence shaken this much. I don’t know what to say.”
Aside from goaltending, Boudreau is bothered by a lack of killer instinct. That’s twice this week the Wild has had a chance to bury an opponent and it hasn’t – slip-ups that have cost the team valuable points.
“When you get four [goals], you should be wanting to go to six,” Boudreau said, “but at the same time play safer that they’re not going to get odd-man rushes and you’re not going to make it a track meet. There’s a couple things to deal with here.”
Still, this slide – just one win in its last eight games – hasn’t pried a playoff spot away from the Wild. It remains in the second wild card seed with 60 points, one ahead of the Vancouver Canucks.
“It’s hard to be positive right now, but we’re in the 60-point bracket right now,” Boudreau said. “Obviously, we’re playing the hottest team in the league on Sunday [in the St. Louis Blues]. But just the way I look at it, just think if you win that game that changes the whole complexion of everything in the last 22 games. That’s basically what I’m going to be talking about tomorrow.”