The Minnesota Wild beat the Phoenix Coyotes 3-1 Saturday night. Minnesota now has a 3 point lead over Phoenix and a 4 point lead over Dallas in the Western Conference Wild Card race. The Wild used a huge third period, scoring 3 unanswered goals, to take the win and the two points in regulation. Zach Parise scored the game tying goal 8:03 into the third. Defenseman Jared Spurgeon launched a blast, from the top of the right circle, for the game winner just under 5 minutes later. Parise put the icing on the cake with an empty netter from a tough angle with just 45 seconds left to play. This was a must win game for Minnesota Saturday and their biggest win of the season to date. Ilya Bryzgalov earned the win for the Minnesota with a 23 save performance. The only goal he surrendered was a deflection of of the Coyotes Mikael Boedeker’s body during a power play in the first period. That would be the only goal either netminder surrendered until
Parise’s in the 3rd period. The Wild goal tender didn’t have a lost of work in the final period as the Wild’s offenzive pressure and strong defense held the Coyotes without a goal for the first 18 minutes of the final period and 23 minutes overall from the 15 minute mark of the second. Bryzgalov also had some spectacular saves to keep the Wild within a goal through the first 48 minutes of the night. The Wild have 7 games left on their schedule along with Phoenix while Dallas has a game in hand on both teams. The work sure isn’t over for the Wild, not by a long shot. Minnesota Head Coach Mike Yeo said after the game, “We need to use this as a game that we can kind of springboard off of…Let’s use this as something that we can build something off of.” The Wild also accomplished a somewhat rare feat against the Coyotes under Coach Dave Tippett. Until Saturday night The Coyotes under Tippett were 143-24-24 when scoring the games first goal.
The two goals by Zach Parise tie him for the team lead with Jason Pominville with 27. The assist by Mikko Koivu on that game tying goal came after Mikko won an important face off in the offensive zone. That’s something the Wild didn’t do a whole lot of, losing 32 of 53 draws, on the night. The biggest win of the 21 the Wild took was by Koivu on the play that had Parise taking the puck and putting a screen shot past Phoenix’s Greiss to knot the score at 1 each. For the game Parise had two goals, Koivu had a pair of assists, Pominville had an assist while defensemen Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon each were a +3 in addition to Spurgeon’s game winning goal. The Wild on the other hand are 16-3-2 this season when
Parise scores a goal. Mikko Koivu now has 37 assists on the season and 8 in his last 7 games. He also has a 5 game point streak as well. Head Coach Yeo singled out his teams leader’s after the game saying, “Our leaders did a great job, heading into this game and also in this game. I thought their play resembled the way that they lead.” Jared Spurgeon now has a new career high in points with 24 on 5 goals and 19 assists. He’s had a couple of very visible mistakes the last two games and it was great to see him bounce back in such a positive fashion. Perhaps one of the biggest stats of the game was the Wild going 3 of 4 on the penalty kill. They did give up the only Coyote goal of the night on their very first kill of the evening, just 3:16 into the game. At that point the Wild had allowed 12 goals on 32 penalty kills over the last dozen games. Now as the team heads to L.A. to face the Kings they have allowed 12 goals on 35 PK’s, still an atrocious total. The main thing though is the Wild came back to win a must have game after trailing through the first 48 minutes.
Now the Wild head on to L.A. feeling a bit better and more confident for sure. Earlier this seek a pair of embarrassing, demoralizing losses to the Blues and Canucks had this Wild squad reeling as they faced the Coyotes. They showed determination and resiliency even when Phoenix goalie Greiss was standing on his head keeping Minnesota off the scoreboard and frustrated two periods and beyond. The Minnesota Wild won a “must win” game, but they’re not out of the woods yet. Their next three games are against the Kings, Blackhawks and Penguins, three teams headed for the playoffs for sure. Saturday’s game was a frustrating nail biter for two periods but a very strong 3rd where the Wild out shot the Coyotes 14 to 4 made the difference and gives the Wild a bit of a cushion, albeit a very thing one, in the Western Conference Wild Card race. I’ll be back Monday morning with a preview of the L.A. Kings vs your Minnesota Wild. Until then this is Scott Drain victoriously howling at the moon, “LET’S GO WILD!!”