Well, that escalated quickly.
The Minnesota Wild were up 3-0 in the third period on Thursday night against the Arizona Coyotes. Then they seemed to forget what the accelerator was and surrendered three straight goals, the last one coming with 18.3 seconds left in regulation. Arizona (13-32-9) completed the comeback by scoring with 1:05 left in overtime for a 4-3 victory over the Wild in St. Paul.
“We kind of let our foot off the gas,” said Wild forward Matt Cullen. “I don’t think we matched their speed and battle level.”
The victory snapped a four-game losing streak for the Coyotes, who won just their seventh game on the road this season. That’s one more win then they have in their home building.
For the glass-half-full crowd, the Wild (29-19-6) still haven’t lost in regulation to the Coyotes in their past 12 meetings. They hold a 9-0-3 record against them going back to early in 2014.
Their 12-game point streak is still the longest against any opponent.
That’s not much consolation to a team still trying to make the playoffs. The Wild found out they have to do more than just show up at Xcel Energy Center if they want to get two points. They’ve had one of the best home-ice records in the league (18-4-5), but five of the six games in which the Wild have lost in overtime or a shootout have come at home.
The inconsistent, yo-yo play of the Wild this season has never been more evident than in their recent stretch so far in the month of February. They beat the new NHL powerhouse Vegas Golden Knights 5-2 at home on Feb. 2. Then they got blasted 6-1 in Dallas before following that up with a 6-2 victory in St. Louis. Now, they lose a very winnable game against one of the NHL’s worst teams and allow four unanswered goals.
“That’s not good enough,” said head coach Bruce Boudreau of Thursday’s game. “It’s pretty simple. That’s the message from here on in. You’re fighting for your playoff lives, and you come up and you blow a 3-0 lead to a team that isn’t going to be in the playoffs.
“You can’t be successful if you do that.”
The highs of victories like the ones against Vegas and the Blues really don’t hold weight when they’re followed up with efforts like Dallas and Arizona. Ryan Suter said the Wild “quit playing” once they got behind against the Stars. It seemed like that happened again in this game against the Coyotes, though the damage wasn’t as extreme. The Wild held a 1-0 lead after the first period and 3-1 after the second period.
From the start, the Wild didn’t have quite the jump of their opponent. They took a few minutes to even register a shot on net, getting outshot 5-1 for a good chunk of the first period. The Coyotes eventually outshot the Wild 40-28 for the game.
Still, the Wild managed to get on the board first with Eric Staal’s team-leading 24th goal this season. Earlier in the shift, Nino Niederreiter just missed a chance on the side of the goal. The puck found its way to Tyler Ennis behind the net, who fed Jared Spurgeon. The defenseman made a quick, picture-perfect pass to Staal for the goal.
The Wild got a pair of goals in the second period from a couple of unlikely sources. Veteran Matt Cullen got a quick breakaway and fired the puck top-shelf for a pretty backhanded goal at the 5:54 mark for a 2-0 lead. A few minutes later, Mike Reilly finally tallied his first of the season with a quick shot that got by the goaltender on the blocker side. Cullen completed his two-point night with the first assist.
But Boudreau wasn’t comfortable with his team up 3-0 anyway.
“They were beating us to every loose puck,” Boudreau said. “They were outworking us.”
Nick Cousins scored his first of two goals on the night 1:31 later to make it 3-1. Then in the third period, where the Wild really coasted and seemed disinterested with adding to their lead, Kevin Connauton scored his fourth of the year at 8:02. Cousins tied the game as the Coyotes skated around with six skaters and an empty net.
The team points leader Clayton Keller scored his 15th of the year 3:55 into overtime after the Wild controlled the puck for a good chunk of time.
For the Coyotes, this was just their second victory this season when trailing after the first period (2-14-1), and they improve to just 4-22-2 when trailing after two.
“They capitalized on their chances,” said captain Mikko Koivu. “I don’t think they surprised us. They earned every opportunity… We’ve got to figure that out.”
Devan Dubynk (21-10-4) with 36 saves on 40 shots. Antti Raanta (9-14-5) with 25 saves on 28 shots.
The Wild are 4-0-2 in their last six games against Arizona in St. Paul.
The Wild had just seven shots on goal in the second period (14 for Arizona) and only six (to Arizona’s 13) in the third period.
There were just two minor penalties in the game: Arizona’s Jordan Martinook for hooking at 8:04 of the first period, and Koivu for cross-checking at 18:18 of the second period. Neither team scored with the man advantage.
The Wild fell to 6-6 in overtime games this season. The Coyotes improved to 8-9 in overtime.
Former Gophers player and Grand Rapids native Alex Goligoski tallied two assists in the game.
Zach Parise had a reason to celebrate anyway, with the birth of his son, Theodore Jean-Paul Parise.
The homestand continues when the Wild host Central Division rival Chicago on Saturday night.