By Dave Vest
GLENDALE – A laugher quickly morphed into a nail-biter Saturday night, but the Coyotes escaped with a 6-4 victory over the Minnesota Wild at Jobing.com Arena.
The teams combined to score seven goals after the second intermission.
Phoenix took a 5-1 lead when Vernon Fiddler scored a shorthanded goal at 9:50 of the third period (see KEY MOMENT below). All heck broke loose after that as Minnesota scored two power-play goals in less than a minute, and Guillaume Latendresse notched his third goal of the game with a wrist shot from inside the left circle at 14:43 to pull the Wild to within 5-4.
Suddenly, the team seemingly on a cruise control, aka the Coyotes, had to reset its velocity. Radim Vrbata's goal with 60 seconds left bumped Phoenix's lead back to two goals and the Wild - and their wild comeback - were finished.
"We're trying to entertain the fans and keep them in the building," Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett joked afterward. "That's why we're taking all the penalties (late in the game). It's good for the fans but bad for the coach."
Petr Prucha scored two goals for the Coyotes, and Ed Jovanovski chipped in a career-high four assists in his first game back after a two-game NHL suspension.
"Phenomenal," Tippett replied when asked about Jovanovski's return. "The best thing I can say about him is your team loves him on the ice and the other team hates him on the ice."
Prucha and Shane Doan gave Phoenix a 2-0 lead by beating Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom with shots in the first period.
"We got what we deserved," Wild Head Coach Todd Richards. "A handful of guys were working and a handful of guys were trying to make a difference. You're not going to win games by missing seven, eight, nine guys."
Leading 4-1, Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle was sent to the penalty box for cross-checking at 9:23 of the third period.
Early in the Wild's power play, Coyotes forward Daniel Winnik knocked the puck away from Minnesota's Andrew Brunette in the Phoenix zone. Coyotes center Vernon Fiddler gathered it along the boards and took off up the right wing. Once deep inside the Wild zone, Fiddler dropped a pass to Ed Jovanovski in the slot and he quickly returned the puck to Fiddler on the wing. Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom was caught out of position and Fiddler's shot from a tough angle reached the net without resistance.
• Captain Shane Doan, playing on a line with Vernon Fiddler and Daniel Winnik for the first time this season, ended a four-game pointless streak with a goal and an assist.
• Forward Radim Vrbata's goal not only helped secure the victory but it upped his point streak to four games. Some fans inside Jobing.com Arena mistakenly launched their hats onto the ice thinking Petr Prucha, who was charging the net, had scored his third goal on the play. Replays showed Vrbata's centering pass attempt to Prucha bounced off Wild defenseman Nick Schultz and into the net.
• Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 18 of 22 shots. He also notched his first assist of the season when he helped set up Radim Vrbata's goal late in the third period.
• The Coyotes are 20-1-2 when leading after two periods.
• Saturday's game was the 900th NHL game played by Coyotes defenseman Adrian Aucoin. Aucoin marked the occasion by scoring his seventh goal of the season at 1:59 of the third period.
• Head Coach Dave Tippett needs one victory to reach 300 as an NHL head coach.
• Defenseman Kurt Sauer, who has been on the injured-reserve list for most of the season, turned 29 on Saturday.
• The Coyotes scratched Paul Bissonnette and Jim Vandermeer. Minnesota scratched Robbie Earl, Clayton Stoner and Petr Sykora.
"I’m sure neither coach is overly impressed with the defense in the game, but it’s nice to win. We’re making it a little more difficult than we have to on ourselves."
"(Give) credit to my teammates. They made some great plays to give me some open ice... It’s nice to have a little bit of an offensive explosion, and we’re happy to get the two points."
"I think they were way more ready than us. We were flat. We were not ready to compete and they scored two goals right away in the first, so we tried to come back… We have no excuses."
• Nov. 18, 2009: PHX 3, MIN 2
• Feb. 6, 2010:
• Dec. 7, 2009: PHX 2, MIN 0
• Jan. 16, 2010: PHX 6, MIN 4
1 - 0 PHX