The Minnesota Wild enter Tuesday night’s game with the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs in fifth place in the Central Division.
The Wild, however, have plenty of opportunity to make up ground with a stretch of games that sees them play 16 of 19 contests at the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minn.
That attractive home schedule got off to a rough start with a 3-1 loss to the New York Islanders on Sunday. Ryan Donato scored a goal in the first period to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead, but the Wild failed to build on the advantage and New York rallied for three third-period goals to pull out the victory.
“When you have a lead heading into the third period in this league, you’re supposed to win,” Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I was never comfortable with a (one-goal) lead. I was saying on the bench, ‘We’re going to need more than this to win.’ I always felt we had to get another goal somewhere. We had a couple of good chances at it, and we didn’t get it, and that worried me.”
“It’s tough to see,” Donato said. “Some nights you don’t get a lot of chances and they go in. Some nights you get all the chances in the world and somehow they stay out.” The loss to the Islanders was just the third in regulation in 16 home games (10-3-3) this season for the Wild, who are just two points behind Calgary for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference. Minnesota has overcome an ugly 6-11-1 start to the season that featured a league-high 24 road games in its first 40 contests.
With 15 of the next 18 games at home, Donato, for one, is happy to be unpacking his suitcase for a while now.
“Absolutely, it’s a blessing to be home so long,” he said. “I think we need it big-time. … We know what kind of team we can be at home. Hopefully we can move forward after this one.”
Next up for the Wild is a Toronto team that is 8-1-1 in its last 10 games and comes in off a 5-4 overtime loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday. That snapped a six-game winning streak by the Maple Leafs.
Auston Matthews had two goals and an assist in the loss and scored the tying goal with 53 seconds left as Toronto rallied from a two-goal deficit to garner a point. Defenseman Tony DeAngelo won it for the Rangers with a goal 52 seconds in overtime.
“I think we’re proud of the way we battled back,” said Matthews, who is second in the NHL with 26 goals behind Boston’s David Pastrnak (29).
“Obviously it would have been nice to finish it off, but I don’t think in any intermission or just coming out into the third (period) we were never discouraged or anything. With the way both these teams play, obviously high-powered offenses, you’re going to get your chances and we battled back.”
The Maple Leafs had previously rallied from two-goal deficits in back-to-back wins over New Jersey (5-4 in OT) on Friday and Carolina (8-6) last Monday.
“Playing from behind is tough,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. “We haven’t done that very much as a team here of late, but we’ve had to three games in a row. That’s not a good recipe for us, not a good recipe for anybody. Obviously, we’d like to flip this trend here and get back to playing with a lead.”
–Field Level Media
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