The Phoenix Coyotes
passed their penalty-killing test early.
The Coyotes killed off three early penalties, then got their offense on track as Scottie Upshall scored twice in a 4-2 victory against the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday night.
Pierre-Marc Bouchard returned to the Wild lineup to play 14 minutes after a 104-game absence due to post-concussion symptoms, but his presence wasn't enough to prevent the Wild's fifth loss in six games.
Lauri Korpikoski added an empty-netter for the Coyotes, who matched the NHL's longest winning streak of the season in November with seven straight victories and have rebounded from two losses in a row, including a 3-0 decision at Nashville on Tuesday night.
Phoenix gave the Predators seven power-play chances in that game -- six on stick-related infractions -- and yielded a pair of power-play goal. Just 34 seconds into this one, Ray Whitney was called for hooking. At 2:58, Vernon Fiddler took a high-sticking penalty and drew an unsportsmanlike conduct as well, giving the Wild a four-minute power play.
But the Coyotes killed off all three penalties, then took the lead in the final minute of the period when Ed Jovanovski deflected a slap shot by Adrian Aucoin through traffic and past Jose Theodore.
"We just had to test our resolve," Tippett said.
Upshall made it 2-0 at 5:43 of the second period when he took a perfect backhand pass from Shane Doan, wound up from the top of the right circle and blew a shot past Theodore.
"I thought everyone did the little things tonight," Upshall said.
Goalie Jason LaBarbera stopped 33 shots in his first start in three weeks and helped the team get its legs after the rough start.
"I was like, 'What are we doing?"' LaBarbera said. "We talked before the game about not taking penalties, and then we're down with four penalties right away."
The Wild spent six of the first seven minutes on the power play but couldn't put together any kind of a threat. Bouchard found a rhythm on a line with Martin Havlat in the third period, but the late push wasn't enough.
Matt Cullen's first even-strength goal of the season at 12:13 of the third period ended a scoreless stretch of 118 minutes, 15 seconds for the Wild and cut the deficit to 2-1.
After Upshall's second goal -- a fluky shot that to hit Wild defenseman Marek Zidlicky's hand and caromed past Theodore with 2:40 left -- Mikko Koivu scored on a quick turnaround shot from a behind-the-net pass by Havlat with 1:06 left to make it 3-2.
"Getting pucks to the net, getting traffic, creating the way we did -- I think there's more upside there, too," Cullen said. "Tonight was by no means our best game, but we're showing signs of becoming a better team."
Korpikoski hit the empty net with 30 seconds left to put the game away.
Bouchard was cheered heartily when he stepped on the ice for his first shift. He was on the ice for the first two Phoenix goals, but after some rusty shifts he found some steam down the stretch.
"I believe that he can only get better from this point," coach Todd Richards said. "He made some great plays out on the ice, finding men. He set Marty up perfectly in the third period there."
Richards said he likes Bouchard and Havlat together because they think alike and are good at those "little give-and-go passes" that have become so important in the league these days.
"I felt all right. For sure I would've liked to start with a win," Bouchard said. "Personally it was good to be back out there. I was a little excited, a little nervous."
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report