The Bruins looked determined to make amends in Minnesota on Saturday for their lackluster performance in Winnipeg on Friday.
That lasted all of 20 minutes. The Wild wrestled control of the game from the B’s in the second period and, though the B’s made it close in the end, Minnesota came away with a well-deserved 3-2 victory at Xcel Energy Center. It was the fourth straight loss for the B’s.
Whether or not the three-day Christmas break can fix what’s ailing the Bruins, they are currently broken. They have one regulation win in their past eight games. Their penalty-killing, once a key part of their identity, has sprung leaks.
The B’s are missing regular defensemen Derek Forbort and Matt Grzelcyk, but their top D-men are struggling. Charlie McAvoy is minus-13 in the 15 games since returning from his four-game suspension. Hampus Lindholm, a 53-point man last season, has just 1-6-7 totals this season.
And Jake DeBrusk, expected to provide some much needed secondary scoring, is stuck on four goals.
After Friday’s shellacking in Winnipeg, the B’s improved engagement level was obvious at the start on Saturday. On an early shift, Trent Frederic sent Morgan Geekie in alone on Marc-Andre Fleury, but the future Hall of Famer turned away the offering.
There was little Fleury could do, however, from the B’s taking a 1-0 lead after Kirill Kaprizov took an ill-advised holding penalty on Lindholm in the Boston zone. On the power play, Charlie McAvoy put the puck on a tee for David Pastrnak, who ripped his 20th of the year past Fleury’s glove shoulder at 2:37.
In the meeting between the teams earlier last week, Jakub Lauko took it upon himself to up the B’s energy level after the Wild took an early lead, dropping the gloves with Connor Dewar right after the Minnesota goal. This time, Brandon Duhaime came looking for a bout and the players squared off in a spirited in which both players landed decent shots.
The B’s played a good first period and, unlike Friday’s game against the Jets, they did not give up a ton of chances. But they couldn’t extend the lead, either, and the vibe would soon change.
The Wild got some momentum late in the period on a long shift in the B’s zone and, on a break-out late in the period, Brad Marchand sensed a Kaprizov hit coming and decided to be proactive, earning a penalty with a high hit with 15 seconds left in the period.
The B’s were able to kill off that one, but control of the game was lost.
Ian Mitchell, in for Kevin Shattenkirk, took an interference penalty and, at 5:57, the Wild tied it up on the power play. Joel Eriksson Ek was credited with the goal after taking a whack at a rebound of a long Matt Boldy shot, but it appeared that Brandon Carlo swept it into his own net.
The B’s had a chance to get it right back when Frederic again sprung Geekie on a clean breakaway but Fleury stoned him with a glove arm save.
The play started to get loose, which didn’t favor the B’s, and the Wild seized the lead at 7:22. Kaprizov played give-and-go with Alex Goligoski, taking the return pass in the slot and beat Linus Ullmark with a too wide-open shot from a dangerous area.
All of a sudden, it looked like the Winnipeg game all over again. By the time Lindholm took a holding penalty late in the period, the Wild were outshooting them 18-5 in the second period. But the B’s were able to come up with a decent kill and were somehow still in striking distance going into the third period.
The B’s started the third period with some purpose and nearly tied it early when rebound of a Pastrnak shot came right out to Marchand but Zach Bogosian got his stick blade on a put back attempt by Marchand, who had the whole net at which to shoot.
Shortly thereafter, Coyle took a high-sticking penalty on Bogosian to end the pressure. Though the Wild didn’t score on the PP, it did seconds later when Marcus Foligno was able to outmuscle Carlo for ice at the top of crease to tap in Pat Maroon’s pass.
The B’s had to kill off another penalty, but got back to within a goal with 6:07 left in regulation. Danton Heinen won a puck behind the Wild net and fed Geekie, who finally beat Fleury with a one-timer.
The B’s pulled Ullmark for the extra skater, but they failed to make clean passes in order to get any good looks on Fleury and the dropped another one.
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