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'Yotes Notes: Connauton Keeps Scoring Goals

by Dave Vest @davest4yotes / Coyotes Sr. Director of News Content

GLENDALE -- Kevin Connauton notched the game-winning goal for the Coyotes on Thursday night in their 5-3 victory over Minnesota at Gila River Arena.

Connauton's goal, which he scored with a wrist shot from the right circle off a perfect saucer pass through four defenders by Max Domi, was one of four Arizona produced in the third period as it wrestled control of the game from the Wild.

"We had some ups and downs like you're going to throughout 60 minutes, but we stuck with it," Connauton said. "I think that we believed we could win the whole time and we were able to put a couple (goals) together there at the end and walk away with the win."

Connauton has been a goal-scoring machine since Feb. 1. He scored six over those four weeks to match Calgary's Dougie Hamilton for most goals scored by an NHL defenseman during that time.

"I'm playing more to my strengths and trying to skate the puck as much as I can and beat their forecheck up the ice if we break out clean," Connauton said. "It's resulting in some more opportunities for myself and I've been fortunate to take advantage of some of those opportunities."

Connauton has scored seven goals in 55 games this season, two shy of his career-high nine, which he set in 2014-15 when he played for Dallas and Columbus.

"He's worked at his game," Head Coach Rick Tocchet said. "The last six weeks, he's (been) on the ice 20 minutes, a half hour before practice starts shooting a lot of pucks. You get rewarded when you work and he's worked hard. Offensively, he's kind of led the charge for us."

Video: Connauton: 'We Have Belief on the Bench'

• Domi assisted on three goals, setting a career-high for assists in one game. It was the type of game Domi, who prides himself on a pass-first offensive approach, would like to play each night.

"Yeah, I'd say so," Domi said. "Pass the puck, right? But I'm playing with some really good linemates. (Christian Dvorak) was unbelievable tonight and so was (Christian Fischer), who was great on the walls. They're both so strong on the puck and it makes my job a lot easier."

Video: Domi on Raanta in Wild Win

Tocchet recently switched Domi from center back to winger. 

"I told him the other day, he's got to reboot his whole season and don't worry about the last 60," Tocchet said. "And in the last couple of games I think he's starting to understand the style I want him to play and he's getting on loose pucks. He got rewarded."

• Richard Panik returned to the lineup after missing two games because of a lower-body injury and scored his first goal as a member of the Coyotes at 8:09 of the third period.

Based on what he saw from Panik in practice this week, Tocchet predicted Panik would play well in his first game back and his 16th overall since coming to Arizona via a trade with Chicago on Jan. 10.

"I thought it was probably one of his better games as a Coyote," Tocchet said. "He's playing north-south. When he does that, that's why we acquired him. He's a big winger and we need him in the corners to win battles like he did." 

Video: Tocchet on Comeback Win vs. MIN

• With the win, Arizona bumped its record to 2-0-0 vs. Minnesota this season. In those two games, the Coyotes scored seven goals in the third period plus one in overtime.

"There were some guys who were slow out of the gate and then started to play better," Tocchet said. "That's a learning experience. If you're having a tough start, don't have a tough 60 minutes."

Niklas Hjalmarsson blocked six shots on goal, bringing his season total to 90 blocks in 37 games. That's 2.4 per game, which ranks 10th in the NHL.

• The Coyotes recalled forward Laurent Dauphin from the American Hockey League before the game, but he did not play. 

• The Arizona Coyotes Foundation, working in conjunction with FOX Sports Arizona, raised $50,000 to benefit Phoenix Children's Hospital via a telethon staged during the broadcast of Thursday's game.

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