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COYOTES' COMEBACK FALLS SHORT IN MINNESOTA

by Staff Writer / Arizona Coyotes
By: Chad Lynch

Photo Credit: Minnesota Wild

STARTING GOALTENDERS
Phoenix - Curtis Joseph
Minnesota - Niklas Backstrom

On Tuesday night, the Phoenix Coyotes comeback bid fell short as they dropped a 3-2 decision to the Minnesota Wild.

The Wild created the first quality scoring opportunity of the game just over five minutes into the first as Minnesota's Mikko Koivu blasted a slap shot from the right side that created a rebound opportunity for Mark Parrish. However, Parrish's shot sailed wide of the net, keeping the game tied at 0-0.

Midway through the opening period, the Coyotes received the first power play of the contest when Wild defenseman Nick Shultz was called for hooking. Unfortunately, the Phoenix man-advantage would be unable to convert the extra attacker into a goal as the Minnesota defense was relentless in their pressure on the Coyotes until the penalty to Shultz expired.

With just over three minutes remaining in the period, the Coyotes offense began to create some steady offensive pressure as they recorded a trio of shots on net. Despite the increased pressure, Minnesota netminder Niklas Backstrom was able to keep the puck out of the Wild net and keep Phoenix from grabbing the first lead of the night.

The Wild kept their own offensive pressure on during the final seconds of the first and with just six seconds left on the clock, found the back of the net for the first goal of the game. On the play, Minnesota forward Marian Gaborik backed Coyotes defenseman Derek Morris deep into his own zone before firing a shot on goal, that created a rebound for Pavol Demitra, who quickly lifted the puck past goaltender Curtis Joseph and into the net for a 1-0 lead heading into the first intermission.

The Coyotes nearly tied the game in the first minute of the second period when Mathias Tjarnqvist took a swipe at the puck while Backstrom was down on the ice, but the puck somehow slid through the crease and into the corner.

Immediately after the Coyotes scoring opportunity, the Wild came right back, putting four shots on Joseph in a span of just over 10-seconds. Luckily, the Phoenix goaltender was able to stand his ground and keep the puck from crossing the goal line.

At 8:40 of the second, the Coyotes penalty-killing unit took to the ice for the first time when captain Shane Doan was called for tripping. The Wild would manage to increase their shot total during the infraction to Doan, but couldn't add to their lead, thanks in large part to the play of the Phoenix defense, which forced Minnesota to keep the puck moving and not allowing them to find their rhythm.

Minutes after the Coyotes returned to full strength, they took their second consecutive penalty, this time watching as rookie Daniel Carcillo was sent to the ox for high-sticking. But once again, the Wild were unable to extend their lead against an aggressive Phoenix penalty-killing unit the kept the Minnesota lead to a single goal.

Coyotes defenseman Keith Ballard took his first penalty of the game at 18:25 of the second when he was called for hooking. It didn't take long for the Wild to create a scoring opportunity as they won the ensuing face-off on the man-advantage and fed the puck over to Brinan Rolston who hammered a shot that beat Joseph and rang off the crossbar. While the Wild's first try came up short, they would strike again at 18:25 of the second when Minnesota's Todd White took a feed from Pierre-Marc Bouchard and snapped a shot past Joseph for a 2-0 lead.

Just over a minute later, at 19:37 of the period, Demitra sent a pass through the crease to Marian Gaborik at the left side of the net, who then deflected the puck into the net for his 27th tally of the season. The goal was briefly reviewed by the off-ice officials, but was quickly determined to have crossed the line, putting Minnesota on top by the score of 3-0 after 40-minutes of play.

Through almost the first five minutes of the third period, the Coyotes dominate the tempo of play and spent the majority of the time inside the Wild zone as they tried to make their first mark on the scoreboard.

At 4:51 of the third, Phoenix caught a break when the Wild took just their second penalty of the night as Minnesota blueliner Kim Johnsson was sent to the box on an interference call. Then with 26-seconds left on the penalty to Johnsson, the Coyotes power play turned into a five-on-three advantage when Wes Waltz was whistled for holding at 6:25.

Phoenix wouldn't be able to convert on the two-man advantage, but they kept the pressure on and with 32-seconds left on the penalty to Waltz, the Coyotes offense struck as defenseman Brendan Bell took a slap shot from the point that deflected off the knee of Niko Kapanen in front of the net and past Backstrom to make it a 3-1 game. Shane Doan recorded the secondary assist on Kapanen's sixth goal of the season.

The Coyotes caught another break at 9:33 of the third when Minnesota's Johnsson returned to the penalty box on a tripping call. Using the power play to their advantage, Phoenix closed the gap to 3-2 at 10:24 of the period when Bill Thomas gabbed a rebound from a shot by Travis Roche and fired the puck into the Wild net for his fifth goal of the year.

With under a minute to play in regulation, the Coyotes pulled Joseph from the net in favor of an extra attacker, but Phoenix's comeback bid fell just short as they were unable to tie the game, dropping a 3-2 decision to Minnesota.

NOLAN LEAVES IN 2ND
During the second period of Tuesday night's game in Minnesota, Coyotes right wing Owen Nolan suffered a leg injury, forcing him to leave the game. Nolan will be re-examined by the Coyotes medical staff on Wednesday and is currently listed as day-to-day.

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