GLENDALE, Ariz. – One step forward and one step back.
That's the reality of splitting these two-game sets that make up most of the Wild's retooled schedule this year in a shortened season, and this stop-and-start pace was highlighted Saturday when the team blew a chance at a sweep of Arizona – getting dumped 5-2 at Gila River Arena to go 1-1 on the weekend and 1-2-1 on its now completed road trip.
"It stinks," defenseman Ian Cole said. "We let one get away from us there the first game in Vegas. Obviously didn't play great in the second game in Vegas. Played well last game. Didn't play well this game. A little too inconsistent for our liking, and it's obviously an issue that we need to figure out and we need to rectify quickly. It is very tight, and that's the way it is. We got a good division, got some good teams, and we need to be better."
After a dominant showing Friday in the 5-1 win over the Coyotes, the Wild had an opportunity to put six points between it and Arizona with another victory Saturday. Instead, the teams are back to where they started with the Wild behind by only two.
And a string of three more games between these new West Division rivals begins Friday at Xcel Energy Center.
"We're trying to put some distance between the teams below us," goalie Cam Talbot said. "These are the games that you need to win in order to do that."
What sabotaged the Wild's attempt at the sweep was its play from the second period on, with the Coyotes taking over and concentrating the game in front of Talbot.
Unlike other times when opponents have had the momentum, the Wild didn't have an answer – a sag the team chalked up to a lack of energy.
"The amount of games we've played recently, I think it hit us a little bit harder than it hit them tonight," Talbot said, "and you could see that in the final two periods there."
What also let the Wild down yet again was its power play, going 0-for-2 to extend its dry spell to 0-for-17. The Wild's first blown chance came soon after the Coyotes cut into their deficit to make the game 2-1.
"We need to get that one," coach Dean Evason said. "We need to have that one. We need that one to tip us over and to take over a game and then we don't have to worry about grinding so hard afterward. We're frustrated, for sure, that it just can't and it hasn't helped us get through a game and get up in a position where we can maybe put a team away."
Before the Wild reunites with the Coyotes, the team will face Vegas again. But this time, the matchup will be at Xcel Energy Center where the Wild will begin a five-game homestand starting Monday.
"Try to establish some home-ice [advantage] that we haven't had for a while," Talbot said.