On paper, the Wild were always going to struggle in this particular game against the Boston Bruins.
In a matchup with the NHL’s best team, the Wild were without their best player (Kirill Kaprizov), arguably their best defenseman (Jonas Brodin), a top pair defenseman (Jake Middleton), their alternate captain (Marcus Foligno), and a gritty glue guy (Brandon Duhaime).
In the end, that proved too much to overcome as the Wild suffered a 5-2 loss to the Bruins on Saturday afternoon at Xcel Energy Center. That snapped their franchise-best point streak at 14 games.
No doubt the most frustrating part of the game was that the Wild probably felt they deserved a better fate. Not only did they battle tooth and nail for 60 minutes, they had a pair of goals wiped off the board on offside calls. That overshadowed an otherwise impressive effort given the circumstances.
“Obviously, they’ve been the best team in the league the whole season,” Marcus Johansson said. “We proved we can play with them.”
In that same breath, Johansson joked that the Wild scored enough goals to be in it. Aside from the pair of goals that got overturned, Johansson also inadvertently scored on his own net midway through the game while trying to break up a pass in front.
That’s the way it goes sometimes.
“It’s a game of inches,” Matt Dumba said of the offside calls. “Those go the other way (and) we’re in the saddle right where we want to be. That’s not making excuses for us, it just simply shows they’re the best in the league and we’re right there.”
After an aggressive start to the game, Johansson made it 1-0 in favor of the Wild, finishing off a tic-tac-toe passing sequence. He started the rush into the offensive zone, then dished to Joel Eriksson, who quickly passed to Matt Boldy before the puck wound up back on Johansson’s stick in front.
It looked as if the Wild had added to their lead later in the first period as Dumba pinched up in the play and hammered home a feed from Johansson in the slot. Upon further review, the officials waved the goal off, ruling that Connor Dewar was offside.
That left the door open and Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk eventually tied score at 1-1 late in the period with a shot that fluttered past Filip Gustavsson.
Things started to open up in the second period largely because the Wild couldn’t stay out of the penalty box. Naturally, Bruins winger David Pastrnak made them pay, scoring on the power play to make it 2-1.
It appeared the Wild had tied the game later in the second period as Boldy willed a puck into the back of the net. Upon further review, the officials waved the goal off, ruling that Boldy was offside.
Not surprisingly, the home crowd took exception officials, showering them with boos from every level of the arena. That frustration grew late in the second period as Bruins center David Krejci stretched the lead to 3-1 thanks to a fortuitous bounce near the crease.
With a prime opportunity to cut into the deficit, the Wild came up empty on an extended two-man advantage after the Bruins gifted them a couple of penalties.
That lack of success explained why coach Dean Evason started the No. 2 power play when given the chance early in the third period. It paid off as Oskar Sundqvist scored a goal to cut the deficit to 3-2. Asked about the decision to bench the No. 1 power play in that moment, coach Evason responded, “They weren’t good. It’s as simple as that.”
As the game tightened up down the stretch, the Wild got loose for a moment, and Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron promptly made it 4-2 with a perfectly placed shot.
“I thought Gus played great,” Boldy said. “He made a lot of really great saves. They scored some really nice goals. There’s not much he can do there.”
As the game wound to a close, Bruins winger Trent Frederic finalized the score at 5-2 with an empty-netter. Needless to say, the final score wasn’t a clear indication of how closely the Wild battled the Bruins throughout.
“We played a good game and we’ve got to learn from it and move on,” Johansson said. “We’ve got another chance tomorrow against a good team (Washington) so it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Puck drop is set for 1 p.m. at Xcel Energy Center.
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