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Wild lets Sabres hang too close for too long

Buffalo ties game, then scores again late in comeback win in St. Paul on Saturday

by Dan Myers @MNWildScribe / Wild.com

ST. PAUL -- When chance after chance after chance went by the wayside for the Wild to put the Buffalo Sabres away, coach Bruce Boudreau knew his team was in trouble.

Minnesota jumped ahead two goals before the game was eight minutes old and had a couple of chances to make it a three-goal lead. 

With the Sabres playing for the second time in 24 hours, a three-goal lead likely would have meant curtains for Minnesota. 

Instead, Buffalo inched closer late in the first, then picked up momentum with a strong second period. 

Video: Bruce Boudreau postgame vs. Buffalo

"I was thinking that the whole way," Boudreau said. "When you had the 2-nothing and you had the chance to make it three, and then you had another chance to make it three, and then another chance and then you let them hang around. And then the second period when you have 2-1, then Zucker has a breakaway and we have some good chances. And then in the third when Hendricks missed that in front, I said - obviously I wouldn't say it out loud - but I knew we were in trouble."

He wasn't the only one.

"It felt like we were for the most part playing in their zone the whole night, but it's one of those they hang around, they hang around and you just had that bad feeling that they were going to hang around long enough if we didn't get that third one and they did," said Wild forward Zach Parise. "But it's disappointing to not get out of there with a point at least. It's disappointing for us."

Video: BUF@MIN: Parise wrists one off the post and in

Parise's goal four minutes into the game gave the Wild the start it wanted. The goal was his 341st in the NHL, giving him more than any Minnesota-born player in League history. 

When Matt Dumba whistled a power-play goal into the top right corner of the net three minutes later, Minnesota seemed to be in business.

Video: BUF@MIN: Dumba scores PPG, shakes Niederreiter's hand

"The back-to-back games, if you could have made it 3-nothing, 4-nothing, then they would have said, 'let's go home,'" Boudreau said. "But once you let a team, it's like us in St. Louis, you're exhausted, you're tired, you're back-to-back and then you come in. But if you let them hang around, fatigue leaves you. You become more into the game and wanting to win it."

Sure enough, the Sabres pulled closer on a Jake McCabe goal 14:52 into the first period. 
 

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Unable to build on its lead in the second, Minnesota knew it had a fight on its hands. Still, it led, on home ice, with eight minutes left. 

"I think we probably could have put them away earlier, the way the first period was played," said Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk. "We started turning pucks over in the second and it's not like they controlled the entire second period, but when they start getting to carry the puck up the ice and some odd-man rushes, get some feeling into the game, I think we probably could have stepped on their throats a little bit, the way the first period was going. It's always disappointing to give up a lead and especially when it's late."

With 7:02 left on the clock, rookie Rasmus Dahlin swooped in and shoveled a loose puck past Dubnyk for the tying goal. It was nothing special; a shot hit Dubnyk and took a funny bounce. Then the goaltender thought he had it smothered, only to see it squirt free.

Video: Locker room postgame vs. Buffalo

"It's too bad, it took kind of a bad bounce off my blocker and then up off our guy in front there and dropped and I lost sight of it so I thought it was under my hand," Dubnyk said. "That's how it goes sometimes, that's why you get pucks to the net."

With 90 seconds left on the clock, former Wild forward Jason Pominville feathered a backhander past Dubnyk after the puck took a funny bounce off the end wall. 

It was the kind of bounce Minnesota just couldn't seem to find all night long. To Buffalo's credit, it hung around just long enough to earn it.

"We have enough guys, we've got a lot of experience, we don't need any more lessons with that," said Wild forward Eric Staal. "We know what we needed to do in the second and just didn't happen. We had enough grade-As to extend the lead and we just didn't execute and get it done. When you do that, we gave them a little hope and life and they were able to obviously capitalize on the couple looks they had."


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