ST. PAUL — In the final minute of play, when the Wild were pushing their hardest, Adam McQuaid was down and out in front of the net, victim of a heavy-traffic wipeout.
By the time McQuaid got to his feet, recovered his stick, and regained his bearings, things were going south quickly. The Wild were swarming. The Bruins were trying to survive the last minute of regulation to record at least one point.
That point would have been theirs if not for some bad luck.
Mikael Granlund’s sharp-angle fling toward the net bounced off McQuaid, changed direction, and skittered past a helpless Tuukka Rask with 44.5 seconds remaining in regulation to hang a 1-0 loss on the Bruins on Thursday at Xcel Energy Center. Rask, flawless on the 28 other shots that flew his way, provided some of his saltier language in describing the bad-luck, zero-point result.
“Pardon my language, but the [expletive] bounces were 1-1,” said Rask. “Ours was just an offside. Theirs was a goal. After two periods when it’s 0-0, you feel like it’s going to be either some kind of a breakdown or a lucky bounce. That’s what happened.”
The bounce that did not go the Bruins’ way happened in the second period. At 14:36, the Bruins celebrated Torey Krug’s point shot that bonked off David Backes’s left skate and eluded the grasp of Devan Dubnyk to seemingly give them a 1-0 lead.
But as soon as the Bruins’ hands went up, Bruce Boudreau’s head turned toward the monitor behind the Wild bench. The Minnesota coach soon saw what video review would later confirm upon his challenge: The Bruins had gone offside prior to the goal.
David Krejci had initiated the offensive-zone entry by hauling in a Krug pass and carrying it over the blue line. But just before he crossed the line, Krejci had to pull the puck back to avoid Ryan Suter’s poke check. That slight hesitation was enough to propel Ryan Spooner, who had just rolled over the boards, into the zone a hair before he was joined by the puck. The infraction that linesmen Lonnie Cameron and Brian Mach didn’t spot at full speed was clear on the replay, wiping out Backes’s goal.
“There wasn’t much offense because both teams played well defensively,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “It was going to take a lucky bounce to win the hockey game. We had that lucky bounce in the second that was called back because of an offside. They got a lucky bounce there at the end that ended up counting. That’s how the game got decided.”
It was as close as the Bruins would get. Dubnyk (25 saves), who blanked the Bruins in their previous meeting, was perfect again. Dubnyk made his sharpest stop in the third period after Matt Beleskey picked off a Matt Dumba pass and slipped away for an uncontested shot. As soon as Beleskey picked up his head on his approach, Dubnyk was in his face, having shot out of his crease to poke the puck away. Before Beleskey could turn the puck to his backhand, the 6-foot-6-inch Dubnyk had stretched out and smothered the puck at 5:57.
But the Wild could credit their defense more than Dubnyk for shutting out the Bruins again. The first-line combination of Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron had some good looks down low. But otherwise, the Wild, who allow a league-low 1.81 goals per game, played their usual smothering style. They closed on pucks rapidly. They used sticks and body positioning to keep the Bruins on the outside. The Bruins didn’t get many sniffs in tight.
“They play above you a lot,” Beleskey said. “They don’t give up a lot. They sit back and let you come at them. But they stay above their guy and play some tight defense. I think we had a decent amount of chances. But their goalie made some good saves. Unfortunately, one hits our foot and it goes in.”
The Wild tested Rask more than the Bruins put heat on Dubnyk. Rask answered the call.
He stared down Jason Pominville twice. The first time, Rask pushed from right to left to stop Pominville’s close-range shot on an odd-man rush at 2:15 of the second. Later in the second, after taking a feed from Jared Spurgeon, Pominville found himself uncovered in front of the net. Rask challenged Pominville to reduce his angle and gloved the forward’s shot at 18:14.
Rask could do nothing, however, about the winner. First, Rask had to try to peek around the down-and-out McQuaid. Rask was positioned correctly for Granlund’s fling. But when the puck glanced off McQuaid, no goalie could have recovered in time to stop the shot. McQuaid was not made available to describe the final sequence.
“He was hurt or something before that,” Rask said. “The play developed after he got up. Then he just threw it at the net, hit his shin pad, hit my skate, and went in. That’s about it.”