Wild rally past Coyotes to collect two crucial points
By Craig Morgan
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Left winger Dany Heatley was in street clothes as a healthy scratch, the penalty-killing unit was in shambles and the Minnesota Wild were sinking fast in the Western Conference standings when they arrived in Phoenix to play a Coyotes team coming off a five-point, three-game road trip back east.
Somehow, Minnesota stopped the bleeding. Left winger Zack Parise and defenseman Jared Spurgeon scored third-period goals in a 4:54 span and the Wild just may have saved their season with a huge 3-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday at Jobing.com Arena.
“We would have been in a pretty tough spot had we lost this game,” Parise said. “But I think we can learn a lot from it — just the way we didn’t get frustrated. We kept playing the same way and I think we got better as the game went on.”
With the win, the Wild widened their lead over the Coyotes to three points for seventh place in the conference standings with seven games remaining. They also earned a key tiebreaker over Phoenix by winning the season series, 2-1.
“We need to use this as a game that we can kind of springboard something off of,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “We’ve had enough games where there’s been some bad feelings afterward so let’s use this as one that hopefully we can build something off of.”
Phoenix, which was coming off big road wins over Pittsburgh and New Jersey despite the absence of injured goalie Mike Smith, came out of the gates flying and got a power-play goal from left winger Mikkel Boedker off a deflection of right winger Shane Doan’s centering pass to take a 1-0 lead just 3:16 into the first period.
But Phoenix couldn’t widen the lead and went stone-cold at the offensive end despite four power-play opportunities and a point-blank chance for Boedker in 5-on-5 play that rang off the post.
“You get that next one and you push the game along a little bit,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. “It was a tight game. There were some plays you’d like to see get made or chances you’d like to see get capitalized.”
The Coyotes also needed to sustain more pressure. Officially, they went nearly 25 minutes (24:28) without a shot between the second and third periods, although Doan seemed unusually miffed about that statistic.
“The guy running that score clock, I mean come on. He’s got to be a little better than that,” Doan said. “I understand we didn’t have a lot of shots ... but we really don’t take too much consideration into what he does because sometimes it’s pretty questionable.?It wasn’t that long between shots. The guy just doesn’t keep track very well.”
Parise added an empty-netter with 45 seconds remaining to give Minnesota just its fourth win in its last 12 games. Former Coyote Ilya Bryzgalov made 23 saves for the Wild in the win and is 3-0-2 with Minnesota since coming over at the trade deadline.
With two weeks left in the regular season, Minnesota (87 points), Phoenix (84) and Dallas (83) are locked in a battle for the final two playoff spots in the Western Conference. Minnesota will not play either opponent the rest of the season. Dallas ends the regular season in Glendale on April 13.
NOTES: Minnesota LW Dany Heatley was a healthy scratch for the first time in his 12-year career on Saturday. Heatley is a minus-7 in his last five games and a team-worst minus-18 this season. He has just four shots in his last 11 games and has not scored since Feb. 27. ... The Coyotes’ first-period power-play goal meant Minnesota has allowed a power-play goal in six straight games. The Wild entered the game having allowed 11 goals on opponents’ last 31 power-play chances.