GLENDALE, ARIZ. – Well, that was stressful.
With the season looking dangerously close to being on the precipice of disaster, the Wild, with pressure building, stormed back in the third period on Saturday night to stun the Phoenix Coyotes 3-1.
Zach Parise scored twice, including the tying goal, and Jared Spurgeon scored the winner during a one-sided final 20 minutes. The Wild, down 1-0 after two, outshot the Coyotes 14-3 in the final period and during one juncture held Phoenix to no shots in a 23-minute span to win for only the fourth time in the past 13 games (4-5-4).
The victory was gigantic for two reasons.
It kept the eighth-place Coyotes from leapfrogging Minnesota and pushed them three points back. It also kept the ninth-place Dallas Stars, who have played one fewer game, four points back after they walked into St. Louis on the second night of back-to-backs and beat the Blues 4-2.
Two nights earlier, in an identical circumstance, the Wild was pummeled 5-1 by the Blues.
“We would have been in a pretty tough spot had we lost this game,” said Parise, who with an empty-net goal passed his father, J.P. Parise, with 239 tallies. “I think we can learn a lot from it, just the way we didn’t get frustrated. We kept playing the same way, and I think we got better as the game went on and eventually we were able to take it over.
“It can be important for morale. There’s a lot of relief.”
The victory came one night after captain Mikko Koivu and his deputies, Parise and Ryan Suter, called a players-only meeting in a hotel ballroom. The leaders weren’t happy with the way the team was playing and knew they were creeping close to flushing this season down the toilet.
“Guys really showed up tonight,” said Suter, a plus-3. “You saw a little extra from guys, finishing checks, if the puck was at the blue line, guys would go through guys. That’s was what we stressed [in the meeting].”
The Wild also got outstanding goaltending from former Coyote Ilya Bryzgalov, who made 23 saves to improve to 3-0-2 with the Wild. After giving up a power-play goal off a bad bounce 3 minutes, 16 seconds in (Shane Doan’s cross-crease centering pass floated in off Mikkael Boedker’s leg), Bryzgalov held the deficit to one.
He was the backbone to a penalty kill that for a change generated momentum by killing off three in a row, including one in the third period.
“[The Coyotes] crash the net, they screen, they try to make your life miserable in front, but our guys did a tremendous job in front of the net,” Bryzgalov said. “I pretty much saw all the shots.”
It was all Wild in the third period after showing signs of taking the game over in the second. One minute after killing Nate Prosser’s slashing minor, Parise tied the score.
Koivu outmuscled Martin Hanzal for a faceoff win to Parise, who wristed a shot through traffic that beat Thomas Greiss high-blocker.
“We’ve tried that before. It’s just never worked,” Parise said, laughing. “You need a lot of luck on that. It needs to get through a couple screens and hopefully the goalie doesn’t see it. But we figured eventually it would work.”
About 4 ½ minutes later, after a great play by Spurgeon (plus-3) in the defensive zone to win a battle and get the puck up ice, Matt Moulson sent Mikael Granlund into the Coyotes’ end. Granlund misconnected a pass with Jason Pominville, but the puck hit the side wall.
“I was just able to walk into it,” said Spurgeon, who spanked a knuckler for his fifth goal.
The Wild has two more tough games on this road trip (Monday at Los Angeles and Thursday at Chicago).
“We need to use this as a game that we can springboard something off of,” coach Mike Yeo said.