By Dave Vest
SAINT PAUL – The Coyotes beat the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Energy Center for the first time in just over four years Wednesday night in front of a sellout crowd.
Phoenix never trailed in a 3-2 triumph.
The Coyotes lost a 2-1 lead and seemingly the momentum at 15:02 of the third period when Minnesota’s Antti Miettinen shot the puck past Ilya Bryzgalov, who made 24 saves.
Phoenix needed just 19 seconds to respond.
Coyotes forward Scottie Upshall changed the vibe of the game for good by knocking the rebound of a Keith Yandle shot past Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom from a sharp angle on the left.
The crowd, which was still celebrating Miettinen's goal, was stunned.
"That's a big one, especially when the building is sitting there waiting for something to happen," Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "They get some life and we can take it away from them in a hurry. That's not a bad scenario you want to follow."
The crowd got back into the game in the final 82 seconds after Minnesota (7-12-2) pulled Backstrom for an extra attacker and had several good chances to even the score. Bryzgalov made some key stops to preserve the lead, including a save on a shot by Brent Burns from point-blank range with 43 seconds left.
Phoenix (12-9-0) took a 1-0 lead when Radim Vrbata wristed a shot through traffic from the top of the right circle past Backstrom at 1:24 of the second period, 27 seconds before an odd hooking penalty called on Minnesota’s Owen Nolan was to expire (see Key Moment below).
Phoenix’s 1-0 lead stuck until early in the third period when Andrew Brunette backhanded a rebound past Bryzgalov at 2:23.
Coyotes defenseman Jim Vandermeer scored a goal at 8:49 of the third period to give Phoenix a 2-1 lead. Vandermeer took a pass from Vrbata inside the blue line, skated toward the net from the left side on a two-on-one break, then lifted a shot over Backstrom’s left shoulder.
"This is probably our poorest, I think, performance of the year," Wild Head Coach Todd Richards told reporters. "We had spurts in the third period. First period they pretty much controlled and dictated everything going on in the first period, and I would say a good portion of the second."
Wild forward Owen Nolan was called for slashing Coyotes defenseman Sami Lepisto with nine seconds left in the first period. Lepisto’s stick indeed snapped, but replays indicated it snapped before Nolan nudged him with his stick. Phoenix cashed in the call early in the second period when Radim Vrbata scored a power-play goal as Nolan watched from the penalty box.
• Forward Radim Vrbata had a goal and an assist. It was his third multi-point game of the season and his first since Oct. 7.
• Before Wednesday, the Coyotes last beat Minnesota at the Xcel Energy Center on Nov. 8, 2005.
• Wednesday's victory was Phoenix's sixth on the road this season. Last season, Phoenix did not win its sixth road game until Dec. 26.
• The Coyotes scratched Ed Jovanovski, Matthew Lombardi and Taylor Pyatt. Minnesota’s scratches were Chuck Kobasew, Benoit Pouilot, John Scott and Petr Sykora.
"(Yandle) made a great play. I thought the rebound was right kind of where I was heading and I kind of made a tricky, little fake shot and then put it through his legs."
"I don't think it was a penalty (on Nolan), but calls like that happen and I'm sure it will happen against us during the season. So when it happens for you, you have to take advantage of it."
"It's one penalty. It cannot kill our game. We have to play better, it doesn't matter. It's hockey, it's 60 minutes. That's only two minutes. We have to find a way to play a lot better."