PITTSBURGH – Forward Ryan Donato was working out in PPG Paints Arena when he noticed defenseman Greg Pateryn retreat from the bench after the national anthem and just before the puck was set to drop Tuesday between the Wild and Penguins.
“I was like, ‘What’s going on?’” Donato said.
Soon after, one of the Wild’s assistant equipment managers approached Donato and told him he needed to get ready to play.
“That’s what I did,” recalled Donato, who had his normal pregame meal but then added a burger. “I don’t know what time I got out there. It felt like I was in a dream. It was kind of a haze. It was a crazy feeling.”
Donato was a late arrival to the action, joining the Wild’s bench a handful of minutes into the first period after a lineup error mistakenly had him playing and Pateryn scratched when it was supposed to be the other way around.
ICYMI: this is why the #mnwild is playing with five defensemen and has 13 forwards. Greg Pateryn (scratched) was supposed to play, and Ryan Donato (listed on roster) was supposed to be scratched. pic.twitter.com/CkbCCf3S97— Sarah McLellan (@sarah__mclellan) January 15, 2020
After the game, coach Bruce Boudreau said the mistake was his – one that preceded a miserable 7-3 loss to the Penguins that counted as the Wild’s fourth straight setback.
“I don't think there was any feeling toward it,” Donato said about the vibe on the bench after the team learned it’d be down to five defensemen against a potent Pittsburgh squad. “These guys are professionals, and they know when something can be a distraction not to worry about it. Just control the controllables, right? I think a lot of guys weren't thinking about it. They were worried about their individual shifts. That's really all you can do in that circumstance. If you don't, it can bring you down.”
Donato got on the ice during TV timeouts to skate around, but he didn’t take his first shift until 2 minutes, 9 seconds remained in the second period.
“He wasn't dressed for warmups or anything,” Boudreau said. “He came down, and I was looking for some stoppages of time to give him some ice time. Then I just tried to implement him in the game as it went, and I thought he did OK.”
Despite starting shorthanded and then relying on only five defensemen, players chalked up the lineup mistake as “just something we had to deal with,” goalie Devan Dubnyk said.
“The puck hasn’t even dropped yet,” Dubnyk said. “We’re ready to play. It’s like a guy getting injured. You’re not just going to quit playing. We got lots of capable guys that are in good shape that are able to play lots of minutes.”
Dubnyk went on to say Boudreau apologized for the incident.
“It’s one of those things if I let in a shot from the red line, I don’t want anybody beating me up over it, right?” Dubnyk continued. “Stuff happens, and it’s not a big deal.”
Winger Marcus Foligno thought the Wild should have rallied around the adversity.
“It's up to us to be mentally tough, to kind of get rid of that stuff and not feel sorry for ourselves because we lost a guy already before the game started,” he said. “But it is what it is. In those scenarios, you should work harder, work smarter, try to pick up the coaching staff and things like that.”
This was the Wild’s fourth straight defeat, with only one of those coming in extra time.
Until Tuesday, the Wild had been in close games despite ending up on the losing end. The team did pull within two goals in the third period, but more defensive lapses regrew its deficit.
“It was really frustrating because I thought if we got one goal early [in the third], they wouldn't have been able to turn it back on,” Boudreau said. “And we got one goal early, and then we made a mistake and it's in the back of our net. And as soon as that happened, you could see the shoulders go down.”
The last time the Wild dropped four in a row was when it debuted 0-4 at the start of the season.
Avoiding another spiral like the one that sabotaged the team’s October is now the Wild's top priority.
“This is what we did early on in the year, is we said, ‘Woe is me on our mistakes,’ and then it goes for a big slide,” Boudreau said. “We have to end the slide now no matter who we're playing.”