BOSTON – It was the outcome expected of a road-weary bunch tripping into an early hole against a rested and rolling juggernaut.
Looking very much like it was completing a back-to-back at the conclusion of a four-game trip that spanned nearly a week, the Wild ran into the buzz saw that was the Bruins and limped to a 4-0 letdown Tuesday in front of 17,565 at TD Garden that nixed the team’s three-game win streak.
But with six points from three victories already in tow, this detour through the Eastern Conference was still a success — and perhaps the turning point the Wild needs to continue its climb up the standings, as the group finished the trek and opened the second half of the season in the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
“It’s always tough to think about that immediately after a game,” center Eric Staal said. “Obviously, you’re disappointed with the result tonight. But we did have some good wins and some good hockey, and we gotta take that with us as we go home.”
Although the last impression left by the finale didn’t reflect well on the Wild, it looked like the anomaly of the bunch.
In pulling out 4-3 decisions over the Maple Leafs and Senators before upending the Canadiens 1-0 Monday, the Wild relied on opportunistic scoring, timely saves and a perseverance reminiscent of its triumphs earlier in the season when it assembled wins like puzzle pieces.
“I don’t think we gave up a lot,” Staal said. “We were difficult to play against, all the stuff we know we can do we were doing.”
But the Wild skated like the knockoff version of that get-up against the Bruins, who cruised to their fifth straight victory amid three first-period goals.
At 5 minutes, 23 seconds, winger Danton Heinen deflected a John Moore shot past backup goalie Alex Stalock.
Top-line winger Brad Marchand doubled Boston’s lead 6:06 later when he buried a bounce off the end boards and, with 45 seconds left in the frame, the Bruins converted on the power play — a floater by center Patrice Bergeron that hit winger Jake DeBrusk’s chest and tumbled behind Stalock.
“When you’re a tired team,” coach Bruce Boudreau said, “sometimes you don’t have the energy to come back.”
Another redirect on the Bruins’ second and final power play, this one off Bergeron’s stick 6:24 into the second, capped off the scoring. Stalock, who was making his first start since Dec. 6, posted 23 saves; Tuukka Rask had 24.
The Wild, blanked on its three power-play chances, failed to register a shot and remained stuck in a 1-for-23 funk.
“Our power play was about as bad as we’ve had it all year,” winger Jason Zucker said.
Aside from that blemish, the road swing also highlighted the scoring struggles of Staal, Zucker and Nino Niederreiter, all goalless on the trip.
“I’m counted on to contribute offensively and be a difference maker here,” Staal said. “Right now it’s not going in but back to work and stick with the compete, and it’ll come.”
That should be the focus of the entire team.
While this stretch was fruitful, its impact will only matter if it’s the start of similar showings.
“We finally got ourselves back in the race here,” Boudreau said. “We gotta push forward here. That’s what you gotta do.”