To Bruce Boudreau, the goal shouldn’t have counted.
As the Rangers’ Artemi Panarin closed on Wild goalie Alex Stalock for his shootout attempt, Panarin nudged the puck ahead with his forehand and backhand until he pulled it wide and flung it over a sprawled Stalock.
“The rule says the puck has to be going forward at all times,” Boudreau said. “I may be blind, but it doesn’t look like it was going forward at the end. We took the furthest point it went at the top of the crease and then when he shot it, he was going backwards.”
After its own review, the NHL disagreed with the Wild coach’s interpretation and rubber-stamped the finish — which helped the Rangers to a 4-3 comeback victory Thursday in front of an announced 17,413 at Xcel Energy Center.
But the Wild wouldn’t have even been in a shootout if it better protected its third-period, two-goal lead, a breakdown that cost the team in the standings.
Instead of sitting two points back of a playoff spot, an opportunity it had once the Coyotes lost earlier in the evening, the Wild is three behind the second wild-card seed in the Western Conference.
“This one stings,” winger Ryan Donato said.
Before Panarin and Mika Zibanejad tag-teamed for a pair of shootout goals, while Donato and Zach Parise missed for the Wild, Zibanejad sent the game to extra time with 1 minute, 6 seconds to go in the third period on a redirect that barely slid by Stalock’s left pad.
Earlier in the frame, at 11:51, the Rangers started their rally on a fortuitous sequence; Pavel Buchnevich’s shot caromed off Jonas Brodin’s skate and then clipped Wild captain Mikko Koivu’s stick before going in the net to make it 3-2.
“It was a terrible bounce,” said Stalock, who finished with 28 saves. “Nothing you can do about that.”
Although the message in between periods was to be aggressive and vie for another goal, the Wild had the opposite type of push.
“It seems like we have a tendency to sit back and let the other team bring the play to us,” Boudreau said. “When that happens, prevent defense doesn’t prevent anything.”
Donato opened the scoring 9:49 into the game when he threw a backhander on net that Rangers goalie Alexandar Georgiev couldn’t handle. The goal (11) set a new career high for Donato and with an assist on the play, Koivu recorded the 500th of his career.
Only 2:03 later, New York pulled even — a shot from Panarin from inside the left faceoff circle.
But the Wild would take a lead into the intermission after Brodin scored on a blistering one-timer at 16:43.
The Wild doubled its lead on a point shot from Matt Dumba 7:38 into the second, but the goal was disallowed after the Rangers issued a coach’s challenge to check for goalie interference. After a review, the NHL determined winger Ryan Hartman impaired Alexandar Georgiev’s ability to make the save.
Eventually, the Wild would get that goal back; with 2:07 remaining in the second, winger Jordan Greenway deflected in a Brodin shot past Georgiev, who made 23 saves.
In the third, the Wild had a chance to grow its lead with back-to-back power plays, but the unit ended up 0-for-2 after it delivered an eye-popping 15 goals in its previous 11 games — a disconnect that highlighted how off the Wild looked at times. The Rangers went 0-for-1.
“We need 18 players and a goalie to play great,” Boudreau said, “and we didn’t have all 18 players playing at their best [Thursday].”