Wild head home after costly loss to Coyotes
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The mountain the Wild have to climb to make the playoffs just got a whole lot steeper.
In desperate need of a win to keep their already slim playoff hopes within reach, the Wild stalled out in a sobering 4-0 loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday, March 31, at Gila River Arena.
With the loss, the Wild (81 points) enter the final week of the regular season four points behind the Colorado Avalanche (85 points), who have a game in hand, and three points behind the Coyotes (84 points).
“You can see the standings,” Eric Staal said. “I mean, we’re not stupid. This was big. It hurts to lose it.”
Perhaps coach Bruce Boudreau saw this coming.
A couple of days after stating whoever lost the pivotal matchup between the Wild and Coyotes was “probably out” of playoff contention, Boudreau backtracked in the hours leading up to the actual game.
“Nobody is eliminated,” Boudreau said. “It would be really difficult. We would really have to run the table and get a lot of help.”
Yes, the Wild have to run the table now with home games against the Winnipeg Jets and Boston Bruins coming up before a road game against the Dallas Stars to close it out.
Honestly, even if the Wild win out, it’s going to be really hard for them to sneak in at this point. This was a game they absolutely had to have, and based on the slumped shoulders in the locker room postgame, it’s clear that reality is starting to set in with this bunch.
“Obviously morale is low,” Ryan Donato said. “We can sit here and say, ‘Oh, we had all those great chances.’ They got the win and that gets them the best chance of making the playoffs. We allowed them to do that. We can’t put the blame on anybody else but ourselves.”
It’s fitting that the Wild suffered what could prove to be a knockout punch during a game in which they felt they outplayed their opponent.
Like so many times this season, the Wild pressured extremely hard, outworked their opponent for most of the night, and came out short in the end.
“If we can’t score, we can’t win no matter how good we’re playing,” Boudreau said. “I thought we outplayed them. If we don’t score, it doesn’t mean anything.”
In the end, a goal from winger Alex Galchenyuk scored early in the game stood up as the game-winner because Darcy Kuemper, yes that Darcy Kuemper, was a absolutely electric between the pipes.
With the Wild pressuring late in the second period, winger Josh Archibald added a key goal late in the second period to provide some insurance down the stretch.
“It’s just momentum swing,” Marcus Foligno said. “Maybe it’s a different story if it’s 1-0 (going into the third period). There’s a little more hope on our side.”
It was no different in the third period, though, as the Wild watched helplessly as their playoff hopes went up in flames. They tried and tried and tried, and couldn’t solve Kuemper, who finished with a masterful 36-save shutout to put his former team on the ropes.
“We have to all take it upon ourselves to make sure we aren’t feeling sorry for ourselves,” Devan Dubnyk said. “We have to understand that we are still in it. We still have three games to play.”
“We aren’t going to give up,” Ryan Suter added. “We are going to keep fighting until the end. We will play until they tell us we can’t anymore.”
That could be coming sooner rather than later.
Zach Parise missed his fourth straight game with a lower-body injury and it sounds like his availability for the rest of the season might be in question.
“We are always hoping,” Boudreau said. “I think what people don’t realize is he had a significant injury.”