Devan Dubnyk slammed a door. Bruce Boudreau’s face was as red as his tie.
“Yeah, I don’t like this color,” Boudreau, the Wild coach, said.
After a torrid six weeks in which the Wild played smart, quality, winning hockey, Tuesday’s postgame reaction was as foreign as the meltdown and eventual result: the Western Conference leaders surrendered a 2-0 lead and eventually two third-period one-goal leads to lose, in regulation, to the New Jersey Devils, 4-3, on home ice.
“We just did some uncharacteristically dumb things on all their goals,” Boudreau said.
After Erik Haula gave Minnesota its one-goal lead back a little more than nine minutes into the third period after Adam Henrique tied the score less than four minutes earlier, the Devils answered in only 22 seconds on Kyle Palmieri’s goal.
Then, any thought of salvaging even a point was destroyed with 2:17 left on Beau Bennett’s winning goal.
“It’s frustrating because we threw it away. We haven’t done that,” said Dubnyk, who had an off night to lose in regulation for only the second time in 20 starts. “Tie game with two minutes left, that’s where we’re usually solid.”
The Zach Parise-Eric Staal-Jason Pominville trio, who had a ghastly game, got flat-footed deep in the offensive zone after Staal fell and neither winger was covering high.
That led to an odd-man rush, and after Dubnyk was unable to cover a puck, Blake Coleman spun away from defenseman Christian Folin in the corner and hit Bennett in the slot.
Standing in front of Dubnyk? Parise, Pominville and Ryan Suter, all defending nobody. Bennett buried the winner, top corner.
The entire sequence exemplified the period.
“We pinch with a 3-2 lead with no one behind us. I mean, it’s stuff we don’t do, haven’t done all year,” Boudreau said. “I don’t know what our thought process is there. Their winning goal, we have three guys caught. A 4-on-2, they come down, and then it’s a 1-on-5 in the zone and nobody’s doing anything.
“It was just dumb hockey.”
One major reason the game likely derailed is because defenseman Jonas Brodin broke a finger early in the second period. Boudreau didn’t know yet the extent of the injury, which can be wide-ranging.
If Brodin is out long-term, the Wild’s likely options are to play right-shot defenseman Nate Prosser on his off side or recall left-shot Mike Reilly or Gustav Olofsson.
It may be a serious blow for a team that hasn’t had a player miss a game to injury since Christmas.
“He was missed back there,” said defenseman Jared Spurgeon, who scored a beautiful goal in the first period to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead. He palmed Nino Niederreiter’s rebound at the left side of the goalmouth, let the puck drop halfway and batted it out of the air past Cory Schneider.
Schneider was terrific in the first 40 minutes with 24 of his 32 saves. Jason Zucker scored a breakaway goal for a 2-0 lead, but Mikko Koivu, who had two assists, took a penalty and Pavel Zacha scored on the power play to spark the rally.
The Devils, who had scored more than three goals once since Dec. 3, improved to 10-4 in their past 14 against the Wild. It was only Minnesota’s second regulation loss in 20 games (17-2-1), but an ugly start to a stretch of 13 of 18 games at home.
Boudreau tweaked the first and third lines in the second period, swapping Charlie Coyle and Pominville. Coyle assisted on Haula’s goal, but the move didn’t have the desired effect for the Staal line.
Parise, Staal and Pominville were each minus-3.
“They weren’t very good,” Boudreau said. “They were fighting the puck all night. The part that gets you mad is when you’re fighting the puck, and we’ve all had those kind of nights, then you sit there and you have to go, ‘OK, I have to be smart defensively.’”
The Wild retained the top spot in the West, but the Blackhawks, who have played four more games, tied Minnesota in points.
“We’re going to have to get back at it,” Spurgeon said. “We can’t be losing points right now, and we know that.”