GLENDALE, Ariz. – As a defensive-minded team, the Minnesota Wild are used to pulling out one-goal games.
Doing it after leading by three was a little different, but there won’t be any complaints from the Wild after a rare offensive outburst.
Dany Heatley had two goals and the Wild held on for a 4-3 win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night after scoring four goals for the third time in 19 games this season.
“We had a three-goal lead and still made it a one-goal game, unfortunately,” Heatley said. “We’re used to those games, we’re used to tight games and it seems like the goalie is pulled every night one way or the other.”
One of the NHL’s lowest-scoring teams, the Wild jumped on the Coyotes early, getting two goals in the first period and two more in the second.
Jason Zucker opened the flurry with a goal 1:35 into the game on Minnesota’s first shot and Heatley added one late in the period on its third. Heatley scored again in the second and Jared Spurgeon added his first goal in more than a year to put the Wild up 4-1.
A strange goal by Keith Yandle—off the side glass at a sharp angle past Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom—made the Wild tighten up a little, but it was still a two-goal lead.
As expected, the Coyotes pulled their goalie in the closing minutes and Shane Doan gave them a chance at pulling off the comeback by scoring with 59 seconds left.
Phoenix kept coming with an extra attacker, but couldn’t score again, allowing Minnesota to leave the desert with a sigh of relief and its fourth win in five games.
“It probably doesn’t deserve to be a 4-3 game, to be honest with you,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “A tough bounce and a penalty at the end of the game there, but that’s a big road win for us right there.”
The Coyotes came out flat after a three-game road trip through Canada.
Phoenix was shaky in its own end early and goalie Mike Smith also had an off night, allowing four goals on 19 shots before being replaced by Jason LaBarbera to start the third period.
Rostislav Klesla also scored for the Coyotes, who have three straight games against Anaheim coming up next thanks to a quirk in the lockout-shortened schedule.
“I think our group was a little tired tonight, you could see there wasn’t the same zip in it,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. “That being said, you still find a way to manufacture a win.”
The Wild have been on a good roll in February since losing five of seven to start the month.
Despite ranking 30th in the NHL with 2.06 goals per game, Minnesota won three of its previous four games, including 2-1 over Calgary on Tuesday after Zucker scored late in regulation and Zach Parise got his eighth career overtime winner 27 seconds into the extra period.
Minnesota didn’t need long to score against the Coyotes, with Zucker redirecting a pass by Matt Cullen to beat Smith to the glove side for his third goal in five games.
Heatley made it 2-0 late in the first period, beating Smith stick side from the left circle after Pierre-Marc Bouchard made a chip pass at the blue line to get around Coyotes defenceman Derek Morris.
Backstrom was solid in the period, turning away 11 shots and Heatley added to the lead in the period, ripping a slap shot from the slot on a pass from Matt Cullen.
“We’ve been emphasizing our starts and trying to make sure we have a quick start and try to play with a lead,” Zucker said. “That’s what we did tonight.”
Phoenix finally showed some life midway through the second period, when Klesla flipped a backhander that sneaked under Backstrom’s right pad on a pass from Kyle Chipchura.
It didn’t last.
Raffi Torres went to the penalty box for the second time late in the period and Spurgeon scored his first goal since Jan. 14, 2012, punching in a rebound after a scrum in front to put the Wild up 4-1.
The Coyotes weren’t quite done.
Yandle got his goal late in the third period when his attempt to pass the puck around the glass caromed sideway and bounced in off Backstrom’s skate into the net. Doan added his 323rd career goal after LaBarbera left for an extra attacker, tying Keith Tkachuk for second on the franchise’s all-time goals list.
It wasn’t enough, thanks to the big hole Phoenix dug for itself early.
“We didn’t play our best in the first and second and we were playing desperate,” Yandle said. “They were obviously were a few up, so they kind of let off the gas a little bit. We kind of played OK in the third, but it’s nothing to be proud of.”
Notes: Daytona 500 champion Jimmie Johnson dropped the ceremonial first puck. NASCAR races at Phoenix International Raceway this weekend. … Coyotes D Derek Morris returned after missing five games with an upper-body injury. … Ryan Suter had his team-leading 12th assist on Heatley’s first goal. … Dale Hawerchuk holds the Coyotes franchise record with 379 career goals.