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Disappointment evident, but Wild vows not to retreat

Loss in Arizona on Sunday makes playoff math difficult, but not impossible

by Dan Myers @MNWildScribe / Wild.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- You could see the disappointment on Ryan Suter's face.

The typically stoic, always business, workhorse defenseman doesn't show emotion too often, but after a 4-0 loss to the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on Sunday afternoon, even Suter couldn't hide the frustration.

Sunday's loss didn't mathematically eliminate the Wild from postseason contention. But it certainly made the climb an even more uphill trek.

About 15 minutes after the final horn sounded, that reality was starting to set in. 

"Yeah, it sucks. We worked hard. I mean, we dominated the second period," Suter said. "They got one late in the second. I thought we dominated the third, too. Just weren't able to score."

Tweet from @mnwild: "Guys are definitely not happy about their performance...they got the win and that gives them the best chance of making playoffs. We allowed them to do that and we can't put the blame on anybody but ourselves." ��� Ryan Donato pic.twitter.com/8dF6wklHsp

Hard work hasn't been a problem for the Wild the past couple weeks. Minnesota has gotten chances. It has routinely outshot its opponent. It has put itself in position to win more hockey games than it has lost.

Finishing has been an issue. For one reason or another, putting pucks in nets has been exceedingly difficult to do.

Perhaps no segment this season was more emblematic of that than the final five minutes of the second period.

The Wild was all over the Coyotes, piling up grade-A chances, shots on goal and zone time. Trailing by one goal, Minnesota desperately wanted to go to intermission knotted up at 1-1. 

Following the final TV timeout of the period, Arizona gained control of the puck and Josh Archibald overcame a pokecheck by Joel Eriksson Ek, roofing a well-placed shot past Devan Dubnyk for a 2-0 lead.

It came in the blink of an eye. 

Like that, Minnesota's mountain became quite imposing. 

Tweet from @mnwild: "They were all devastated...until we're eliminated, we're going to throw out the best lineup we can and play the hardest we can." ��� Bruce Boudreau after #MINvsARI pic.twitter.com/GTGKzAfzg1

"It's a real deflator," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "One chance and they come back down and score. And we miss open nets, and you're buzzing and you're playing your butt off."

Frustration levels are at an all-time high for the Wild, who haven't played many bad games over the past month. The simple reality is that the Wild is, and has been, without several key contributors for various stretches this season. 

Defenseman Matt Dumba certainly may have helped a power play that couldn't convert on any of its three chances. Mikko Koivu could have helped slow down Josh Archibald, who finished with two goals and an assist.

Zach Parise missed his fourth-straight game with a lower-body injury. Without its leading scorer over that stretch, the Wild has been shutout twice and has scored just four goals.

"You're throwing out potentially really good players but still first-year players," Boudreau said. "Sometimes [this is] the growing pains that you gotta go through. [But] I don't want to use that as an excuse."

Nobody does, not when you invest six months of blood, sweat and work into the goal of making the postseason. 

"Morale is low. You put so much into a season … it's professional hockey, it's your job. Guys are definitely not happy about their performance. Although we can sit here and say, 'We had all those great chances,' they got the win and that gets them the best chance of making the playoffs," Ryan Donato said.

"We allowed them to do that and we can't put the blame on anybody else but ourselves."

Video: MIN@ARI: Dubnyk stymies Connauton and Galchenyuk

Suter, exactly one year removed from a potentially career-ending injury sustained last March 31 in Dallas, again led the team in ice time and hasn't missed a game this season. He's made the playoffs every year since signing with the Wild on that landmark day back in 2012. 

And while the math may be difficult, the Wild knows it still has a sliver of a chance.

As long as it has that, Suter says there is a group that will continue to put it all on the line.

"We're still alive," Suter said. "We have to regroup and find ways. We're not going to give up. We're going to keep fighting until the end. We'll play until they tell us we can't anymore. We're going to work and battle and do all the things we've been doing. Hopefully we score a few more."


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