Tempe, Arizona. – Dean Evason wanted to make sure his team knew the eight-day bye period and the All-Star break was over. His players have had fun, they’ve been recharged, and it’s time to get their heads right because points will be crucial in a congested stretch of 14 games in 25 days before the March 3 trade deadline.
You only need to look at how narrow the arrangement is to realize this.
So, instead of practicing in Minnesota on Sunday, the Wild flew to Arizona early and skated at the 4,600-seat Mullett Arena to get a feel for the ice and compact building so it wouldn’t be a shock when they first stepped foot in it during a Monday night game.
Teams visiting a college rink on the Arizona campus for the first time will often say that it’s so small that it feels like opponents catch you faster and that the ice isn’t that big despite the fact that it’s the size of an NHL regulation bound.
“They have a winning record here,” Evason said of the Coyotes’ now 11-8-2 home team. “Teams come and go,” It’s not a rink in the NHL. Well, it’s not an NHL rink. But who cares what it is? It’s a beautiful rink.”
Like an outdoor game, Evason commands its players to think back to when they played junior, college, or high school hockey.
He said, “We wanted men to see it, feel it, and embrace it.”
They didn’t during a very sub-par 3-2 loss that disappointed what felt and looked like a full house of Wild fans.
As we saw Monday night, the Mullett Arena should be like all 31 of the other NHL rinks because the Wild came out of the eight-day break still struggling to score at five-on-five, still getting frustrated with their solid play and still not quite up to it. . Not rushing into the penalty area an unreasonable number of times.
The Wild took six penalties, including another by Ryan Hartmann in the second period that led to the first of two goals from Jakob Cicciron and a hyper-energy penalty in the third by Mats Zuccarello after Jonas Pruden gave Wild a 2-1 lead through Jordan Greenway screen after Joel Erickson forced Ike a turnover.
Jacob Cicero scored the equalizer in the match. 🔝🧀 pic.twitter.com/De0oJCLHuI
– NHL (NHL) February 7, 2023
“(They) got in the way of what the Minnesota Wild do, where they play four lines, they roll and they play hard defensively,” Evason said. “It’s very difficult to play strong defense when you’re in the penalty area. The first four is two trips and two slashes. They’re all penalties. … They can be avoided and we can’t take them. We get out of our rhythm. You can’t play strong defensive hockey where you play four people on the ice” .
The Wild entered the game 29th in the NHL with 83 five-to-five goals, third with 605 penalty minutes and second with 4.61 penalties per 60 minutes. They finished eleventh with an average of 3.38 runs per game.
# my Lord 5v5 goals per match since January 12:
Acute respiratory infections: 1
That’s 10 goals 5v5 in the last 9 matches. Not exactly a winning recipe. 🙃
– Brett Marshall 🌲 (@B_Marsh92) February 7, 2023
They got equal power goals from Kirill Kaprizov and Brodin, but this was a game the Wild could have won had they stayed five-on-five.
Even more amazing, Zuccarello had one of the most unusual toys you’ll ever see.
He set up Kaprizov for the 28th goal, took a 1-0 lead, and had eight shots on goal. However, despite the ejection, he overtook consistently and almost single-handedly made a wild kill in the third period.
He was drawn into the middle and did not advance Chychrun for his second goal of the game, the equalizing goal. He then took the heavy kick and followed that up by walking out of the box and making an ill-advised pinch save to save the puck, resulting in Jack McBain’s win in the third round of the game. Goal with 6:47 left.
Jack McBain speeds through space and buries himself behind on the breakaway, leading the Coyotes 3-2!# ut pic.twitter.com/o5U7ZTYNRC
– Hockey Daily 365 l NHL Highlights (@HockeyDaily365) February 7, 2023
“I did a bad read and it happened and it’s disappointing because I didn’t get anything out of here,” Zuccarillo said. “Not a good enough team effort.
“I think we have to go player by player and say, ‘What can we do better? “We need to win. We’re in the race here and only important games. We can’t have a day off.”
The Wild stayed in the playoffs…barely. Calgary is second in the wild card spot with the same number of points (58) and Colorado, just outside the top eight, is at 57 with a game in hand.
Before the match, Evason was excited to see what his team was like. Wild looked “fresh” and plump, he said. “They looked a lot tanner than when they left, but we all are, I guess.”
Sixteen Wild players all went to Capo together. The only people who didn’t make it were Kabrizov in the All-Star Game, Zuccarillo in South Florida, Marc-Andre Fleury and Ryan Reeves in Cancun, John Merrill in Southern Mexico, and Philip Gustafson, who stayed in Minnesota.
Half of them stayed at an all-inclusive hotel, Brandon Duhemey said, and the other half — the higher-paid men and those who brought their kids — stayed at a luxury resort.
Funnily enough, the players groaned when they saw Evason aboard the same commercial flight as Cabo the morning after the Wild’s final home game before intermission against Buffalo.
“He sat behind my wife, me and our children,” Marcos Foligno said after Sunday’s training.
“Fortunately, I didn’t see a single player during the trip. It felt good,” Evason quipped.
Judging by all the photos, they enjoyed fishing, boat trips, and nice dinners.
Duhemey, Conor Dewar, Matt Boldy, and Mason Show even braided their hair with Duhemey’s friend who posted a funny picture to her Instagram story that went viral on social media.
“Someone came to us with a little sign asking if we wanted our hair like that, and we said, ‘Sure,'” Daheime said. “It was like $20 a man.”
The Wild looked rusty early on, but Zuccarillo said, “No excuses,” noting that Arizona—the third-worst team in the NHL since mid-November—was also on hiatus.
Fleury had to be great early on and had to pull off a bunch of highway robberies.
Kirill Kaprizov scores against the Arizona Coyotes to make it 1-0 #ARIvsMIN # ut # my Lord pic.twitter.com/88pRlOX2dT
– noClips (noClips) February 7, 2023
After a huge turnaround on the top line, Kaprizov extended his score streak to six games. His 12th consecutive point game was against the Coyotes, tying Zach Barris (vs. Detroit) and Mikael Granlund (vs. Dallas) for the longest streak by a Wild skater against a single opponent.
But the wolves responded well.
Within 1:52 right after the goal, McBain, Clayton Keeler, and Lawson Krause hit the iron. Fleury always thanks his posts or cross bars whenever that happens, but during the ensuing TV timeout, he seemed ready to give them a big kiss.
“I said, ‘Thank you,'” Fleury said. “You saved me again.”
With the Coyotes looking to trade Chychrun for a reward, Fleury was left idling to dry on his slim chances. Then McBain, who was traded to the Wild in the second round last summer after a Boston College player refused to sign with them, made the Wild — and Zuccarello — pay for a blunder.
The Wild had a great look throughout the game, but missed the net on some golden chances and kept getting nothing at all from Sam Steele’s midfield.
Something is going to have to give at some point because he has no points and seven shots in his past seven games, yet Evason hasn’t evened the streak nor has Iowa’s Wild Marco Rossi remembered. The rookie is now on the AHL All-Star break.
“Definitely disappointing,” Fleury said of the loss. “We all know it’s going to be a tight race to make the playoffs between now and the end of the season. Those are the points we need to get. Especially when we have the third-place lead like that.”
And Zuccarillo added, “We have to forget quickly. We have a big, massive game in Dallas (Wednesday) against a really good team. So we have to step it up.”
(Photo: Alan Henry/USA Today)