Nino Niederreiter

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Haula on another Wild playoff letdown: ‘We’re all sick of it’

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The Minnesota Wild have tried a lot of different things and spent plenty of money since returning to the playoffs in 2012-13, but the story seems to end the same, unpleasant way.

In the past five playoff runs, they’ve never won more than a single series. They’ve now been bounced in the first round two years in a row.

Sure, they went down fighting. And, yes, Bruce Boudreau helped young stars rise and veterans find new life. But an early end to the postseason means that many will dismiss all of those positives in the grand scheme of things.

“It’s going to be a long offseason for sure,” Zach Parise said.

Indeed, the Wild swung for the fences, paying a big price for Martin Hanzal as the West seemed open. They were right about the conference being more ripe for the picking than any time since they became competitive again … but it seems that the Wild overestimated their chances at making a deep run.

Now they have to deal with that all-too-familiar empty feeling.

More on the Wild’s unsuccessful gamble here.

With key young players such as Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter needing new deals, Martin Hanzal ranking among veterans becoming UFAs and the expansion draft putting a quality player in danger of being plucked away, it’s likely that next year’s team could look different even if management stays in place.

If this was Minnesota’s big chance, then the bottom line is that they whiffed on it.

Bruce Boudreau speaks for us all after confusing goalie interference review

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Bruce Boudreau’s frequently one of the most colorful coaches to watch during a big game … sometimes literally.*

He’s provided some entertaining moments of frustration, with his … frank reaction to a Mathew Dumba penalty ranking among the highlights of Game 5.

Whether you feel that Nino Niederreiter should have been called for goalie interference on a would-be goal or not, the Twitter consensus is that the call is becoming about as clear as what constitutes a catch in an NFL game.

With that in mind, Boudreau’s gesture spoke for us all after the tally was not allowed on Saturday:

Check out video above. It’s been a hectic third period, as the Blues aren’t out of the woods even after a nice Paul Stastny goal where he squeezed the puck through an unlikely window.

Here’s a shot of the interference in GIF form, too.

Even Kerry Fraser didn’t know which way to call the review, by the way. A bit of a mess for the NHL, eh.

(Oh, and the game is now tied 3-3, so check it out on NBC.)

* – Seriously, it gets a little worrisome when his face goes red. It’s not unlike Barry Trotz’s nervous eyebrow(s).

Nolan Patrick tops NHL’s final draft rankings

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Despite missing significant time to injury, WHL Brandon center Nolan Patrick has finished atop NHL Central Scouting’s final draft rankings of the season.

Patrick, who sat out nearly 40 games this season while dealing with a sports hernia, still managed to put up a whopping 46 points in 33 games this season, and ends his campaign as the first Western League forward to top the draft rankings list since Ryan Nugent-Hopkins did it back in 2011.

Sitting closely behind Patrick on the list is Nico Hischier, who is looking to become the highest-drafted Swiss player in league history (previous high was Nino Niederreiter, who went fifth overall to the Islanders seven years ago). Hischier is coming off a terrific campaign with QMJHL Halifax, scoring 86 points in 57 games while capturing the league’s rookie of the year award.

More on the remainder of the rankings:

Joining Patrick and Hischier among the top five-ranked skaters from North America are a group of skilled forwards: No. 3 Casey Mittelstadt (Edina, Minn.), a center for Eden Prairie High School (HIGH-MN); No. 4 Gabriel Vilardi (Kingston, Ont.), a center for the Windsor Spitfires (OHL); and No. 5 Michael Rasmussen (Surrey, B.C.), a center for the Tri-City Americans (WHL).

Forwards Klim Kostin (Penza, Russia) of Dynamo Moscow and Elias Pettersson (Sundsvall, Sweden) of Timra maintain their ranks of first and second, respectively, among international skaters.

Jake Oettinger (Lakeville, Minn.) of Boston University (H-EAST) ranks as the top North American goaltender, while Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (Espoo, Finland) of HPK’s junior team (FINLAND-JR) tops international netminders.

This year’s draft will be held at the United Center in Chicago on June 23-24.

Wild match franchise records with 48th win and 104th point

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DENVER (AP) Devan Dubnyk‘s 40th win of the season was far from easy and came with an assist from a late replay review.

He certainly didn’t mind the result of the unusual ending.

Dubnyk stopped 30 shots and Minnesota caught a break when a goaltender interference call disallowed a goal, helping the Wild hold off the Colorado Avalanche 4-3 on Thursday night to tie franchise records for points and wins in a season.

“It was pretty crazy,” Dubnyk said. “I’m glad they got that call right even though the fans don’t agree. But it was the right call.”

Nate Prosser, Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter and Jason Zucker added goals for the Wild, who have amassed 104 points and 48 wins in clinching the second spot in the Central Division. The last time they reached those plateaus was during the 2006-07 season.

“It tells you we’re doing something right this season and winning games,” Granlund said.

Tyson Jost scored his first NHL goal, while Matt Nieto and Francois Beauchemin also contributed goals during the home finale for the Avalanche.

Here’s how the divisive play unfolded: The Avalanche had a 6-on-4 with 1:39 remaining after Wild defenseman Christian Folin was called for cross-checking and goaltender Calvin Pickard was pulled for an extra skater. About 25 seconds later, Sven Andrighetto pushed the puck past a sprawled-out Dubnyk. But Minnesota challenged the play claiming goaltender interference and the tying goal was negated.

“Definitely goalie interference,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said.

Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog didn’t agree. He said the official told him that Nathan MacKinnon pushed a defenseman into Dubnyk.

“Nate’s getting pushed around, just like Nate is supposedly pushing someone else,” Landeskog said. “I think it’s a good goal.”

Zucker scored 10 seconds into the contest to match the Wild record for fastest to start a game – a mark held by him. Zucker also accomplished the feat on Oct. 25, 2015, at Winnipeg. The forward was returning after missing the last three games with a lower-body injury.

“I don’t know if there’s a better way to start a game,” Zucker said.

Niederreiter knocked in a shot off a perfect pass from Eric Staal with 13:17 remaining. Granlund added a valuable insurance goal midway through the final period as Nieto lined a shot that hit off Prosser’s body and went into the net to make it 4-3 with 5:40 left.

It set up a wild finish.

Jost had a nifty goal by sending a wrist shot over Dubnyk. In the stands, Jost’s grandfather was caught wiping away tears.

“He doesn’t really like all the cameras and everybody catching him crying, but he cares a lot about his family and that’s just a testament to how much he cares,” said Jost, who was the 10th overall pick by Colorado in the 2016 draft.

There was a scary moment early in the game when linesman Ryan Galloway was helped off the ice after taking a puck to the face. Wild center Martin Hanzal was trying to flip the puck into the Avalanche zone when it struck Galloway, who left with a towel on his face and blood on the ice.

Dubnyk didn’t go into the season hoping for 40 wins. After all, that’s a big number for a goaltender to imagine.

“If you could tell me at the start of the year that I was going to finish the season with 40 wins, I would have probably said, `Yeah, sure,”‘ Dubnyk said.

In their final home game, the Avalanche recognized the fans by giving away jerseys, framed photos and even a pair of skis. Colorado has drawn well all season despite its dreary record.

“Maybe it’s not deserved, but we appreciate it all the same,” forward Matt Duchene said of the support.

 

Rash of injuries ruins Lightning’s win against Wild

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On the scoreboard, the Tampa Bay Lightning are looking sharp so far against the Minnesota Wild. Heck, even Andrej Sustr has a goal.

We’ve seen some big comebacks lately, so it’s not safe to assume that the Bolts will just cruise to victory. Yet, even if they do, Thursday could pose some problems.

The Lightning are crossing their fingers about injury situations for forwards Tyler Johnson and Vladislav Namestnikov after separate moments of concern.

Johnson needed help off the ice after a collision (possibly knee-to-knee) with Wild forward Nino Niederreiter while Namestnikov also needed help off the ice following an awkward fall, which you can watch below. The Johnson injury is included in the clip above this post’s headline.

With Steven Stamkos injured and Brian Boyle shuttled off to Toronto, these injuries could make the Lightning especially thin at center. It’s unclear how bad either ailment is at this time, however, so we’ll see.

We do know that neither will return tonight, though:

Update: The good news for Tampa Bay is that they won 4-1. The bad news is that ANOTHER Lightning forward got hurt, as Cedric Paquette also left Thursday’s game.