TORONTO – Three losses in a row typically make a coach pretty grumpy. Bruce Boudreau, though, was more circumspect Wednesday after the Wild fell 4-2 at Toronto.
The defeat was the Wild’s fourth in five games, but Boudreau preferred to focus on the effort rather than the result. After Monday’s debacle in Boston, the Wild outshot the Maple Leafs 37-19, did a much better job of supporting its goaltender, and cut down on the turnovers and careless gaffes. That left Boudreau in a much-improved mood, even as his team failed to gain any ground in the standings.
The Wild was hurt by a couple of fluky bounces at Air Canada Centre, including one goal that went in off the stick of defenseman Gustav Olofsson and another that ricocheted off the skate of goalie Devan Dubnyk. A strong performance by Toronto goalie Frederik Andersen limited the Wild to a pair of goals, both by Jason Zucker. With another game Thursday in Montreal, Boudreau hoped his players would see past the loss.
“It’s hard to be mad at them when everyone gives everything they have, and we just come up short,” the coach said. “We played a lot better. It’s unfortunate we didn’t get the result we wanted, but we played a pretty complete game for the most part.
“Hopefully, it’s something to build on. It always gets worse before it gets better, but we played the way we’re supposed to play.”
Toronto won its second game in a row despite playing without superstar Auston Matthews. The second-year forward missed a game for the first time in his career, sitting out because of an undisclosed injury. The Wild also had an unexpected absence, as goaltender Alex Stalock — who was supposed to start — returned to the Twin Cities to be at the birth of his second child.
Matthews’ injury sparked a panic among Leafs fans, who flooded social media with images of burning houses and screaming TV characters.
The rest of the team calmly picked up the slack, as Andersen kept the Wild at bay while goals by Nazem Kadri, Patrick Marleau and Connor Carrick kept the Leafs in front all evening.
The Wild outshot Toronto 23-12 in the first two periods but trailed 2-1 at the second intermission.
Kadri scored midway through the first when a shot banged off the end boards and went in off Dubnyk’s skate.
Zucker tied it on a rebound with 1:45 remaining in the first period, then Marleau scored from the slot on a well-executed play at 3:47 of the second.
The Wild got three power plays later in the period but came up empty. Carrick’s goal at 3:40 of the third, off Olofsson after Dubnyk could not smother a rebound, made it 3-1.
“It’s tough,” said Dubnyk, who has given up a few fluky goals and is 4-6-1 this season. “I’m not going to lie.
“After each game, you tell yourself it’s bound to stop, and it keeps going. It’s getting old.”
Dubnyk said the only recourse is to keep forging ahead, a message Boudreau wanted to send to his entire team.
The Wild is halfway through its longest road trip this season and is 0-2, with games Thursday in Montreal and Saturday in Philadelphia.
That leaves no time for self-pity, as easy as that might be.
“We’re all a little discouraged,” Boudreau said. “But if we let it beat us up, there’s what, how many games left? If you’re discouraged now, then you’re in trouble.
“I think at one point, we’re going to go on a good run, and that will make up for all this stuff. We’ll look back, and we’ll be a better team for going through this.”
toronto 4, wild 2
6:30 p.m. Thursday at Montreal (FSN)