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Wild blitzed by Arizona in key matchup for Western Conference playoff position

Midway through the second period Saturday at Xcel Energy Center, Wild fans launched into the traditional “Ref you stink” chant after an apparent Minnesota goal was overturned upon video review.

Their ire was aimed at the wrong people. Nothing the Wild failed to do Saturday could be blamed on the officiating.

In a matchup against one of the many teams they’re trying to overtake in the Western Conference playoff race, the Wild were sluggish from the start, falling behind 3-0 after one period before finally succumbing, 6-0, for their eighth loss in nine games. In those eight losses, the Wild have been outscored by a combined 35-11.

The Wild and Coyotes, 13th and 12th in the West respectively at puck drop, are now separated by five points. The Wild (17-20-5) are now eight points behind seventh- and eighth-place Nashville and Seattle for the final two playoff spots.

Some familiar names did much of the damage for Arizona. Former Gophers and Wild forward Nick Bjugstad, who started the day with five goals this season and hadn’t scored since Dec. 4, registered a hat trick, and longtime Wild winger Jason Zucker assisted on two of those goals.

Matt Dumba, who played 10 seasons with the Wild before signing a one-year free agent deal with the Coyotes on Aug. 6, was stout on the blue line that helped hand Minnesota its third shutout loss this season and second in six games.

Clayton Keller added two goals and an assist for Arizona, sealing the victory with a breakaway goal just 38 seconds into the third period. Connor Ingram made 28 saves for his NHL-leading fifth shutout victory this season.

The Wild started the game on a high note with the returns of top forward Kirill Kaprizov and No. 1 goaltender Filip Gustavsson, each injured in a 4-2 loss at Winnipeg on Dec. 30. Gustavsson gave up five goals on 18 shots before being pulled for Marc-Andre Fleury with 13 minutes, 20 seconds left in the second period.

After that, Minnesota started getting some traction with its forecheck and appeared to pull within 5-1 when Pat Maroon flipped a puck out of a scrum past Ingram midway through the period, but Arizona challenged for goalie interference, and officials ruled that Maroon had checked a player into the net, and into Ingram, before he scored.

The Wild kept the pressure on, however, and kept play consistently in the Coyotes’ end for the rest of the period, bringing potential momentum into the final period. But Arizona squashed it quickly.

After Marcus Johansson lost the puck in the corner of Arizona’s zone, Keller raced past the Wild defense and took a perfect outlet pass from Jack McBain. Keller raced alone at Fleury, faked right and scored into the left corner to make it 6-0 at 38 seconds.

In the end, the Wild outshot the Coyotes, 38-33, but in the stat that mattered, it was a blowout loss.