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Wild simply runs out of gas Saturday in Arizona

Playing for the sixth time in nine nights, Minnesota unable to sustain early momentum

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe / Wild.com

On the back end of back-to-back games, playing for the sixth time in nine nights, the Wild entered the second period on Saturday night with a two-goal lead. 

Eventually, however, fatigue clearly caught up to Minnesota as the Arizona Coyotes rattled off five straight goals in a 5-2 win at Gila River Arena.

Players will never use being tired as an excuse, but it became apparent as Saturday's game wore on. Just 24 hours after being blown out in a 5-1 loss on Friday, and moments after surrendering two goals in the first period, it seems likely Arizona coach Rick Tocchet let his team have it in the dressing room.

Sure enough, the Coyotes answered the bell, scoring just over a minute into the second period. 

It was all downhill from there for the Wild.

Minnesota, which has been so good at answering those types of goals with one or two of their own, was simply unable to push back. Eventually, Arizona tied the game, and if not for a super-human effort from goaltender Cam Talbot, it's likely Arizona would have run away with then. 

Video: MIN@ARI: Talbot stops Fischer on shorthanded attempt

Talbot, one of the few relatively rested Wild players in the lineup, stopped two clean breakaways in the second and made a couple more huge saves to at least give Minnesota a chance tied headed into the third.

At one point late in the second, Arizona pinned the Wild's fourth line on the ice for more than 2 1/2 minutes. The Coyotes didn't score, but it was clear at that moment that Minnesota simply had nothing left in the tank. 

Video: Dean Evason postgame at Arizona

"We had some life early, obviously, not the whole first period, but we didn't have the energy - not even the physical energy, but the emotional energy - that we've seen from our group," said Wild coach Dean Evason. "When they got back into it, we never had that push back and that life."

A couple of ill-timed penalties, one late in the second and another early in the third, didn't help. Connor Garland's game-winning goal 3:57 into the third came at the tail end of a power play, a penalty that really made it difficult for Minnesota to manufacture any momentum.

Video: MIN@ARI: Dumba deposits opening goal on the doorstep

Tyler Pitlick made it 4-2 at 6:15 before the Wild's last gasp effort to get back into the game. Zach Parise hit the inside of the far post, beating Darcy Kuemper clean, before Matt Dumba hit the crossbar just a couple of shifts later.

Those were two of three posts the Wild hit in the game.

Pitlick would add an empty-net goal in the final minute to provide the final margin.  

"We've had a little bit of an issue with second periods the past, I don't know how many games," said Wild defenseman Ian Cole. "Too many penalties in the second period. And they pushed. We got up to an early lead, and they pushed last game, and they pushed this game. We didn't necessarily handle it well tonight.

"It is going to be a grind, we knew that going into it. It's always a grind, obviously a lot of games in a short amount of time. 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."

Video: MIN@ARI: Greenway picks top shelf for goal off rush

Unfortunately for the Wild, it's going to have to navigate a busy schedule for the next little bit. 

After the COVID-19 outbreak cancelled nearly two weeks worth of games, Minnesota had a handful of contests sprinkled into its remaining schedule, which was compact to begin with.

The Wild will be off Sunday before embarking on a stretch of 10 games in 18 days through March 25. After that game, Minnesota will, mercifully, go three days without a game before heading back to the West Coast.

It certainly should help that eight of those 10 games coming up will be at Xcel Energy Center, where only eight of the team's first 22 games have taken place. 

Minnesota has played two games in downtown St. Paul since Feb. 1, winning them both.

Video: Players postgame at Arizona

"We'll rest up and play," Evason said. "Everybody is doing it, so we have to find a way when we don't have that energy to do the right things to get a game like we had here tonight. When you're up two goals, regardless of the energy level or not, the game should not be that lopsided after you get up two goals. 

"But yeah. we've gotta rest, but we've also gotta find a way as a group to get the job done and put teams away when we're in that spot."

Perfecting that won't be easy, but the schedule the rest of the way has few breaks and lots of games in not a lot of nights. 

Saturday provided the Wild a glimpse of what it might need to do to have more success in similar situations coming up.

"You're always going to be fatigued. That's always going to be the case," Cole said. "You need to play smarter, you need to make better reads, play quicker, get pucks out of our end and get pucks in their end. Every team is going to be tired.

"Back-to-backs are always will over skill. And tonight I think we maybe tried to skill our way through it tonight. Didn't have enough will and it's one of those things that we need to look at. Obviously it's not good enough, understand that, and be better next game."


Related:

Postgame Hat Trick: Coyotes 5, Wild 2

Video: MIN Recap: Wild allow five straight goals in 5-2 loss

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