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Smith stops 21 shots, Coyotes extend point streak to 5 games with 2-1 win over Wild

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

GLENDALE, Ariz. - The Phoenix Coyotes used their sticks, skates, legs and, in the case of Zbynek Michalek, their faces to prevent the Minnesota Wild from scoring.

Painful as it might be, this is what the Coyotes have to do to be successful.

Mike Smith stopped 21 shots, and Michalek exemplified his team's all-out effort by blocking a shot with his face in the closing minutes, helping the Coyotes extend their point streak to five games with a 2-1 win over the Wild on Monday night.

"You see guys diving in front of pucks, getting hit in the face with pucks in the last minutes of games, that's what it's going to take to win hockey games," Smith said. "That trickles down throughout the whole lineup when you see a guy like Z, how much he wants to win a game."

Phoenix's whatever-it-takes style took the team to the Western Conference finals for the first time last year, but came only in spurts the first week of this season.

The Coyotes have found their grinding groove over the past week by limiting scoring chances, blocking shots and getting strong goaltending.

Smith was sharp for the second straight start and Phoenix's defence held the Wild without a shot for more than 15 minutes after doing the same thing to Dallas for 17 minutes on Saturday.

Lauri Korpikoski scored his fourth goal—all against Finnish goaltenders—in the first period, and Martin Hanzal scored his third goal in three games in the second for Phoenix.

"This is pretty much Coyotes hockey," Hanzal said.

The Wild played in spurts against the Coyotes, just as they have all season.

Minnesota laboured in the first period, allowing the Coyotes to fire a season-high 17 shots at Niklas Backstrom, who had 32 saves. The Wild picked up the pace in the second period, pulling within one on Zach Parise's 200th career goal and just missing another on a shot that hit the post.

Then Minnesota went flat again, failing to get a shot for a 15-minute span of the second and third periods. The Wild then had another drive hit the post in the closing minutes.

The inconsistency and bad luck kept the Wild winless on the road this season (0-3-1) and still searching for answers even after shaking things up on their roster the past few days.

"We had some very positive pieces here, but we have to get results," Wild centre Matt Cullen said. "That was not good enough, a game we could have won. But we know we have a little bit better game. We have to find it. It's a short season."

Coming off a lacklustre loss to Anaheim, the Wild made changes before Monday's game, trading forwards Darroll Powe and Nick Palmieri to the New York Rangers for tough-guy forward Mike Rupp.

Minnesota had to wait for Rupp, though; the veteran who scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal for New Jersey in 2003 wasn't able to join the team in time to play against the Coyotes.

The Wild also called up heralded rookie Charlie Coyle from the AHL and changed up their lines in hopes of getting a spark.

The moves didn't do much good against the Coyotes early.

Phoenix created some good chances, and Smith was solid again, stopping Zenon Konopka's backhander from in close, then poke-checked the puck away from Kyle Brodziak before he could get a shot off on a short-handed breakaway. He also got some help from defenceman Keith Yandle, who slid across the crease to make a toe save with Smith in a prone position.

Yandle made another impressive play right after that, gloving down the puck near Minnesota's blue line and firing a shot that Korpikoski redirected past Backstrom. Korpikoski, from Finland, has scored all four of his goals this season against Finnish goalies: Backstrom, Kari Lehtonen, Antti Niemi and Pekka Rinne.

"It's very strange—I don't know how to explain it," Korpikoski said.

Hanzal made it 2-0 midway through the second period, flipping in a backhander past a sprawled-out Backstrom after a hard shot by Radim Vrbata bounced off the Wild goalie.

Minnesota got its forecheck going after that, though, creating a turnover in Phoenix's zone. Parise ended up with the puck after it bounced off Coyotes forward Mikkel Boedker's skate and beat Smith with a wrister from the left circle for his sixth of the season.

But that was it for the Wild.

Jonas Brodin hit the right post midway through the second period, and Pierre-Marc Bouchard did the same in the third during a late power play.

"When you're not winning, things are going to happen, and collectively as a group we all have to be better," Parise said. "You can't play one decent game, two decent periods, and expect to be a playoff team. It doesn't work like that, so we've got a lot of work to do."

NOTES: Phoenix C Matthew Lombardi skated with the team Monday morning, but still isn't ready to return from a shoulder injury that has caused him to miss six games. ... Wild D Nate Prosser was a healthy scratch for the fifth straight game after playing the first four games of the season. ... Coyotes D David Schlemko left the ice for the dressing room in the first period, holding his right shoulder. He didn't return.


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