PHOENIX – The Phoenix Coyotes have built their first five-game winning streak in almost two years the hard way – without scoring a single power-play goal.
The way goalie Ilya Bryzgalov is playing, the Coyotes haven’t needed to score with an advantage.Bryzgalov regained the NHL lead with his fourth shutout of the season, making 28 saves in Phoenix’s 2-0 win over the Minnesota Wild on Monday night.
Scottie Upshall and Taylor Pyatt scored second-period goals 44 seconds apart to help Bryzgalov, who was 1-7 against the Wild coming into this season, beat them for the second time since Nov. 18. The four shutouts are a career high for Bryzgalov just 30 games into the season, and his 17 victories are one behind league-leader Martin Brodeur of New Jersey.
“Yeah, I guess he’s doing OK for us right now,” Phoenix captain Shane Doan said with a smile. “He’s so confident and he makes the game look so easy even when it isn’t. He always squares to the puck and guys are always hitting him in the middle of his body. As a shooter, that’s so frustrating.
“When you’re goalie is the best player on the ice, it’s a lot easier to play the game.”
Minnesota was 6-0-1 since losing to Phoenix on Nov. 18 and had their five-game winning streak snapped Monday.
Pyatt scored for the third straight game, one game shy of his career best, after getting only one goal in his first 20 games this season.
“It’s definitely nice to be able to contribute and I feel like I have my confidence back,” Pyatt said. “I missed training camp and the first part of the season (with an injury) and now I feel like I have my legs under me and the jump back in my game.”
The Coyotes haven’t had a five-game winning streak since Dec. 31, 2007, to Jan. 8, 2008, and have done it this time despite going 0-for-18 on the power play, scoring all 15 goals at even strength.
But Phoenix hasn’t he given up much on special teams either, killing 19 straight penalties and 39 of the last 42 overall including all six chances for Minnesota. The Wild had eight power-play goals while going unbeaten in regulation over seven games since last playing the Coyotes.
“Bryzgalov made some good saves but our power play didn’t generate anything tonight,” Minnesota coach Todd Richards said. “They were skating and we looked like we were stuck in the mud a little bit. If you don’t score anything you’re not going to win the game, and we’ve been offensively challenged for the last five games or so.”
The first 30 minutes was a goaltending clinic featuring Bryzgalov and Minnesota’s Niklas Backstrom trading big saves on point-blank chances – especially in the second period. But the Coyotes broke through when Peter Muller set up Upshall, who had taken a hard hit along the boards second earlier, in front of the net at 10:30, for his team-leading eighth goal of the season.
Two shifts later, Doan flipped a puck to Pyatt on the rush and he wristed one past Backstrom to give Phoenix a 2-0 lead.
The Wild had their best chance to score with the man advantage when Martin Havlat pushed a backhander off the post midway through the third period.
“I think we made it tough on ourselves with some turnovers,” Wild forward Antti Miettinen said. “Especially on the road, you have to play the puck deep and not turn it over. If you’re not having your strongest night, you do bad stuff.”
NOTES: Minnesota forwards Cal Clutterbuck and Derek Boogaard missed the game with the flu, forcing defenceman John Scott to play a forward spot for the injury-riddled Wild. Phoenix forward Peter Mueller returned to the lineup after missing the last three games (two with injury, one as a healthy scratch). He replaced Mikkel Boedker, who was a healthy scratch for the first time since rejoining the team from AHL San Antonio on Nov. 27. Backstrom was 9-1 against the Coyotes with three shutouts coming into this season, but has now lost twice to Phoenix in the last 20 days.