GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Minnesota Wild gave everything they had from everyone who was left on their injury-shortened bench -- and it was just enough to squeeze out a rare win in the second half of the season.
Despite starting the game with 17 skaters – including one stricken with the flu – and ending it with just one healthy goalie, the Wild blew a 2-0 lead in the third period but still hung tough and pulled out a 3-2 shootout win over the spiraling Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night.
"It was an unbelievable character win," said Minnesota coach Mike Yeo, who saw his team get belted 7-1 in Colorado on Tuesday and fall to 3-10-3 in their last 16 games. "I’m so proud of the effort the guys put in and the way they bounced back from the last game. We just hung together."
With a long list of players already out, the Wild had to go with five defensemen when Jared Spurgeon came down with the flu, injured Clayton Stoner was unable to make it through warmups and 2008 first-round pick Tyler Cuma couldn’t get to Phoenix in time after missing a flight from Houston. Flu-stricken winger Devin Setoguchi was running from the bench to the bathroom in the first two periods and then goalie Josh Harding suffered an apparent right knee injury in the second period.
Rookie Matt Hackett, the last healthy goalie in the organization, made 15 saves and three more in the shootout and Dany Heatley scored Minnesota’s third shootout goal in the fifth round as the Wild snapped a five-game winless streak and handed one to the Coyotes (0-4-1) at the same time. Hackett and Harding combined to make 39 saves for Minnesota.
"I came in cold and that’s the hardest thing for a goalie," said Hackett, the only goalie left with Harding and Niklas Backstrom both down and minor-league goalie Darcy Kuemper suffering a season-ending injury last weekend. "The boys battled hard and the five D we had out there did an unbelievable job."
The Coyotes, who fell behind 2-0 for the fifth straight game – they've been outscored 10-1 in the first period over that span, remained in seventh place, a point ahead of San Jose, but fell three points behind Dallas in the race for the Pacific Division lead and dropped to 0-4-1 in March after going 11-0-1 in February.
"If you want to paint a picture that we didn’t want to see today, that was exactly it: We gave up two quick goals on really unearned chances," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "We’re digging ourselves big holes and that doesn’t fit our style whatsoever. We’ve given away points during this last little streak that are just unacceptable for our group."
In the last eight days the Coyotes have lost five times including two to the League’s worst team (Columbus) and once to a Minnesota, now 9-22-7 since beating the Coyotes here on Dec. 10 – when they led the other 29 teams by five points.
Phoenix took 71 shots in the game, including 30 that were blocked by the Wild.
"We were all over them but it’s the score on the score on the board that counts and it was 3-2 for them," said forward Lauri Korpikoski, who followed a Raffi Torres goal with his 15th to tie the game with 17:15 left in regulation. "We got two quick ones at the start of the third and we just didn’t find that third one."
The Coyotes not only saw their winless streak extended, they lost top center Martin Hanzal late in the first period when he fell and appeared to land awkwardly on his right wrist. Hanzal left the ice crouched over in severe pain holding his wrist.
Something had to give Thursday: The Coyotes had been outscored 13-3 in the first period of their last eight games and the Wild had been outscored 14-2 over the last seven.
And it the Wild, who capitalized on yet another listless start by Phoenix, that grabbed a 2-0 lead with goals 58 seconds apart from Kyle Brodziak and Steven Kampfer early in the first period thanks to a pair of Coyotes mistakes.
From behind his own net, defenseman Keith Yandle put a breakout pass right on the tape of Minnesota’s Darroll Powe, whose shot was deflected by Brodziak past Phoenix goalie Jason LaBarbera at 4:06. Brodziak’s 15th goal and his third in two games in Glendale this season gave the Wild its lead for the first time in two weeks – since a 3-2 shootout win over Florida on Feb. 23.
"(The 7-1 loss to the Avalanche) really could have sunk us, but we came out tonight and from the get-go everyone was ready," Brodziak said. "Everyone battled right to the end."
The Wild doubled its lead just 58 seconds later after another Phoenix turnover led to a Minnesota rush and Matt Cullen set up Kampfer – acquired on Feb. 27 from Boston – for a shot that beat LaBarbera to the short side for his first NHL goal.
Phoenix took control of the game from there but couldn’t score in the second period, even after Harding left after making a save during a Coyotes power play. Hackett took over and made big stops on Yandle and Whitney late in the period to keep Phoenix at bay.
The Coyotes had 52 shot attempts in the first two periods before finally breaking through in the third. Rookie defenseman Michael Stone pinched in along the left boards to hold a clearing attempt and centered into the slot to Torres, who beat Hackett for his 11th goal at 1:40 to break the ice. It was Stone’s first NHL point.
Just 1:05 later, Antoine Vermette patiently waited for Korpikoski to come open between the circles for a pass, and Korpikoski punched it by Hackett to give the Coyotes new life.