It took quite a while for the Wild to climb the standings to its current perch at third in the Central Division, and it may be just as difficult to keep it.
After stringing together five wins in a row during its most successful stretch of the season, the Wild’s momentum fizzled Thursday in a 5-3 wake-up call to the last-place Coyotes at Gila River Arena – a costly time for a letdown, as the Stars’ point from an overtime loss to the Lightning moved Dallas within two points of the Wild.
“It was a missed opportunity,” center Matt Cullen said. “Our start was pretty good, and we put ourselves in a good position to win the game. But once you kind of let a team hang around, let them stay in the game, you can pay the price for it.”
This is the second time Arizona has upended the Wild this season; the team rallied from a three-goal deficit to pocket an overtime win just last month in Minnesota.
So the Wild was well-aware of how the Coyotes have adapted to the spoiler role.
Instead, it looked like a lack of finish undermined the Wild.
The team put 24 shots on net through the first two periods but capitalized just once. That kept the Coyotes in the game and once they found their rhythm, at the end of the second period on a power-play goal by defenseman Jakob Chychrun, they rolled past the Wild in the third.
“I don’t think we executed to the level that we need to,” Cullen said. “I thought our game was a little sloppy, didn’t give us as many opportunities as we probably could have generated.”
Here’s what else to watch for after the Wild’s loss to the Coyotes.
- The Jason Zucker-Eric Staal-Mikael Granlund line was silenced after racking up a combined 14 points in the Tuesday 8-3 win over the Blues.
Granlund has a team-high six shots on goal, while Zucker and Staal each had two.
“They tried to be way too cute instead of doing what they’ve been doing the last three games,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “They’re tic-tac-toing it and think the game is going to be this easy all the time, and it’s not this easy all the time.”
- This loss snapped the Wild’s 12-game point streak against the Coyotes, which was the longest against an opponent in franchise history.
The Coyotes can complete the sweep March 17 when the Wild is back in Arizona.
“They’ve had a rough year so when they get down, it’s easy for them to, ‘Wow, oh geez. We’re down again.’ But once they get ahead or tied, they start to believe. They’ve got some speed out there. I think they’re a lot better team than their record indicates.”
- The Wild completes this back-to-back on the road Friday against the Avalanche, another team below it in the standings but one that should be desperate as it vies for a playoff spot.
“We’re going into a building tomorrow that’s exactly the same situation that we went in last time,” Boudreau said. “We’re going to meet a team that’s rested, and they’re going to be coming at us if we’re not ready and this is a Stanley Cup game to them. It should be for us, too. We have to be better ready than we were tonight.”