For the Phoenix perspective, please see Five For Howling.
The biggest Xcel Energy Center crowd of the season left disappointed tonight as the Wild fell to the Phoenix Coyotes 4-2 thanks in large part to two Radim Vrbata goals 2:01 apart in the second period.
After a scoreless, lackluster first period, Pierre-Marc Bouchard gave the big home crowd something about which to be excited 6:19 into the second, finally breaking the scoreless tie on a nifty wrester from Nick Johnson and Matt Cullen. However, the Wild couldn't get another past Curtis McElhinney before Daymond Langkow took advantage of a Greg Zanon holding minor, notching the power play goal and sending the teams into the second intermission tied at 1. The Wild were outshot 23-16 in the first two periods, then things got worse.
Radim Vrbata took over the game and made things even more difficult with goals at 4:15 and 6:16 of the third. The Wild then turned on the pressure, peppering McElhinney with shots, but only after a Matt Cullen penalty shot brought Minnesota within one at 8:12. The goal was Cullen's 10th of the year. After that it was all McElhinney, as he shut down the Wild attack down the stretch before Ray Whitney iced things for the Coyotes with an empty net marker with 19 seconds left in the game.
Tonight was another in a line of games in which the Wild just didn't attack often enough and when they did, couldn't take advantage. If this team wants to rebound and get back to where they were a month ago, they need to pick up the effort and take seriously the mantra of every player, every shift. They didn't do it tonight.
The Bennett's Chop & Railhouse of the Game:
- Radim Vrbata (2 G)
- Ray Whitney (1 G, 1 A)
- Matt Cullen (1 G, 1 A)
Remember, when you begin and end your night at Bennett's, you're the star! Easy parking, drink and food specials and a free shuttle to and from the Xcel Energy Center. Check them out at http://bennettschopandrailhouse.com/.
- Who steps in with yet another injury to the lineup? Jed Ortmeyer came in and put-up 2 shots but was a -2 in 9:57 TOI. Not exactly a good game for him.
- Can Backstrom start the next winning streak? Not tonight.
- Top line playing well. Does that continue? 11 shots for the top line, but it counts for naught.
- Can the team defense shore itself up and give up less than three? No.
- Looks like another sellout crowd in Saint Paul. Can the Wild help them ring in the New Year on a positive? Largest crowd of the year, and they have to leave disappointed.