ST. PAUL, Minn. - Some NHL games are decided by special teams. That was precisely the case Thursday night at the Xcel Energy Center as the Minnesota Wild scored four power-play goals and allowed none in beating the Coyotes 4-0.
“They played as a team and they played systematically, and we played individually,” Coyotes Head Coach Wayne Gretzky said. “…They deserved to beat us. They outskated us into the ice, they beat us to pucks, they played unselfishly and they deserved it … We didn’t play the way you have to play to compete against a team that good.”
Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov made 28 saves to keep the Coyotes in the game.
Defenseman Marek Zidlicky had two goals and an assist for the Wild, who also got goals from Eric Belanger and Andrew Brunette.
The Wild entered the game as the NHL’s top penalty-killing team and they lived up to their reputation by killing all six of Phoenix’s power plays.
“It’s frustrating,” Coyotes center Garth Murray said. “We knew they were a sound defensive team who had a good power play and were going to make us work really hard for our chances. One undisciplined play here and there and they got a couple of goals, and we just weren’t able to break through. We got some chances but not near enough.”
The Wild entered the game well-rested after four days off. The Coyotes entered the game less than 24 hours after beating the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-2 in Columbus. But Murray said the Coyotes can’t use fatigue as an excuse.
“We’re all professionals,” Murray said. “We all had our bodies ready… We knew we had to get a good start and it just didn’t happen for us tonight.”
After neither team scored in the first period, penalties to Keith Yandle (holding) and Murray (slashing) created a five-on-three situation for Minnesota early in the second period, and the Wild didn’t waste it.
We didn’t play the way you have to play to compete against a team that good.- Wayne Gretzky
Zidlicky scored his first goal of the season 40 seconds into the two-man advantage with a one-timer from the top of the slot at 3:28. The Wild added to their lead with another power-play goal with 4:17 left when Brunette capped a nice tic-tac-toe play, with Zidlicky providing the key pass.
Minnesota had a terrific chance to add a third goal with less than 30 seconds left in the second period when Belanger stripped the puck from Coyotes center Olli Jokinen and took off toward Bryzgalov on a short-handed breakaway. Belanger made several moves on Bryzgalov, but Bryzgalov kept the puck out of the net with a nice pad save.
Minnesota added two power-play goals in the third period.
• Brunette played in his 467th consecutive game, the longest active streak in the NHL. Jokinen played in his 392nd consecutive game, the second-longest active streak behind Brunette. Meanwhile, Coyotes defenseman Derek Morris played in his 200th consecutive game.
• Minnesota has won its last nine games against Phoenix.
• Forwards Daniel Carcillo and Brian McGrattan, and defenseman David Hale were the scratches for the Coyotes. Carcillo and McGrattan have nagging injuries. Former Coyotes forward Craig Weller was among the players scratched by the Wild.
• Former Coyotes forward Owen Nolan returned to the Minnesota lineup after missing five games because of an upper body injury and chipped in two assists. To make room for Nolan, the Wild reassigned Krys Kolanos, also a former Coyotes forward, to the American Hockey League.