GLENDALE, Ariz. – With the power play foundering and the loses mounting, the Minnesota Wild needed someone, anyone to step up.
The entire first line took care of business.
Andrew Brunette scored his second goal on a rare power-play conversion and Minnesota’s top trio combined for six points, helping the Wild ended a five-game losing streak with a 3-2 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night.
“In big games like this—and this was a big game for us—you have to look to your big dogs,” Wild coach Todd Richards said. “Without a question (the first line) are some of our big dogs.”
Brunette and linemates Antti Miettinen and Mikko Koivu had played well in spurts this season, combining for 16 goals and 28 assists. They just weren’t consistent enough, particularly over the past few weeks as the Wild stumbled through a 1-5-2 stretch that sent them staggering toward the bottom of the Northwest Division.
They came through in a big way against Phoenix.
Brunette had the goals, scoring on a one-timer in the first period and a redirect midway through the third for Minnesota’s second power-play goal in 32 chances. Miettinen and Koivu combined for the assists on Brunette’s first goal and again on Brent Burns’ seventh of the season late in the first period.
The line’s production along with Niklas Backstrom’s 33 saves—ending his four-start losing streak—gave the Wild a much-needed win, their first in Phoenix since 2008.
“It’s important for us to feel like we’re pulling our weight, helping out,” Brunette said. “The results haven’t been there the whole season. I feel like we’ve played a high level when we’ve had the puck, but we haven’t had the puck enough. We found a way to get the puck a little more, and if we do that, we’ll be OK.”
Phoenix blew numerous chances to get pucks past Backstrom, particularly in the second period, but made it interesting late.
After pulling goalie Ilya Bryzgalov during a power play with just over a minute left, the Coyotes got within 3-2 on Taylor Pyatt’s second goal, a redirect on a hard shot from Shane Doan at the point. Phoenix couldn’t generate any other good chances and lost for the fourth time in six games in front of a crowd that was barely half the announced 7,749.
“I didn’t think we competed hard enough,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. “They played a very solid road game. They played a very disciplined game, a game where they make you earn everything you get, and we didn’t earn it.”
The Wild certainly did.
After getting the season off to decent start, Minnesota went into a funk starting in late November. The Wild came into this game with one win in eight, though they rallied to pull out a point against Calgary and Dallas in the past two.
Against Phoenix, Minnesota didn’t take long to get its offence going, generating some good early chances before Brunette broke through with his sixth goal seven minutes in. He got it on a 2-on-1 that was nearly a breakaway, using a deke to flip a backhander past Bryzgalov after the Coyotes got caught bunched up near mid-ice.
“My breakaways are usually from the hash mark, but I guess you could call it a breakaway for me,” Brunette said.
Pyatt tied it late in the period, one-timing a nice feed from behind the goal by Oliver Ekman-Larsson, seconds after the defenceman jumped out of the penalty box.
Minnesota then withstood an offensive flurry by Phoenix, thanks to Backstrom and a puck that ran up his shoulder off the crossbar. Burns put them back up with just over a minute left on a one-timer from just outside the crease on a through-traffic cross from Miettinen.
The Wild spent a good chunk of the second period in their own end and came out of it still with a one-goal lead after Backstrom turned away 10 shots, and Doan missed the net on two good chances. Martin Hanzal also whiffed on a shot from close range in the third period before Pyatt’s second goal gave the Coyotes a glimmer of hope that quickly faded.
“It seemed like a couple of times we were going to battle back in the game, but it just didn’t happen,” Pyatt said. “It’s definitely a disappointing game for us hereat home.”
NOTES: Wild D Clayton Stoner (upper body) returned to practice this week, but wasn’t in the lineup, missing his sixth straight game. … Brunette’s first goal ended Bryzgalov’s shutout streak at 101 minutes, 29 seconds. … Phoenix D Keith Yandle notched his 100th career point on Pyatt’s second goal.