What’s the old saying? Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades and phantom slashing calls? Something like that.
But close doesn’t count toward a win when the final buzzer sounds, and a 3-2 score doesn't sound bad, unless you talk to a coach.
“This is probably our poorest, I think, performance of the year,” said Head Coach Todd Richards.
The performance he spoke of was the Wild’s 3-2 loss to the Coyotes on Wednesday night. It consisted of a horrendous first period, a better second period, and two game-tying goals for Minnesota that were quickly answered by go ahead goals from the Coyotes.
“It hurts for sure,” said goaltender Nik Backstrom, who stopped 29 of 32 shots. “We had a chance to get a point.”
The backbreaker came late in the third period, just 19 seconds after Antti Miettinen capped off his great night with a goal that tied the score at 2-2. Scottie Upshall was given a clear path into the Wild zone, and after Niklas Backstrom stopped his first shot, he was allowed to gather his own rebound and tuck it away.
“That can’t really happen,” said Miettinen who finished with a goal and an assist.
“There are big shifts in games. It looked like we just retreated into our zone,” said Richards, who was visibly upset with his team, and himself.
“I have to look at myself for the slow starts. And the morning skates and what I’m doing in practice to prepare ourselves better.”
Certainly, the first period issues have been a concern the last two games. What didn’t help matters was a horrendous penalty called on Owen Nolan late in the first, when he tapped the breezers of Sami Lepisto, whose stick broke on an attempted pass. Nolan was called for slashing and the Coyotes capitalized early in the second with a power play marker.
“That’s not the reason we lost the game,” said Richards. “We had chances in the third period and we didn’t finish.”
The line of Miettinen, Andrew Brunette and Mikko Koivu created most of those chances. Brunette scored the other Wild goal, and Koivu assisted on both.
The loss snapped the Wild’s seven-game win streak against the Coyotes at the Xcel Energy Center. It will have a chance to keep another streak going when it hosts the New York Islanders. The Wild have won the last four meetings with the Isles and own a 7-3-0 overall record.
LW Andrew Brunette scored his team-leading eighth goal of the season – first in 10 games – and added an assist.
C Mikko Koivu picked up two assists, moving him past Brian Rolston and into sole possession of fourth place on the team’s all-time points list (61-143=204).
RW Antti Miettinen tallied a goal and an assist, giving him three points (2-1=3) in the last two games.
G Niklas Backstrom made 29 saves and dropped to 13-3-4 in his past 20 decisions at Xcel Energy Center. Backstrom is now 9-2-0 with a 1.64 GAA and a .945 SV% in his career versus the Coyotes, including a 5-1-0 mark at home, with a 1.51 GAA and a .944 SV%.
F Danny Irmen made his NHL debut for the Wild. The former Minnesota Golden Gopher skated 5:28 and recorded a hit. Irmen became the first Wild player this season to make his NHL debut.
RW Radim Vrbata’s power play goal 1:24 into the second period marked the Coyotes’ first lead versus the Wild at Xcel Energy Center in more than seven games, and 441:24 of game time, dating back to a 4-2 Phoenix win on Nov. 8, 2005.
Minnesota had won seven straight home games against Phoenix, the third-longest home winning streak against an opponent. The Wild has 10 in a row at home against Edmonton in a run that started Feb. 25, 2007, and won nine in a row versus Chicago from Feb. 5, 2003-Nov. 4, 2007.
D Shane Hnidy played in his 497th career NHL game.
Coyotes G Ilya Bryzgalov made 24 saves, improving to 2-7-0 with a 3.27 GAA and a .894 SV% in nine regular season appearances versus the Wild.
1 - 0 PHX
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 PHX