The Minnesota Wild ended the 2011-12 season with arguably its worst game of the season.
After winning four of the previous five, the Wild were sloppy, uncontrolled and undisciplined in a 4-1 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center.
The Wild (35-36-11) got back in the game in the second period when Dany Heatley banked a shot from behind the goal line off a Coyote defenseman to cut a two-goal deficit to one.
Chay Genoway became the 47th different player to play for the Wild this season with the suspension to Nate Prosser and injury to Clayton Stoner. He responded by getting an assist on Heatley’s goal after giving a pass to Mikko Koivu.
“It’s just a bonus,” Genoway said about having his name in the scoresheet in his NHL debut. “Give the puck to the right guy.”
As well as the Wild were playing at the time, it was a short-lived stint close to tying the game. It took Taylor Pyatt just 31 seconds after Heatley scored to take the wind out of the Wild’s sails.
Niklas Backstrom made several saves to keep the Wild in the game in the first half of the game, but the final two Coyote goals are ones that should not have gone in.
On the first Backstrom was not in position to stop Pyatt’s rebound shot after stopping a wraparound (the significance of the goal is the timing shortly after the Wild got within one) and the second was a nail in the coffin; a long shot from the boards with no traffic by Radim Vrbata that beat him short side.
The Coyotes (42-27-13) took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission with the help of two bad plays by the Wild in its defensive zone.
The first came after a turnover by Kris Fredheim, the other defenseman called up due to the suspension and injury. He tried to send a puck up the boards from behind the net, but had it intercepted in the corner with no defense between the Coyote and Backstrom.
The second came when the Wild defense lost Pyatt going to the goal. He redirected a pass around Backstrom.
The Wild have several things to feel good as it enters the offseason; first place in the NHL in early December and four wins over playoff teams in the final six games.
“We’re close,” Mike Yeo said. “We have a core group of players you can win with. Collectively we improved. Now we need to take it over the edge.”
No. 3 – Mike Smith. The Coyotes goaltender stopped 23 shots in the win.
No. 2 – Michal Rozsival. The Coyotes defenseman recorded two assists.
No. 1 – Taylor Pyatt. The Coyotes forward scored two goals.
Phoenix 2 1 1 – 4
Minnesota 0 1 0 – 1
First Period – 1, Phoenix, Boedker 11 (Doan), 5:34. 2, Phoenix, Pyatt 8 (Gordon, Rozsival), 13:57. Penalties – Heatley, Min (slashing), 5:51; Powe, Min (hooking), 16:12.
Second Period – 3, Minnesota, Heatley 24 (Koivu, Genoway), 13:53. 4, Phoenix, Pyatt 9 (Korpikoski, Rozsival), 14:24. Penalties – Brule, Phx (tripping), 17:33.
Third Period – 5, Phoenix, Vrbata 35 (Whitney, Smith), 1:19. Penalties – Clutterbuck, Min (unsportsmanlike conduct), 3:07; Torres, Phx (interference), 6:21; Bench, Min (too many men; served by Clutterbuck), 7:09; Scandella, Min (hooking), 11:18; Hanzal, Phx (interference), 16:43; Rozsival, Phx (holding) 19:06; Klesla, Phx (boarding; served by Boedker), 19:24; Morris, Phx (roughing), 19:24; Koivu, Min (roughing), 19:24.
Shots on goal – Phoenix 11-7-10 28. Minnesota 4-12-8 24.
Goalies – Phoenix, Smith (23-24). Minnesota, Backstrom (24-28). A – 0. Referees – Chris Lee, Frederick L’Ecuyer. Linesmen – Matt MacPherson, Jean Morin.