One more loss ends Wild's month of woes

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 2, 2012 - 12:56 AM

December is over, and the Wild hopes the injuries and failures that marked it also are past.

view larger photos

  

There was a sense of relief Saturday night inside Xcel Energy Center, and not because the Wild ushered in the New Year on its first winning streak in three weeks.

Nope. It was quite the contrary.

The Wild gave up three third-period goals and lost 4-2 to the Phoenix Coyotes during a game in which players were a step behind from the opening faceoff.

The relief was for the fact that a destructive month for the Wild, both in the standings and to its players' bodies, is finally over.

"I'm ready to close out December and move on to January," coach Mike Yeo said after his team closed the calendar year on a 1-6-3 slide.

For a month that started so promising -- the final five victories of a seven-game win streak and 17-wins-in-21-games stretch -- the Wild came crashing down to earth. The Wild appeared to repair much of its game Wednesday and Thursday against Nashville and Edmonton.

But judging from the way the Wild played the Coyotes, it turns out that was done with Scotch tape.

"Systemwise, we were doing things we shouldn't be doing. Executionwise, we were doing things we shouldn't be doing," Yeo said.

With the score tied 1-1 after two periods, the Wild only needed to win one period to mask a poor effort. But Radim Vrbata scored twice 121 seconds apart early in the third.

Matt Cullen, with one goal in his previous 20 games, cut the deficit to 3-2 on a penalty shot, giving the Wild 11 minutes, 48 seconds to tie the score. But in the last five minutes, third-string goalie Curtis McElhinney stoned Marek Zidlicky, Cal Clutterbuck, Dany Heatley and Jared Spurgeon from point-blank range.

"Any time you paint yourself in a corner like that, you put yourself at the mercy of the bounces or the goalie," Cullen said.

The only area in which the Wild did well was the faceoff circle, where it won 72 percent of its draws led by Mikko Koivu's 23-for-31 performance. But possession means squat when you cough up pucks like Phoenix's sticks are magnetized.

"They didn't have to do anything to get the puck back," Yeo said. "We gave it to them."

That was the case on Vrbata's first goal. Minor-leaguer Jed Ortmeyer turned the puck over, and 15 seconds later Greg Zanon lost a puck battle with Ray Whitney, Niklas Backstrom lost his post and Vrbata scored from a bad angle.

Just 2:01 later, a weird line change by the Wild resulted in the Coyotes coming with speed. Vrbata was on his strong side, so Backstrom dropped into his butterfly. When Vrbata didn't shoot and circled the net, Backstrom scrambled to recover and nearly did before Vrbata scored what turned out to be the game-winner.

"The game slipped away in the first period. You could see it," Yeo said. "Second period we couldn't find a new level. And coming out in the third period, it caught up to us. We're not going to just drop our sticks and win hockey games. We have to go in with an unbelievable purpose."

The Wild happily ended a busy, injury-laden month with a ton of travel, which caused little quality practice time. The Wild has only 10 games in January, meaning it will get ample opportunity to practice and rediscover its vanished game.

"It's easier when you're winning games. You're doing the right things," Backstrom said. "Now we've been losing, we've been sliding off our game and it's tough to recover.

"We have to get back our structure and the way we play hockey. We haven't been able to practice with our squad for a long time. Get the guys out there and be healthy and practice. That's the only way to get our game back."

  • related content

  • Prosser is providing an edge with heady, aggressive play

    Saturday December 31, 2011

    Nate Prosser's not the flashiest fellow, but he sees the ice well, moves the puck quickly and makes smart plays.

  • Game recap

    Sunday January 1, 2012

    1. Radim Vrbata, Coyotes: Scored two goals 2:01 apart early in the third period and was plus-3.

  • Postgame: Wild ushers in New Year poorly

    Sunday January 1, 2012

    The NHL executive explains why he hasn't suspended three recent aggressors to Wild players

  • Warren Peters, left

  • PHOENIX 4, WILD 2

    Up next: 9 p.m. Wednesday at

    Vancouver • TV: FSN (100.3-FM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Texas - WP: N. Martinez 7 FINAL
Oakland - LP: S. Gray 2
Boston - LP: B. Workman 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: G. Cole 3
Toronto - LP: A. Sanchez 2 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: D. Robertson 3
Washington - WP: G. Gonzalez 6 FINAL
Miami - LP: B. Hand 2
Los Angeles - WP: P. Rodriguez 8 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: N. Ramirez 4
Cleveland - WP: K. Crockett 2 FINAL
Houston - LP: S. Deduno 1
Milwaukee - LP: J. Nelson 2 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: S. Freeman 3
Arizona - LP: A. Reed 6 FINAL
Colorado - WP: L. Hawkins 7
Philadelphia - LP: K. Kendrick 3 FINAL
San Diego - WP: R. Erlin 7
Seattle - WP: T. Wilhelmsen 3 FINAL
LA Angels - LP: K. Jepsen 1
Tampa Bay 14 FINAL
Atlanta 56
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
(5) Auburn 20 FINAL
(20) Kansas State 14
Connecticut 7:00 PM
So Florida
Old Dominion 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Rice
Troy 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Syracuse
Tulane 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Duke
Hawaii 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Marshall 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Carolina 9/20/14 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 9/20/14 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 9/20/14 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 9/20/14 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 9/20/14 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 9/20/14 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 9/20/14 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 9/20/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 9/20/14 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 9/20/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9/20/14 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Toronto 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Edmonton 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
Winnipeg
Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which local pro team are you most excited about?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close