Wild head coach Dean Evason singled out Alex Goligoski after the veteran defenseman took a costly penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct in the final frame of Minnesota’s 7-4 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night.
“Momentum was clearly in our direction, and then obviously they get a power play,” Evason told reporters postgame. “They didn’t score, but they gained momentum from it, they had a lot of good touches on it, and then we were behind the eight ball, obviously.
“It can’t happen, can’t take (a) stupid – really stupid – bad penalty. (Goligoski) knows it, we addressed it, but it can’t happen. Can’t happen in Game 2, and it can’t happen going forward.”
The Wild had scored back-to-back goals to end the second period and were only down 4-3 when Goligoski took the penalty just under seven minutes into the third stanza.
Goligoski said he felt there were some calls the referees missed for Minnesota and told an official to “make an ‘effin call,” spurring his trip to the box. Like Evason, the 38-year-old also felt his actions “hurt” the Wild.
absurd penalty on Goligoski pic.twitter.com/yodR7AKnVr
— CJ Fogler account may or may not be notable (@cjzero) October 15, 2023
Minnesota may have killed off the penalty, but the floodgates opened afterward, with Calle Jarnkrok scoring just over a minute after Toronto’s power play expired. Auston Matthews then wrapped up his second hat trick in as many games, and William Nylander burned the Wild with a beauty for his second tally of the contest.
Goligoski was also in the sin bin for tripping when Tyler Bertuzzi bagged his first goal as a Maple Leaf in the second period.
Evason acknowledged that his team has struggled without blue-liner Jared Spurgeon – who’s considered week-to-week after sustaining an upper-body injury in the preseason – but maintained that it isn’t an excuse for sloppy play.
“He’s your captain and your leader. Sure, he’s a calming presence in our room and on the bench and on the ice,” he said. “But we have a lot of veterans on our hockey club that can step up and do that.”
Evason added, “(Rookie defenseman) Brock Faber can’t be our best player every night. It’s wonderful that he is, but we need other people stepping up in (Spurgeon’s) absence.”
Minnesota won its first game of the campaign 2-0 over the Florida Panthers. The Wild’s next chance to return to the win column will come Tuesday against the Montreal Canadiens.
Evason hinted that he would be making some changes to the blue line for that contest. Any shakeup would likely have to be small, given that Minnesota has a little over $50,000 in cap space, according to CapFriendly.
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