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Wild 1, Bruins 0

Wild slap a loss on the Bruins

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / January 7, 2009
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At first glance, Marek Zidlicky didn't have much of a play.

The point man had the puck during Minnesota's fourth straight power play, which came at 6:20 of the second period. There wasn't a shooting lane. The Wild didn't have much traffic in front.

But the power-play specialist did what he's been coached to do: create an opportunity where one doesn't exist. So by fading off the right point and walking the puck to the middle of the ice, Zidlicky created the scoring chance he had been looking for. A lane opened. Andrew Brunette was in perfect position to stick his rear end in Manny Fernandez's face and prevent the Bruins goalie from getting a look at the puck.

Despite all that, after Zidlicky pulled his stick back halfway and ripped off a slapper, Blake Wheeler still thought he had a chance at disrupting the play.

"I was surprised he got it through," said Wheeler. "I thought I was right in the lane. He got it by my foot. It just had eyes. It got all the way to the net.

"Those are the kinds of goals you need to score in a game like this. They got it done. They had great traffic in front of the net and Manny never saw it. Credit to them for getting in front of the net."

Zidlicky's laser at 7:29 was the only goal in the Bruins' 1-0 loss to the Wild before 16,272 at TD Banknorth Garden last night. The Bruins, who fell to the Sabres Saturday by a 4-2 score, have lost back-to-back matches for the first time this season, although given the way they competed last night and put pressure on Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom, they weren't about to call this a crisis.

"You don't panic," said coach Claude Julien. "I don't think anybody thought we were going to be flying the way we were flying for 82 games without going through some bumps and bruises."

An opportunistic club, Minnesota needed only one break, and that was the second-period holding penalty on Milan Lucic.

"I think we had some tough calls go against us," said Julien, whose team generated only two shots on two power plays while allowing 10 man-advantage attempts.

But the Bruins tipped their hats to the Wild, who played their clog-'em-up, defense-first game to perfection after taking the lead. They took away the center of the rink. They sat back and prevented the Bruins from creating odd-man rushes. They collapsed in the slot to take away time and space from the Boston shooters. And when all else failed, Backstrom (28 saves) bailed them out when the Bruins broke through.

"Personally, I wouldn't pay to see a game like that," said Fernandez (23 saves), who lost on home ice for the first time this season (9-1-0). "It gets frustrating. We're used to a different game here.

"Tough one to get back into, but give those guys credit. They plugged it up pretty good. I felt we had some chances, but we didn't get too lucky. No bounces.

"A couple times, [Backstrom] was looking for the puck. It was right there, but his D's bailed him out. Stuff like that. We need to get back the next game, forget about this one and the last one, and get going."

Julien was careful to say the two-game losing streak hardly qualifies as a slump. But he acknowledged that some of his top players are fighting the puck and not making the plays they've been used to making. Consequently, the Bruins aren't on the attack as much and haven't been able to employ their puck possession game of precise dump-ins, fierce pursuit, and cycling in the offensive zone.

Aside from the No. 2 line of Wheeler, David Krejci, and Michael Ryder, which seemed to generate scoring chances on every shift (they were especially dangerous at the end of the second period, when Ryder ticked a shot off the left post), the Bruins couldn't get any of their forwards to break through the defense.

"I think our players are probably not at their best right now," Julien said. "We've got a lot of players who are fighting the puck and not making good decisions.

"I'm not going to say it's a slump just because you lose two games. But you can see it coming a little bit. We've lost that confidence of moving the puck quick and getting our attack going.

"It's one of those situations that, at one point, every team goes through."

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