Wild's disappointing season ends on a sour note in loss to Phoenix
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ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Summer-mode kicked in a day early for the Minnesota Wild.
The Phoenix Coyotes clinched the Pacific Division title by breezing to a 4-1 victory without much fight from the opposition, fitting the Wild's woeful season of missed opportunities with a sputtering end.
Phoenix had the look and feel of a team with a cause to play for -- the franchise's first-ever division title. Meanwhile, the Wild's outing encapsulated the frustration pent up from a year that had been headed in the wrong direction since January.
"This is the first time I've been done (this early) since I was 16," right wing Devin Setoguchi said. "It's been a while since I've had this feeling of not being in the playoffs and it obviously stinks."
Dany Heatley's second period goal stood as the Wild's lone goal of the night. Coyotes' goalie Mike Smith was in playoff form, withstanding a late offensive attack to save 23 of the 24 shots he faced. Smith's night was made easier given the Wild's prolonged stretches of apparent disinterest.
For as poised as Smith came across, Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom was the opposite. Consistently a step behind for most of the night, a frazzled Backstrom, who received only minor help from his defense, allowed goals on three of the Coyotes' first 18 shots.
The Wild, who finished the season a game under .500 (35-36-11) are on the outside looking in at the playoffs for the fourth straight season -- a fact they have been faced with for several weeks. Among the players, there was no disguising of the bitter anger and aggravation bred from falling well short of team-set expectations.
"Obviously we have to face it. We're not where we want to be right now," captain Mikko Koivu said. "That has to change. It's been too long that we've finished the season like this."
Lackluster energy was a running theme for the Wild Saturday, and it became apparent at the onset. Struggling to find their legs on the offensive end, the Wild managed only four shots on goal in the first period.
Phoenix on the other hand experienced little resistance in exposing Backstrom's disjointed night, which was exemplified by Mikkel Boedker's goal less than six minutes. Bodedker rocketed a shot in over Backstrom's left shoulder, leaving the baffled goalie to look longingly at the puck behind him.
Taylor Pyatt followed shortly after with the first of his two goals to launch Phoenix to a 2-0 lead by intermission.
Heatley injected momentary hope into the Wild at the tail-end of the second period with a scrappy goal banked in off Smith's back. That sliver of hope lasted 31 seconds. Off the center ice face-off, Phoenix raced to the net and knocked in its third goal before previous scoring summary could be announced.
Scoring chances came sporadically for the Wild the rest of the way, but the drive needed to mount a rally wasn't there.
It didn't take much for the Coyotes to avert the eventual victory in their favor. Their rapid rebuttal in the second period to the Wild's only goal was ultimately the killer blow.
35-36-11: The Wild's final record on the year -- their worst mark in the six seasons since the NHL lockout.
166: Goals scored by the Wild this season is the fewest by any team since the lockout.
47: Players donned a Wild jersey this season. Defenseman Chay Genoway became the latest, and final addition, of the year after he was recalled Saturday to play in his first NHL game.
9: Number of players who have made their NHL debuts for the Wild this season. Genoway picked up his first career point with an assist on Heatley's goal in the second period.
• Phoenix -- Mikkel Boedker (11), assisted by Shane Doan (28), 5:34. Coyotes 1, Wild 0
• Phoenix -- Taylor Pyatt (8), assisted by Boyd Gordon (15) and Michael Rozsival (11), 13:57. Coyotes 2, Wild 0
• Phoenix -- Taylor Pyatt (9), assisted by Lauri Korpikoski (20) and Michael Rozsival (12), 14:24. Coyotes 3, Wild 1
• Phoenix -- Radim Vrbata (35), assisted by Ray Whitney (53) and Mike Smith (2), 1:19. Coyotes 4, Wild 1
It's time to clean out the lockers and embrace a premature start to the summer. After suffering through another lost season, coach Mike Yeo and general manger Chuck Fletcher will have plenty of time to figure how to move forward as they are forced to watch the playoffs from afar.
"Every single one of us has to except our share of the responsibility here," Yeo said. "It's an empty, disappointing, embarrassing feeling that we have and we have to use that, every one of us, as a force that drives you to be better next year."