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Wild lands on wrong side of razor-thin margin in loss to Sharks

Strange bounces, scenarios wreak havoc in tight defeat to open critical homestand

by Phil Ervin / Wild.com

ST. PAUL -- Ironically but honestly, Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk is doing his best to enjoy Minnesota's current existence on the razor-thin parapet between competing for a Stanley Cup and an all-too-early offseason.

"This is why we play," Dubnyk said after making 26 saves in Minnesota's 3-0 loss Monday night at Xcel Energy Center. "You can be at this point in the season and have it not matter, and that's not fun, it's not where you want to be. This is why we play and this is where we want to be, so you have to enjoy the opportunity and the pressure that comes with it and go play.

"With that, you can't let one mistake or one play crush you, or affect what you're doing. You just have to make sure that you have real good focus and understand that the margin between winning and losing is very small."

The Wild (33-29-8) endured several reminders of that Monday in front of 18,907 fans on Hockey Is For Everyone Awareness Night.

An early Jonas Brodin shot from the point tipped by Zach Parise and off the inside of the goalpost. A deflection off Sharks center Barclay Goodrow's chest and past Dubnyk that broke a scoreless tie in the second. Several net-front scrums on San Jose goaltender Martin Jones' doorstep that came up empty. And a bizarre coach's challenge that wasn't allowed to transpire after Logan Couture's successful penalty shot made it 3-0 at 10:01 of the third frame.

Video: Bruce Boudreau postgame vs. San Jose

The margin Monday means Minnesota is 1-5-3 in its past nine home games but still clinging to the Western Conference's final playoff spot thanks to losses by Colorado and Arizona on Monday night. The Sharks (42-19-8) won their fifth in a row to move back into the Pacific Division's No. 1 slot.

"It's been a tough place for us this year for whatever reason," Wild winger Zach Parise said of St. Paul. "There's areas that have to be way better in order for us to win games. There's a lot of different things that we have to do better to give ourselves a chance."

One of them is the power play. Minnesota was 0-for-3 Monday night and hasn't scored on the man advantage since Feb. 26.

Part of that's integrating recently-acquired players like Victor Rask -- who was activated off injured reserve and played in his first game since Feb. 17 -- Ryan Donato and Kevin Fiala into the system. Part of it's communication. And part of it's simply having the bandwidth to work on it, coach Bruce Boudreau said.


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"Quite frankly, we've tried new things and we haven't had the practice time to really emphasize it," Boudreau said. "I can guarantee the next practice we have will be mostly special teams. But last week we played five games in seven nights. We're not going to practice the other two days. And with the addition of new guys, we're having to do it visually and verbally and sometimes it's just as effective."

Some strange bounces and rare scenarios didn't help matters Monday.

Goodrow's goal came by the slimmest of margins after Marc-Edouard Vlasic's shot careened off the front of Goodrow's sweater. That made it 1-0 at 14:06 of the second period after a nip-and-tuck affair to that point.

Tomas Hertl scored 4 minutes, 37 into the third to double the lead. Then things got so strange even the League office appeared to need a moment to thumb through the rule book.

Midway through the final period, Couture came in on Dubnyk on a breakaway and was hooked by Wild defenseman Anthony Bitteto. The Sharks forward capitalized on the ensuing penalty shot, but Boudreau thought Couture had the puck in offside.

The coach tried to appeal via a challenge, and the officials briefly convened at the scorer's table. It was then confirmed the play can't be challenged -- Rule 78.7 in the NHL rule book says "a team may only request a Coach's Challenge to review a play that results in a 'GOAL' call on the ice where the defending team asserts that the play should have been stopped by reason of an 'Off-side' infraction by the attacking team."

Video: Locker room postgame vs. San Jose

"The original play did not result in a 'GOAL' call on the ice and, therefore, cannot be subject to Coach's Challenge," the league Situation Room said in a rule clarification issued Monday night.

"This is probably a situation that doesn't come up every day," Boudreau said. "The referees, good on them that they went to Toronto to check if they weren't 100 percent on it."

That proved to be the dagger as Minnesota was unable to mount many chances. It'll take a day off Tuesday, focus on special teams during Wednesday's practice, then continue a four-game homestand Thursday here against the Stars -- one of the teams with which Minnesota's racing for a seventh consecutive postseason berth.

"You just can't let this one game get us down and on a bad run like before," Dubnyk said. "We just can't let that happen right now. We've got to find a way to feel good about ourselves and get back to doing what we were doing [well]."

Said forward Eric Staal: "Every game's huge. It doesn't matter at this point. Obviously, at home we need to do a better job of getting points. It's been that case all year. Tonight we were hoping to get in the win column, get that feeling at home here started off the right way. We weren't able to do that, so we need to get back to work this week and be ready for the next one."

Related:

Video: MIN Recap: Wild stymied by Jones, Sharks in 3-0 loss

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