GLENDALE, ARIZ. - In between three days of fun in the desert sun, Wild players were dispatched a series of messages by team brass designed to grab everybody's attention and make them realize the urgency of a 48-game season.
Rookie Charlie Coyle was called up for his NHL debut. Underperformers Devin Setoguchi and Mikael Granlund were dropped to the fourth line. Popular teammate Darroll Powe was shipped to the Rangers.
It might have even sparked a better effort Monday against the Coyotes than Friday against the Ducks, but in the end, the result was the same as the much-hyped Wild fell to 4-4-1 with 19 percent of the season gone.
After a frustrating 2-1 loss to Phoenix at Jobing.com Arena, players held a 25-minute meeting before the doors propped open.
"Collectively, as a group, we all have to be better," said Zach Parise, who scored the 200th goal of his career. "You can't play one decent game, two decent periods and expect to be a playoff team. It doesn't work like that. So we've got a lot of work to do. We've got to get better in a lot of areas. We need some good practices to sharpen up."
The Wild fell behind 2-0 before Parise scored, then dominated the second half of the second period without being rewarded. Jonas Brodin hit a post, Mike Smith thwarted a few Grade-A chances and the Wild missed the net repeatedly.
Then, the third period began, and the Wild was a different-looking team against an opponent that masters the art of holding leads. Hustling Torrey Mitchell drew two late power plays, but the Wild couldn't capitalize thanks to a Pierre-Marc Bouchard post, some more missed nets and a great save by Smith to rob Dany Heatley.
"I feel like we really tilted the ice in that second," coach Mike Yeo said. "We have to re-establish that [in the third], but I don't know if we had the same execution and pressure."
The Wild is 0-3-1 on the road. Last season, after a 4-1 victory at Phoenix on Dec. 12, 2011, the Wild went 5-17-5 in its final 27 games on the road. The Wild has won two of its past 31 road games in regulation.
"It's time to win a game on the road," Yeo said. "We've got to find a way."
That "we've got to find a way" mantra was uttered by player after player after its postgame meeting. The Wild could have easily won Monday's game. It certainly did enough good things. It even got great responses from pushed-and-prodded Setoguchi and Granlund and an impressive showing from Coyle.
"I can't sit here and say anybody had a bad game," Yeo said.
Yet, the Wild couldn't find a way.
"There's been too many games already this year where we've come off and said, 'We did things OK.' The bottom line is we're not winning," Parise said.
In nine games, it has scored 21 goals and allowed 24. There are times it shows glimpses of tremendous play, like the second period when it got pucks deep and forced turnovers. And then there are times its game vanishes.
If the Wild doesn't solve this now, "the season will slip away from us," veteran Matt Cullen said.
Added defenseman Tom Gilbert: "We've had plenty of time to play with each other, learn each other ... the systems have come along. Now we need to start playing better as a team. The season is a lot shorter. Urgency has to be there every single game.
"Regardless if we have a good effort, we have to find ways to win."