The Minnesota Wild lost to the Phoenix Coyotes Wednesday night by a 3-1 final score and the game wasn’t even that close. With the loss the Wild had their 6 game home win streak snapped, fall to 10-2-2 on home ice, lose their second game in a row, drop to 15-7-4 on the season, dropped to 4th in the Central Division AND fell to 8th place in the Western Conference. Quite the list of accomplishments for the loss, eh? The Wild came out flat in front of an announced crowd of 18,265, getting out shot 12-5 in the opening frame. Frankly, the team was just plain bad in the first period and were lucky to escape only down a goal. Minnesota looked a little better in the 2nd period and finally came to life in the third. By that time they were in a 2-0 hole they couldn’t climb out of. The Wild finally managed to score on Phoenix net minder Thomas Greiss midway through the 3rd period, when Dany Heatley potted his fifth goal of the season, but it was too little too late. This was yet another recent game in which the Wild had a slow start and surrendered the game’s first goal. In his post game comments Minnesota Head Coach Mike Yeo said, “We have to stop shooting ourselves in the foot with some of these starts.”
The Wild looked good on paper heading into Wednesday’s action with the return of Mikael Granlund, Torrey Mitchell, Keith Ballard and Josh Harding. Granlund’s return lasted all of 29 seconds. During his first shift on the ice in the first 2 minutes the game he lined up Connor Murphy for a check behind the Coyotes goal. Murphy dumped the puck off at the last second when he saw Granlund coming and Minnesota lineup and met the Wild centerman up high with a defensive check. Granlund went down to the ice hard, got up slowly and skated directly to the bench seemingly dazed. After a brief conversation with the trainer he headed down the tunnel and did not return for the rest of the game. The best guess is he suffered a head injury and will be evaluated soon. So much for a healthy Minnesota lineup and Head coach Mike Yeo’s revamped forward lines. Just hours before the game Jason Zucker and Darcy Kuemper were reassigned to the Iowa Wild and headed to Chicago where they met up with their team and beat the Chicago Wolves 3-1. Zucker scored 2 goals and Kuemper made 32 saves on 33 shots in the IOWA Wild’s Wednesday night VICTORY. No irony there folks.
The Coyotes came to Minnesota on a 3 game losing streak with their Captain and leading scorer Shane Doan questionable after leaving Monday’s game against Nashville with a lower body injury. The Wild also lost their leading scorer on Monday when Zach Parise blocked a slap shot with his foot suffering a severe contusion. Doan did play Wednesday night while Parise tried to gut it out in the morning skate but was unable to go. The fact that Parise was even on the ice surprised Coach Yeo. This shows what a competitor the Wild winger is and how much he hates to watch from the press box. This was the first game Parise has missed since he came to the Wild and outside of time missed to knee surgery in 2010-11 a rare night on the sidelines. The Coyotes left the Xcel with a win and a road record above .500 at 6-5-2. The first goal of the night was the first of two for Radim Vrbata coming at the 8:13 mark of the opening period. That was followed by a Mikkel Boedker laser of a shot that beat Backstrom 3:42 into the 2nd period making the score 2-0. The Wild would start to turn the tide during the second stanza out shooting the Coyotes 10-3 but couldn’t solve Greiss. Minnesota had two power play opportunities on the night the first of which was a real stinker after Mike Ribeiro took an unsportsmanlike call a little over 7 minutes into the second period. The Wild never got organized and finished the man advantage with just 1 shot. The second came 10-minutes later when Jeff Halpern took a tripping minor against Clayton Stoner. This time the Wild looked more organized and managed a couple of scoring chances but Greiss made the big saves when he had to.
The third period is when the Wild came out of their shell and took the game to the Coyotes. They out shot Phoenix 14 to 11 for the period and out chanced the desert dogs as well. Dany Heatley finally broke through pounding home a rebound of a Nino Niederreiter shot that sailed through traffic in front of the Phoenix net. The Coyotes net minder made the initial save but gave up a juicy rebound that Heater beat the Phoenix defenders to. The Wild had several sterling scoring chances but each time the puck dribbled wide of the goal, a Phoenix defender got a stick or body on the puck, or Greiss made the stop. One of the best came with the score 2-1 and just over 2 minutes to play. Charlie Coyle had a chance to bury a puck with Coyotes goalie Greiss down but the puck sailed harmlessly over the net. Wild net minder Backstrom was pulled with a minute to play but the extra attacker advantage was nullified when Kyle Brodziak took a interference penalty with 45 seconds to play. Vrbata scored his second of the night, an empty net goal with 22 seconds left on the clock, to seal the win for Phoenix.
This was one of the uglier losses for the Wild on home ice this season. There were some bight spots and several players returned from injury. Hopefullly the rust got skated off and Friday this will look like a different team. The Wild have a day off on Thursday to enjoy some time with friends and family while resting and recharging. They are right back into the meat grinder on Friday as they play the first game of a home and home series with the Colorado Avalanche. The Av’s currently are tied with the Wild for third in the Central division. Colorado comes to St. Paul fresh off a 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues Wednesday night, just their 4th loss on home ice this season. This should be an exciting weekend of Hockey for fans of the Minnesota Wild. I’ll be back with a preview of the Wild Avalanche Black Friday action Friday morning. Until then this is Scott Drain thankfully yelling, “LET’S GO WILD!!”