GLENDALE, Ariz. – Olli Jokinen’s return has sparked the offence for the Phoenix Coyotes.
Jokinen scored for the third time in two games since returning from a shoulder injury and the Coyotes snapped an eight-game losing streak against Minnesota with a 3-1 victory over the Wild on Thursday night.
“Obviously we’re a better team with him in the lineup,” Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said. “He has helped take a lot of pressure off a lot of guys on our team.”
Zbynek Michalek and Joakim Lindstrom also scored for the Coyotes, who have won four of five at home.
“The way we’ve played the last couple of games, we have to bring that game every single night,” Jokinen said. “It’s been the ‘A’ game for us.”
Phoenix had not beaten Minnesota since a 4-3 home victory on Nov. 14, 2006.
“You can’t lose forever,” said Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who made 30 saves.
Antti Miettinen scored for the Wild, who have lost a season-high three straight while scoring just two goals.
The Coyotes held the Wild scoreless on five power-play attempts, adding to Minnesota’s recent offensive struggles.
On Wednesday, Wild coach Jacques Lemaire defended his defence-minded system when questioned by one of the team’s beat writers.
“You (reporters) are trying to come back with that (stuff) all the time,” he said after Wednesday’s practice. “You look at the guys who were on other teams who came and played for us, how they produced. You look at them, when they first came in, before they started to (complain) when they went in a slump, how they had to play defence.”
But on Thursday, Lemaire was more generous in his assessment.
“We had our chances on the power play,” he said. “We got a couple of rebounds around the net that we couldn’t get a hand on. We don’t score on the power play and then they get a quick goal and another after that, but at that point I thought we were fine. There were just a couple of things we didn’t do well.”
The teams were 26.6 seconds away from a scoreless opening two periods when the Coyotes struck twice against Niklas Backstrom.
“It was a pretty shocking end to the second period,” Miettinen said. “I thought we were controlling the game pretty well until then.”
Michalek scored the first when he received a pass from Shane Doan just inside the blue line, took one stride to his right and fired a shot over Backstrom’s blocker.
Jokinen, who missed six games, made it 2-0 with 1.9 seconds left in the period when he capped a 3-on-1 break with a sweeping one-timer into the open right side of the net off a cross-ice pass from Peter Mueller.
“It was an unbelievable pass,” Jokinen said. “I just happened to hit the net. I mean, it was an empty net.”
Lindstrom scored a goal that at first was waved off by referee Don Koharski with 15:19 to go. Lindstrom chipped the puck over Backstrom’s shoulder from the front of the crease. A video replay confirmed the goal. It was the first of the season for Lindstrom, who was acquired by Phoenix from Anaheim on Dec. 3.
Miettinen ended Bryzgalov’s shutout bid with 11:35 left on a one-timer from the middle of the left circle.
Notes: Coyotes RW Brian McGrattan was off the active roster Thursday, though the club didn’t explain why. According to reports in the Ottawa Sun, McGrattan was waived. … Mikko Koivu became the sixth Wild player to record 100 career assists with the team, helping to set up Miettinen’s goal. … Backstrom lost for the first time in nine career games against the Coyotes. … The Wild have won 11 of 13 meetings between the clubs. … Wild LW Colton Gillies was active for only the second time in 11 games. … Doan has 10 goals and nine assists in 30 career games against Minnesota. … Wild forward Marian Gaborik didn’t play and likely won’t suit up for games at Los Angeles and Anaheim this weekend.