Wild coach questions NHL’s decision on shootout goal but admits “we didn’t have all 18 players playing at their best”

ST. PAUL — The Wild blew a two-goal lead in the third period of a 4-3 shootout loss to the New York Rangers on Thursday night at Xcel Energy Center, costing themselves a crucial point in the Western Conference playoff race.

Minnesota, which held the advantage until the 18-minute, 54-second mark of the third when the Rangers’ Mika Zibanejad scored with the goalie pulled, had to accept fault for the fact it didn’t come away with two points in regulation.

But the Wild did appear to have one legitimate gripe afterward about the Rangers’ second shootout goal that beat Alex Stalock. The play was a brillaint one by Artemi Panarin, who had scored in the first period to tie the score 1-1, but it was questionable whether the left winger made a legal play.

“It should have been (disallowed),” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I just read the rule and the rule says the puck has to be going forward at all times. I may be blind but it didn’t look like it was going forward at the end. We took where the furthest point that it went at the top of the crease and then when he shot it he was going backwards. I don’t know. I don’t know.”

Here’s the goal.

Here’s the explanation that the NHL offered after it reviewed Panarin’s goal.

It sure looks like Panarin, as Boudreau said, took the puck backward with him. Panarin’s goal was the second against Stalock in the shootout following Zibanejad’s. Stalock said he did not get an explanation after Panarin scored. “I know that happened maybe last year, or two years ago, on a (Johnny) Gaudreau move that was similar,” Stalock said. “I think the explanation was their body was going forward but the puck was pulled back. That was then, I don’t know now. … We’ll have to look at it again.

Ryan Donato and Zach Parise failed to score for the Wild against Rangers goalie Alexandar Georgiev in the shootout. The Wild had taken a 3-1 lead on goals by Donato and Jonas Brodin in the first period and Jordan Greenway in the second. But Minnesota looked tired against the high-flying Rangers in the third and it cost them when Zibanejad scored from Panarin and Adam Fox.

“We talk about it in between periods with the lead that we have to be aggressive,” Boudreau said. “We have to stay pushing, we’ve got to go for the next goal and it seems we have a tendency to sit back and let the other team bring the play to us. When that happens, it’s prevent defense doesn’t prevent anything.”

Boudreau said he was yelling from bench during the Wild’s two third-period power plays because his was playing “so tentative.” “I don’t understand why because if you look at the guys we had out there, they’re all veteran guys that have been very involved in the power play as of late,” Boudreau said.

The point the Wild earned put them at 61, three out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. That is held by Arizona, which lost to Ottawa on Thursday. The Wild are two points behind Winnipeg and tied with Nashville, although the Predators have a game in hand.

“This is what it’s going to be for 25 games,” Boudreau said. “I think our problem today was we need 18 players and a goalie to play great and we didn’t have all 18 players playing at their best today. When we do that, we’ve got good character and they work hard but things don’t always go right if they’re not at their best.”