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

Oakland - J. Lester 7:07 PM
Kansas City - J. Shields
Minnesota 10/2/14 7:25 PM
Green Bay
Buffalo 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Chicago 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Cleveland 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
St. Louis 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Atlanta 10/5/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Tampa Bay 10/5/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Houston 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Baltimore 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Pittsburgh 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Arizona 10/5/14 3:05 PM
Denver
Kansas City 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
NY Jets 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Diego
Cincinnati 10/5/14 7:30 PM
New England
Seattle 10/6/14 7:30 PM
Washington
NY Islanders 6:00 PM
Boston
NY Rangers 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Ottawa 7:00 PM
Winnipeg
Carolina 7:00 PM
St. Louis
Tampa Bay 7:30 PM
Dallas
Colorado 8:00 PM
Calgary
Los Angeles 9:30 PM
San Jose
Fla Atlantic 10/2/14 6:00 PM
FIU
UCF 10/2/14 6:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 10/2/14 9:30 PM
(2) Oregon
Louisville 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Syracuse
San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Utah State 10/3/14 9:15 PM
(18) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(12) Miss State
Ball State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Army
Iowa State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(21) Oklahoma State
Marshall 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Old Dominion
Southern Miss 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Middle Tennessee
(20) Ohio State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Maryland
Purdue 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
SMU 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(22) East Carolina
Virginia Tech 10/4/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Eastern Mich 10/4/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Texas 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Indiana
Massachusetts 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Tulsa 10/4/14 2:00 PM
Colorado State
New Mexico 10/4/14 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(3) Alabama 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(11) Ole Miss
(14) Stanford 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(9) Notre Dame
(17) Wisconsin 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Navy 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Texas
(4) Oklahoma 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(25) TCU
Wake Forest 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
NC State 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Clemson
Buffalo 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio U 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich
Oregon State 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Colorado
Vanderbilt 10/4/14 3:00 PM
(13) Georgia
Kansas 10/4/14 3:00 PM
West Virginia
Kent State 10/4/14 4:00 PM
Northern Ill
South Alabama 10/4/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St
Texas-El Paso 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
(15) LSU 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
UAB 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas Tech 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(23) Kansas State
Michigan 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rutgers
Hawaii 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rice
Toledo 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Mich
ULM 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
Idaho 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Texas State
Memphis 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Arizona State 10/4/14 6:30 PM
(16) USC
So Carolina 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Kentucky
Pittsburgh 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Virginia
Miami-Florida 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Georgia Tech
(19) Nebraska 10/4/14 7:00 PM
(10) Michigan State
UNLV 10/4/14 7:00 PM
San Jose St
Ga Southern 10/4/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Utah 10/4/14 9:30 PM
(8) UCLA
Boise State 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Winnipeg 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Edmonton 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
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