BOSTON – In search of a new analogy to describe the same unshakable problems, Wild coach Bruce Boudreau chose to go old-school.
“It’s like the Keystone Kops out there,” he said Monday, after a 5-3 loss to Boston. “Guys that know how to play hockey aren’t playing very well.”
For the Europeans and youngsters who might not know the reference, it is not a compliment. And comparing his team to that bumbling band of silent-movie misfits was about the nicest thing Boudreau had to say following another unexplainable defeat. The Wild began a four-game road trip by scoring the game’s first goal at TD Garden, then sitting back and allowing a makeshift Bruins lineup to ring up four in a row.
The team’s third loss in four games followed a familiar script. Flimsy defense, too few shots on net, turnovers in the neutral zone and a less-than-sharp game by goalie Devan Dubnyk dropped the Wild into a 4-1 hole. A far better effort in the third period came too late, leaving Boudreau red-faced and fuming.
“We weren’t very competitive,” Boudreau said. “The first two periods, that was probably the most embarrassing two periods I’ve been involved with in a lot of teams.
“[Boston] was doing nothing in the first 10 minutes. And then, we give them two goals, and we give them life. And then all of a sudden, we sit back and don’t do anything. It’s embarrassing.”
That feeling spread to a contrite locker room. Boston entered the game without leading scorer Brad Marchand, who on Monday joined a long list of injured players that also includes mainstays David Backes and David Krejci. The Bruins have played seven rookies this season, tied for most in the NHL, and coach Bruce Cassidy has had to work with a constantly changing roster.
Both teams were challenged by the poor ice at TD Garden. A day after a Janet Jackson concert — and in humid, 65-degree weather — it bore visible gouges, gashes and ruts, which led to some unpredictability with footing and puck movement.
The Wild, though, mostly created its own problems. Nino Niederreiter scored on a rebound to give his team a 1-0 lead at 4 minutes, 53 seconds, then Jake DeBrusk and Frank Vatrano scored in a span of 2:19 for the Bruins.
DeBrusk’s goal bounced in off the Wild’s Ryan Suter after his defensive partner, Jared Spurgeon, lost a puck battle along the left boards. Vatrano’s shot hit a goalpost and Dubnyk’s pad.
“[Dubnyk] can’t allow that second one, for sure,” said Boudreau, who added that the first Bruins goal came on a “bad play” by the Wild.
Things got much worse in the second period. The Wild was outshot 15-4 and repeatedly allowed the Bruins to blow through the neutral zone and cross the blue line with speed.
Sean Kuraly scored Boston’s third goal on a rebound Dubnyk could not control, and the Bruins’ fourth came after a Wild turnover. Dubnyk, who stopped 20 of 24 shots, was replaced by Alex Stalock after two periods. Boudreau did it partly to get Stalock, who is likely to start Wednesday at Toronto, some ice time after a week on the bench.
He also hoped it might jolt some life into his team, which found itself trying to explain another lackluster performance.
“We’ve got to respond better as a group and be mentally tougher,” forward Eric Staal said. “It’s not acceptable. We’ve got a lot of hockey coming up here, so we’ve got to find it quick.”
Boston 5, Wild 3 Wednesday: at Toronto, 6:30 p.m. (FSN Plus)