ST. PAUL, Minn. – Marc-Andre Bergeron had to convince his coach before the game he was ready to return from a knee injury.
He needed less than a minute to prove it on Tuesday night.
Back on the ice after missing 10 games, Bergeron scored on the first shot of Minnesota’s 6-3 win over the Phoenix Coyotes, just 46 seconds after the opening faceoff.
“That was a nice welcome back. I guess I’ll take it,” said Bergeron, who ripped a slap shot from the left point for his fourth goal of the season.
Owen Nolan, Andrew Brunette and Cal Clutterbuck each added a goal and an assist for the Wild.
Steven Reinprecht had a goal and an assist for Phoenix, which twice trailed by three goals but rallied to 4-3 in the third before falling to Minnesota for the 10th time in its past 11 meetings.
“We had too many guys who tried to play on the outside,” Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky said. “(Minnesota) played hard and played harder than we did. You’re not successful at this level by cutting corners.”
Minnesota built a commanding lead when Nolan scored after a feed from Brunette later in the first period, then set up Brunette’s backhand goal early in the second. It was a much-needed offensive breakout for Brunette, who is second on the team with 11 goals, but had not scored or had a multipoint game in nearly a month.
“That line has been our best line since the start of the year,” Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said of the trio of Nolan, Brunette and Mikko Koivu. “They ran into a little problem scoring, but getting goals tonight could put them back to where they want to be. For this team to be successful, they have to keep scoring.”
Trailing 3-0, the Coyotes spoiled Nicklas Backstrom’s bid for a shutout when Joakim Lindstrom tipped in a Reinprecht shot midway through the game.
With the teams skating four-on-four to start the third period, Koivu scored his team-leading 12th goal of the season to briefly give Minnesota a 4-1 lead. But Olli Jokinen answered for the Coyotes 22 seconds later, converting a pass from David Hale after finding himself open in front of Backstrom.
Reinprecht, whose last multipoint game was in a Dec. 11 home win against the Wild, scored on a rising shot a few minutes later to pull the Coyotes within one. But Clutterbuck and James Sheppard each scored in the final seven minutes to seal the win for the Wild.
“We made too many mistakes,” Coyotes captain Shane Doan said. Doan assisted on two goals and has 13 points in his past 12 games. “You know what kind of game they’re going to play. They’re going to play a patient game and we made too many mistakes and they capitalized on them.”
Backstrom finished with 21 saves in the win, while Ilya Bryzgalov had 28 saves for Phoenix.
Notes: Tuesday’s game was the first of a four-game road trip on which the Coyotes will visit four of the Northwest Division’s five teams – Minnesota, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton. … To make room for Bergeron, the Wild sent defenseman John Scott to their AHL affiliate in Houston. Scott had been up since Jan. 3 with no points in five games. … The Coyotes called up winger Steven Goertzen after rookie Viktor Tikhonov suffered a hand injury. Goertzen was a healthy scratch on Tuesday.