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Wild laments missed opportunities Thursday in Arizona

Inability to build on first-period lead haunts Minnesota late in loss to Coyotes

by Dan Myers @DanMyers /

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- During a 9-2-2 month of February, when the Wild earned the most points in the NHL, there was little that didn't go right.

Thursday against the Arizona Coyotes, the Wild missed on several opportunities to break a close game open. In the end, it paid for it.

The Wild scored first but was unable to add on in an eventual 5-3 loss to the Coyotes at Gila River Arena.

Things started out well enough for Minnesota. The Wild fired the first 11 shots on goal and kept Arizona without even a shot for the first 15-plus minutes of the game. 

During that stretch, it scored a goal with a delayed penalty, as Zach Parise zoomed off the bench as the extra attacker, gathered in a pass from Nino Niederreiter and rifled a shot past Antti Raanta at 15:36 of the contest. 

Video: MIN@ARI: Parise buries a wrist shot glove side

But every opportunity to build on that lead misfired; Daniel Winnik's pretty re-direction that went off the post. Niederreiter's wrister on a 2-on-1 rush that Raanta was just able to corral with his right arm pit. A puck that rolled off Mikael Granlund's stick after a gorgeous toe drag gave him a look on the doorstep.

Video: Locker room postgame at Arizona

"It was missed opportunity," said Wild forward Matt Cullen. "I think our start was pretty good and we put ourself in a good position to win the game. But ... you let a team hang around, let them stay in the game, you can pay the price for it."

Had any of those chances found the back of the net, it likely would have been a very different game.

Unfortunately for the Wild, they didn't, and Arizona finally made it pay late in the second. 

Five seconds into the first power play, Jakob Chychrun dug out a loose puck off the faceoff and scored past Alex Stalock, tying the game at 1-1.

At that point, it was clear the Wild had a fight on its hands.

Video: Bruce Boudreau postgame at Arizona

"You don't get rewarded for having a good first period and first 15 minutes of the second period, it's gonna come back to bite you," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "And it did in the third. They got some momentum going in which they didn't have in the first two periods, and once they got the momentum, they were hard to stop."

The Coyotes are a much better team than their record indicates, as the Wild learned three weeks ago in St. Paul, when Arizona dug out from a three-goal deficit in a 4-3 overtime win.

Once Chychrun got Arizona on the board and Christian Dvorak followed 4:32 into the third period, giving the Coyotes their first lead, the confidence began oozing out.

Even after Mikko Koivu tied the game at 2 with a power-play goal, it took the Coyotes less than a minute to respond, taking the lead right back.

"I don't think it was a matter of taking anyone lightly. I think that we didn't finish it when we had the opportunity and they're playing some good hockey. The last stretch for them has been very good," Cullen said. "They're a fast team and a hungry team, but those are games that when you have the opportunity, you have to put them away."

Ultimately, the feeling inside the Wild dressing room, however, wasn't that Arizona surprised anyone with its speed and effort. 

It came down to a lack of execution ... specifically, a few missed opportunities.

"In the third period, we had three 2-on-1s and didn't get a shot on goal," Boudreau lamented. "Our sense of urgency wasn't there, and that's unfortunate, because we're in a battle. 

"Just because we've won a couple games in a row, doesn't mean anything. St. Louis lost seven in a row and they're right back in it with one win [on Wednesday]. We've gotta understand that."

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