The Minnesota Wild’s first trip to the 5,000-seat Mullett Arena ended in a bitterly disappointing 3-2 defeat to the Arizona Coyotes.
Marc-André Fleury stopped 33 of 36 Coyote shots but Jakob Chychrun scored twice and Jack McBain found the game-winning goal late in a come-from-behind Arizona victory.
I’m known to be an unabashed supporter and defender of the Arizona hockey experiment, and I was very excited to watch the Wild play in my favorite NHL barn, and the one that maybe deserves that nomenclature more than any other.
Attacking the lively student section in the opening frame, the Wild put pressure on early, drawing a penalty from formerly rumored trade target Jakob Chychrun and heading to the game’s first power play. Plenty of chances were generated, but the Wild were unable to convert and nearly sprung Chychrun for a breakaway out of the box after an ill-advised pass back to the point found him exiting the box.
Brandon Duhaime got hauled down twice on what could have been a break, but after having drawn the game’s first penalty, the officials remained silent.
Jordan Greenway then came inches from scoring, as his shot dribbled behind Karel Vejmelka but slipped out the other side of the crease. Joel Eriksson Ek took a penalty on the play, but the Wild killed it off without incident as the once-formidable Arizona power play was unable to find its footing.
A partial break from Nick Bjugstad then drew a slashing call on Jon Merrill, sending the Coyotes right back to the man advantage. The ensuing power play lasted just over half a minute before Arizona’s All-Star, Clayton Keller, high-sticked Jared Spurgeon to give us a bit of extended 4-on-4. Would it surprise you to learn that these are two of the most penalized teams in the NHL?
With Bjugstad in his crease, Fleury made a great save on Juuso Välimäki to keep the game scoreless on what was the only good chance of the 4-on-4.
Late in the opening period, OUR All-Star Kirill Kaprizov was stymied by Vejmelka, and Dumba was hauled down trying to follow up on the rebound, again without a call.
What did get called was a Matt Boldy slash, sending the Coyotes back to the man advantage for the third time in the period. Keller made a nice move to get into the slot but fired wide, and Lawson Crouse also missed the net after the Wild let him walk in on Marc-André Fleury. With the Coyotes power play humming, Minnesota was saved by the buzzer to end the period without a goal for either side.
After the remainder of the power play invited a bit of pressure from the Coyotes to open the second frame, the Wild quickly regained control of the game and hemmed Arizona in their own end, eventually leading to a beautiful tic-tac-toe play off of a zone entry that Kaprizov finished for the game’s opening goal.
Kaprizov and Zuccarello connect to open the scoring. thank goodness. 1-0 MIN. pic.twitter.com/ra0dUl9vyF— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) February 7, 2023
Attempting to answer, the Coyotes hit the post three (!) times in quick succession just after Kaprizov’s goal, but couldn’t find twine. The Wild eventually weathered the storm and went back on the offensive, with Zuccarello and Kaprizov making plenty of magic but not quite finding the back of the net.
Ryan Hartman then took Minnesota’s fourth penalty, before the halfway mark of the game had come. I know the Wild take a lot of penalties but even this is pretty bad, especially against one of the league’s worst teams.
The Coyotes power play slick feed from the young Barrett Hayton found Jakob Chychrun unmarked in the slot, and the deadline-target defenseman fired home to tie the game at a goal apiece.
A LASER.— Arizona Coyotes (@ArizonaCoyotes) February 7, 2023
NO CHANCE pic.twitter.com/bIFe8b9KiC
Immediately after the goal, Calen Addison flipped the puck over the ice and sent the Coyotes to the power play for the FIFTH time. And we STILL haven’t reached the halfway point of the game yet.
After killing the penalty, the Wild broke out in a promising odd-man rush, but Matt Boldy couldn’t find the pass he wanted and the chance went by the wayside.
The frame ended at a 1-1 deadlock, with the Wild able to battle back to a more respectable 20-21 shot count, but after a period like that it hurts to not have the lead.
Well, I’m sure they can get it back in the third and — oh hold on that went in?
Brodin scores through Greenway's screen and Wild are LEADING. 2-1 MIN. pic.twitter.com/EQCzOjMrK2— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) February 7, 2023
Ryan Hartman’s shot caught a piece of the crossbar and caromed off the boards to Jonas Brodin, who sort of just whacked at it. Vejmelka hadn’t fully reset after the Hartman shot, and wasn’t ready for the quick shot from Brodin, whose quick thinking earned him his second goal of the season and got the lead back for the Wild.
Brodin nearly had his second of the game off a slick pass from Boldy, but Vejmelka got a piece of the shot to keep the lead at one.
And once again, after taking the lead, the Wild allowed the Coyotes back into the game. Arizona continued to put pressure on the Wild and generate chances, and eventually Chychrun found the back of the net for his second of the night to tie the game and raise his trade deadline stock just a little bit more.
Then the Wild took ANOTHER penalty. This time it was Zuccarello getting the gate for high-sticking Chychrun, who then immediately wiped out the man advantage by high-sticking
Perfect pic.twitter.com/IJ9TVE1uwp— Arizona Coyotes (@ArizonaCoyotes) February 7, 2023
Eriksson Ek to make it nine minor penalties on the night between the two teams. That’s 18 minutes of penalties, and though a few of them overlapped, it’s pretty unbelievable how little of this game was played at 5-on-5.
A little over halfway through the frame, Jake Middleton and Calen Addison both found themselves deep in Arizona territory, with Zuccarello covering at the point. Zuccarello pinched in tight to try to strip the puck from Christian Fischer, who instead sprung Jack McBain for a clean breakway. Boldy tried to make a diving play to take the puck off McBain’s stick, but McBain made a slick move to the backhand and scored a beautiful goal to put the Coyotes up one with just under seven minutes to play.
NO SLOWING MCBAIN DOWN pic.twitter.com/ayUSJ8eGYA— Arizona Coyotes (@ArizonaCoyotes) February 7, 2023
The Wild pressured hard in the final minutes to find an equalizer, with Lawson Crouse thwarting a golden opportunity for Boldy in the crease. Then Nick Ritchie took a completely needless penalty in the Minnesota zone to hand the Wild the best possible chance to tie the game late.
With the net empty, the Wild made a strong push to tie the game in the final minutes, and they got damn close, but couldn’t quite get it over the line, losing to the NHL’s fourth-worst team 3-2.
The Wild’s next stop is the Big D, where they’ll take on the conference-leading Stars on Wednesday night.
Will there be any rust?
Definitely some rust! The Wild came out of the gate hot, but a few penalties killed their momentum and allowed the Coyotes to take over the first period, outshooting the Wild 14 to 5. They seemed to find their footing after that and regained control of the game, leading to a goal, but then immediately got hemmed in again. They also looked to run out of gas about halfway through the third, eventually leading to the winning goal for Arizona. It certainly didn’t help that they took five penalties in the first half of the game, but they just didn’t look at their sharpest in this one.
How will Greenway and Dumba perform?
Greenway had a good chance in the first period that just slipped through the crease, but wasn’t especially noticeable apart from that. Dumba could have had a good opportunity in the first but got hauled down, and hit the post from the point in the second, but again didn’t do much to really stand out. If they’re trying to give the Wild a reason to keep them around after the deadline, they didn’t do that in this game. That’s not to say neither of them can, but if they want to stand out, they’ll need to deliver more than they did tonight.