The Minnesota Wild and New Jersey Devils share similar records for some of the same reasons: inconsistent goaltending along with an inability to protect leads in the third period.
The struggling teams get together Tuesday night when Minnesota visits New Jersey, which is coming off one of its best showings of the season.
Minnesota heads to New Jersey at 9-11-4, and its 22 points are the second-fewest in the Western Conference. The Wild have notched at least a point in six straight games (3-0-3), but in their past two contests, they allowed the tying goal on the power play the final three minutes of regulation and then lost in overtime.
Two nights after a 5-4 loss in Boston, when the Wild blew a two-goal lead by allowing two goals in 48 seconds, Minnesota blew a one-goal lead Monday by allowing the tying power-play goal to Chris Kreider with 2:50 remaining, then lost 32 seconds into overtime.
“It’s not inexperience, but you can’t take a penalty every game in the last five minutes,” Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau said. “It’s just sort of sitting there and saying, ‘Here we’re going to give you a great opportunity to score,’ and they seem to do it.”
Minnesota is 8-3-5 when entering the third period tied or holding a lead, and the Wild are 4-2-4 in one-goal games.
Zach Parise and Ryan Donato scored for Minnesota on Monday.
Wild goalie Alex Stalock, who has a 2.80 goals-against average in 13 games, started the past two games while Devan Dubnyk, who has a 3.36 GAA, is away from the team due to personal reasons. Kaapo Kahkonen will make his debut Tuesday, and the Wild are hoping the former fourth-round pick can perform as he did with Iowa of the American Hockey League, where he was 7-2-1 with a 2.47 GAA and a .909 save percentage.
“He’s probably going to be a little nervous, so I’m hoping the team will play really good in front of him to get him sort of into it,” Boudreau said.
New Jersey’s 20 points are the second fewest in the Eastern Conference, though the Devils are 8-6-2 since opening the season at 0-4-2. The Devils are trying to win consecutive games for the fourth time this season after scoring four third-period goals Saturday en route to a 5-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings.
Will Butcher scored the go-ahead goal early in the third period, and Blake Coleman tallied twice as the Devils rebounded from consecutive losses to Boston and Pittsburgh.
It was a rare night where the Devils did not struggle in the third period. They are 7-3-4 when leading or tied entering the third period, though they are getting outscored 30-14 in the last 20 minutes of games.
“It’s a much better feeling in here,” Coleman said after the win over Detroit. “It’s the response you want to see after a game like that. I thought that the first (period) was back and forth, even the second a little bit. But you could see that once we got that second goal, it was pedal down and everybody started pulling the rope. It was a good third.”
Mackenzie Blackwood started the losses to Boston and Pittsburgh but Louis Dominique made 19 saves Saturday, and he could be in goal again Tuesday. Dominque was called up from Binghamton of the AHL last week when the Devils sent Cory Schneider to the minors after he cleared waivers.
–Field Level Media