Wild aim to sharpen defense in battle with Canadiens

The Minnesota Wild will look to tighten up defensively on Tuesday night when they continue their two-game road trip against the Montreal Canadiens.

The Wild answered a sterling defensive performance in their season opener on Thursday with a disastrous one two nights later. Former Hart Trophy recipient Auston Matthews recorded his second straight hat trick to begin the campaign in the Maple Leafs’ 7-4 victory over Minnesota on Saturday in Toronto.

The Wild remain without captain Jared Spurgeon, who has been sidelined with an upper-body injury sustained in a preseason game in Chicago on Oct. 4. Cap space issues provide little potential relief for Minnesota heading into Tuesday’s contest.

Fellow defensemen Alex Goligoski and Jake Middleton struggled mightily versus the Maple Leafs, combining for a minus-5 rating. Goligoski’s tripping penalty led to Tyler Bertuzzi’s power-play goal early in the second period, and his unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the third halted the Wild’s momentum.

“Duplications, missed coverages, penalty kill, obviously just an undisciplined game by us,” Goligoski said, per the Pioneer Press.

Wild coach Dean Evason was equally as blunt.

“To be honest with you, we’re gonna make some adjustments with our (defensive) pairs,” Evason said. “We’ve already talked about it.”

The status of Matt Boldy is of utmost concern for Evason. Boldy sustained an undisclosed injury following a collision with Morgan Reilly midway through the third period.

“When a guy doesn’t come back in a game, then it’s obviously more serious than we want it to be,” Evason said.

The Canadiens rebounded from being mauled by Matthews in their opener by beginning a three-game homestand with a 3-2 victory over prized rookie Connor Bedard and the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday.

Cole Caufield scored his second goal in as many games, Tanner Pearson also tallied and Sean Monahan converted a breakaway to cap Montreal’s three-goal outburst in the second period. The goal was Monahan’s first since his final game last season on Dec. 5 before being sidelined with a broken foot and a groin injury that required surgery.

“You know what you’re going to get every night,” Canadiens coach Martin St. Louis said of Monahan, who also had an assist and a plus-3 rating while winning 14 of 16 faceoffs.

“He’s very responsible. He plays both sides of the puck. Good offensively, very aware defensively. Great on draws. There’s a lot to like with a healthy Sean Monahan, for sure.”

While Monahan is healthy, Montreal isn’t as sure about the status of Kirby Dach. Dach, who had two assists in the team’s season opener, left Saturday’s game with a lower-body injury following a hit from former Canadien defenseman Jarred Tinordi that sent him into the bench.

“You never want to see a guy get hurt, especially a guy like Kirby,” Monahan said, per the Montreal Gazette. “You feel for him. I saw him right when we came in after the (first) period. He’s in good spirits. I think you try and win the game for him.”

The team announced Monday that Dach could miss significant time.

The Wild have swept the last two season series with the Canadiens and won their last five meetings overall.