Maybe the Wild thought it was going to be easy after dominating play roughly 24 hours earlier in Glendale, Ariz. Maybe the Arizona Coyotes were embarrassed after getting destroyed on their home ice the previous night.
Maybe a little bit of both.
The end result on Saturday night at Gila River Arena was a 5-2 loss the Wild would soon like to forget.
“We knew they weren’t going to be happy with their game last night and we were going to get a better game from them tonight,” said Cam Talbot, who finished with 26 saves between the pipes. “We did and we weren’t able to match it.”
That’s putting it lightly. After jumping out to an early two-goal lead, the Wild completely unraveled down the stretch, allowing the Coyotes to score five unanswered goals.
Perhaps some fatigue started to set in with the Wild wrapping up a ridiculous stretch of six games in nine nights. Not that anyone on the team was willing to use that as an excuse.
“Obviously a lot of games in a short amount of time,” Ian Cole said. “You get tired and everything, but being tired is no excuse for hanging our goalie out to dry and playing the way that we did.”
That loss for the Wild (13-8-1, 27 points) essentially canceled out their win from the night before as they failed to create any separation from the Coyotes (11-10-3, 25 points).
“Our division is so tight and we are battling for position,” Talbot said. “We are trying to put some distance between the games below us. These are the games we need to win to do that.”
It was a back-and-forth start to the first period on this particular night before Matt Dumba got the Wild on the board with a greasy goal to make it 1-0. Less than a minute later the Wild struck again, this time with a snipe from Jordan Greenway to stretch the lead to 2-0.
While it looked like the Wild might coast to an easy victory for the second straight night, the Coyotes had other ideas, cutting the deficit to 2-1 early in the second period with a goal from Lawson Crouse.
The rest of the second period was filled with sloppy play from the Wild and Jakob Chychrun helped the Coyotes tie it at 2-2 with a wrist shot through traffic.
“They seemed to have more legs than we did and when they pushed we had a couple of sustained shifts in our own zone,” coach Dean Evason said. “We just didn’t have enough to get it done. You expend a lot of energy in that area and it’s hard to push on the other end.”
Frankly, the Wild were in their own zone so much they were lucky they didn’t allow any more goals in the second period
That sloppy play continued into the third period as the Wild struggled to stay out of the penalty box. Conor Garland made them pay on the power play with a goal to make it 3-2 in favor of the Coyotes.
That seemed to break the Wild and things really started to go off the rails from there. Tyler Pitlick stretched the Coyotes lead to 4-2 with a redirection in front. He then added an empty-net goal in the final minute to finalize the score at 5-2.
“We have to find a way when we don’t have that energy to do the right things,” Evason said. “If we’re up two goals, regardless of energy level or not, the game should not be that lopsided afterward. We have to figure out a way to get the job done and put teams away when we’re in that spot.”
This wraps up a fairly disappointing road trip for the Wild. They finished 1-2-1 and failed to gain ground in the gridlocked West Coast division.
“It stinks,” Cole said. “We let one get away from us in the first game in Vegas. We obviously didn’t play great in the second game in Vegas. We played well last game. We didn’t play well this game. It’s too inconsistent for our liking and it’s an issue we need to figure out and rectify quickly.”