Savage shot golden opportunity to gain playoff advantage with loss to lowly Coyotes: ‘One we might wish we had back’

It didn’t look like there would be any rest for the tired in the last two home games, but that could especially be the case now that the Wild have allowed their 13-game point streak at home and their streak of 10 games with a total of scoring to explode on Tuesday. night at the hands of the worst team in the Western Conference and one of the worst in the NHL.

“We want home ice,” Wild general manager Bill Guerin said on the “Worst Seats in the House” podcast. “Any time you have a chance to win something or win something or do something that could help us, we’re going to do it.”

Guerin’s comments came one night before the Wild squandered a golden opportunity against a Central Division opponent that’s usually a free space on their bingo card, the Arizona Coyotes, who won no victory in 10 consecutive games and hemorrhagic goals against.

But in a disappointing effort, the Wild lost 5-3 on a night when the St. Louis Blues’ 16-game point streak ended in Colorado. Had the Wild won, they would have needed just one point in their last two games to secure home-court advantage in their first-round game with the Blues.

Now, we won’t know where the series begins until Friday – the last day of their regular seasons. The teams are tied at 109 points, with the Wild hosting Calgary and Colorado on Thursday and Friday. The Blues host Vegas on Friday night. If the teams are tied on points, the series will start in St. Louis.

“It’s a tough game, obviously, a game we’re going – I hope not, but maybe we’d like to get back to it,” said left winger Jordan Greenway, who returned after missing seven games in due to an upper body injury.

Guerin believes home ice would pave the way for a great series. It would put an exclamation on a terrific season but also allow the Wild to start in front of an electric atmosphere and give them a tactical advantage, like the last change and the ability to dictate matchups.

“If we just started resting guys and not trying to go home, what would our players say, what would our fans say?” said Guerin. “They would be like, ‘What is this? What are you doing? You’re just giving the house in St. Louis ice cream. No, we’re not going to do that. We don’t give them anything. »

But the Wild didn’t mind their business Tuesday night against a team they were 25-5-3 against in their previous 33 meetings and one that entered with 51 points, tied for the least in the NHL. Desperately lacking defenders Jared Spurgeon and Matt Dumba and point guard Mats Zuccarello on the power play, the Wild went 0 for 6 with five shots on goal. Then, after recovering 3-1 in the third period on goals from Joel Eriksson Ek and Marcus Foligno 24 seconds apart, the Wild gave up a power-play goal to former University of Minnesota forward Travis Boyd in the middle of the period.

Coach Dean Evason challenged the offside, feeling Arizona’s Nick Schmaltz forced teammate Shayne Gostisbehere over the line. After lengthy review by linesmen and the NHL Situation Room in Toronto, the goal was upheld because the league said there was no conclusive video evidence to show Gostisbehere preceded the puck. in the zone.

“It’s always frustrating because we just come back and watch and it’s offside. It’s offside,” Evason insisted. “We had a call this year where they couldn’t see the puck in the net and they said it was common sense for the puck to be in the net. Well, common sense… and we have two angles and we did both and we reversed it. one, the puck isn’t finished, and the other his skate isn’t in. So I don’t know how they make their video, but our video shows he’s offside.

Either way, Evason wasn’t using the challenge lost on Arizona’s game-winning goal as an excuse.

“The power play has been good (lately). Obviously it sucked,” Evason said. “Look, our whole game sucked tonight. We got what we deserved. … It’s hard to find a good player here tonight.

One of those players who fell on the knife was goaltender Marc-André Fleury, who got his third straight start.

There are two ways to look at the rationale for starting Fleury over: either the Wild were trying to get him into a rhythm to start Game 1 of the playoffs on Monday, or they were giving fellow veteran Cam Talbot a rest if he planned to do it. his beginning of the series.

Fleury, the defending Vezina Trophy winner, came to Minnesota last month with a playoff pedigree of 90 wins and three Stanley Cups. But Talbot is 12-0-3 in his last 15 starts and hasn’t lost in regulation since March 1.

Fleury is 5-2 in his last seven games, but with a 3.59 goals-against average and .881 save percentage.

“Personally, I have to be better,” he said. “I feel like I’ve given up a lot of goals lately. It’s driving me crazy. … I feel like there’s always a goal a night that I can have. It makes a difference for our team. There are some good saves in there. Still, it’s too many goals. I can’t give up so much and expect our team to win every night. Just clean that up.

He’ll obviously start one of the final two games, but it’s questionable whether his recent erratic play will see the Wild start the playoffs with Talbot between the pipes.

“Everything weighs in our decision,” Evason said. “We will have to review the goals and talk as a group. We are going to have a tough decision. When I say there wasn’t a single good player in our hockey club, we could talk to any of the guys and say they didn’t play well. We could go through the whole formation, from the goalkeeper to all the other players in the team, it wasn’t good enough.

The Wild hoped to get a boost from the returns of Greenway and Foligno, who missed the previous four games after he, his wife and children caught COVID-19. But the Wild appeared to be skating in the slush for the first two periods and couldn’t capitalize on Ryan Hartman’s 34th goal 11:05 into the first.

Power play after power play – three shot by Kevin Fiala – was wasted as players, especially Fiala, overshot pucks and spat them left and right. It’s a shame because the power play could have easily blown the match up.

“We started slow, we didn’t win enough battles to play with the puck and they had the energy to feel in the game, and we let them pretty much dictate how they wanted to play the game.” , said Eriksson Ek. “That’s not what we want to do.”

Or, as his teammate Jonas Brodin put it more bluntly: “It’s a game we have to win.

After the Coyotes tied the score at 1-1 late in the second period, they stunned the Wild with two goals in the opening seconds of the third period, including the first NHL goal of third-choice Jack McBain. tour of the 2018 Wild who snubbed the team last month by refusing to sign with the organization because he felt it was too deep in the middle. The Wild were at least able to trade their rights for a second-round pick.

But when Eriksson Ek and Foligno tied the score so quickly, it felt like the Wild, who had mastered the art of the comeback all season, were in a prime position to do it again against a shaky opponent.

That wouldn’t happen even if the Wild said all the right things earlier in the day, like the lowly Coyotes who are still in the same league as them and better put their work boots on later in the day. evening. Instead, the Wild paid for their lack of jump and intensity early in the game. Fiala’s 10-game point streak came to an end, while Kirill Kaprizov celebrated his 25th birthday with two assists to give him 105 points on the season.

“The easy answer is that we fooled ourselves, reading our press clippings and all that. It may have happened,” Evason said. “It will be settled, of course. The positive thing is that it is not characteristic for us. We will fully wait for our group to respond in the next game.

We’ll see if the Wild can get Dumba, Zuccarello or Spurgeon on Thursday or Friday. Spurgeon was injured Sunday night in Nashville, and Evason said earlier Tuesday that they were encouraged by how Spurgeon was feeling and that his injury was not as serious as initially feared.

They better hope so because the Wild will need a full cast of healthy players to beat the Blues.

“Maybe it was a good team for us to get two points here trying to take a small lead over St. Louis,” Fleury said. “That’s why it’s a little sourer to lose that one.”

(Photo: Bruce Kluckhohn/Getty Images)