ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - The Minnesota Wild have been criticized locally for not spending money on a big-name free agent or two following the lockout.
They have always pointed to Brian Rolston, who signed after the 2003-04 season, as the forgotten man, and he has come through so far this season.
Rolston scored two goals to lift the Minnesota Wild to a 3-2 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday night, giving the Wild their first four-game winning streak in a single season in franchise history.
``His confidence is at a great level,'' coach Jacques Lemaire said. ``He's got a great shot and he knows the goalie on the other side and where to put it. He's a great asset for us.''
Rolston put the Wild up 2-1 in the second period, then scored the game-winner, his 22nd of the season, with Minnesota short-handed 6:30 into the third period.
As Nick Schultz tried to scoop the puck out of the Wild zone it was deflected high in the air.
Rolston snatched it on the run and broke free. He ripped a slapshot past Phoenix goaltender Brian Boucher for his second straight two-goal game.
``He's been huge for us,'' Schultz said. ``He's scored in clutch situations.''
Geoff Sanderson and Keith Ballard scored for Phoenix, which looked flat for most of the night in the second game of a back-to-back, following a 4-1 loss at Dallas on Monday night.
``I don't like losing, nobody likes losing,'' Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky said. ``Sometimes your effort is strong and our effort was tonight, so I was happy with that.''
It's the first time in the Wild's five-year existence that they have won four in a row in the same season. They won three in a row at the end of '03-04 and their opener this season for an extra extended four-game streak.
``Jacques said any roll will help us,'' goaltender Manny Fernandez said. ``I'd call this a roll.''
The Coyotes only managed 20 shots on goal against Fernandez, and only a few of those were quality chances.
One came midway through the third, when defenseman Zbynek Michalek skated through the Wild defense and found himself all alone in front of Fernandez, who entered the night with a 2.02 goals-against average, which is second best in the league behind Ottawa's Dominik Hasek.
Fernandez made a sprawling kick save to preserve the Wild's lead.
``It was a good chance,'' Michalek said. ``I thought I made a good play but Manny made a good save.''
The Coyotes were 1-for-9 on the power play for the game in losing to the Wild for the first time in three games this season.
``The bottom line is you're out there to score goals and when you don't do that, you're not doing your job,'' Ballard said of the power play woes.
Curtis Joseph started in net for the first two victories, and Boucher was a little shaky for most of Tuesday night's game, making 19 saves.
Marian Gaborik also scored for Minnesota.
The penalty-filled game lacked any semblance of a flow and turned chippy late in the second period, with two fights breaking out and Wild defenseman Andrei Zyuzin leaving with a bloodied face.
Stephane Vielleux tussled with Phoenix defenseman Denis Gauthier and Zyuzin was felled 30 seconds later by what appeared to be a clean hit from Shane Doan.
Zyuzin's face hit the glass, and he lay on the ice in a pool of blood for several minutes before being helped off.
Wild defenseman Willie Mitchell immediately chased down Doan at center ice and started throwing punches.
Doan did not receive a penalty for the hit but did get five minutes for fighting.
Mitchell received five minutes for fighting, two for instigating and a 10-minute misconduct penalty.
With Zyuzin hurt and Mitchell in the box for nearly 17 minutes of the third period, the Wild were reduced to four defensemen, making the gritty victory even more impressive to Lemaire.
``We had a couple in the past,'' Lemaire said of gutsy performances. ``But being in this situation, needing the points like we do, it's pretty unique.''
Notes: After the game Phoenix announced a trade with the New York Rangers, sending minor-league LW Martin Sonnenberg to New York for C Jeff Taffe, who began the year with the Coyotes before being traded in October. ... Phoenix LW Mike Leclerc played for the first time since missing 18 games with a knee injury. ... Veilleux and Gauthier each were penalized five minutes for a ``fight'' that lasted less than 30 seconds, drawing boos from the amped up crowd.