GLENDALE, ARIZ. – One team just traded for a former MVP who immediately became its leading scorer.
The other wasn’t even close to full strength, missing three regulars — all top-nine forwards — and feeling the effects of these injury-related absences by dropping its previous two games.
And yet it was the shorthanded Wild and not the upstart Coyotes who won an offensive duel, an 8-5 goal-a-thon Thursday in front of 15,582 at Gila River Arena that ensured the Wild didn’t leave this three-game road trip empty-handed.
“For our team, it’s a little too up and down,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “But every now and again, you can get away with it.”
Eight goals were a season high for the Wild and tied the franchise record. Fourteen different players earned at least a point. The 23 points totaled set a franchise record for a road game, only a point shy of matching the overall record of 24.
Three-point efforts by Mats Zuccarello, Marcus Foligno and Eric Staal paced the pack, with Zuccarello’s goal standing up as the game-winner. Another three players — Ryan Hartman, Brad Hunt and Zach Parise — finished with two points apiece.
And goalie Devan Dubnyk — in his first action since Nov. 16 after leaving the team while his wife, Jenn, dealt with a serious medical situation — posted 35 saves.
“I don’t know if the guys talked before and figured I’d been off for a month, so they’d spot me eight and trust me to keep them to seven,” Dubnyk said. “I kept them to five, so we only really needed six.”
All the Wild’s offense came in the last two periods after a slow-moving start that included it falling behind 16 minutes, 14 seconds into the first on a shot from Phil Kessel after a behind-the-net turnover by Matt Dumba.
But the team looked rejuvenated after the intermission and cashed in on its first two shots in the second, at 2:00 (Ryan Donato) and 3:25 (Foligno).
Arizona, which was debuting recent acquisition Taylor Hall at home after securing Hall from the Devils on Monday, tied it on its first of two power play goals on four tries at 9:46 — a blistering wind-up from Jakob Chychrun. The Wild went 0-for-2.
But again, the Wild responded with two quick goals: a smooth cut to the middle by Hartman setup by Foligno at 11:11 before Staal buried a Zuccarello pass with 1:45 to go in the frame.
“It was a great response from us, and we needed it,” Foligno said of the fourth-line’s performance. “End of trip, we needed some role players to step up.”
The four goals tied the season-high for a single period, and the Wild matched that output in the third.
Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored just 48 seconds in before Chychrun again converted on the power play at 3:22.
Just like before, though, the Wild answered back in a hurry.
Hunt lifted in a bad-angle shot from along the goal line only 1 minute later and 35 seconds after that, Zuccarello put back a Staal pass.
“We just responded every single time,” Dubnyk said.
The Coyotes tried to ignite another rally on a Clayton Keller goal 26 seconds later, but the action quieted down before Ryan Suter (11:16) and Luke Kunin (into an empty net at 19:51) capped off the parade of goals.
Before Suter’s marker, Foligno crunched Arizona’s Aaron Ness – a hit Boudreau felt was the difference in the game.
“That sort of deflated them a little bit, but it built our bench up with a lot of energy,” Boudreau said.
Darcy Kuemper made 35 saves for the Coyotes before leaving the game late in the third after making a save on Hartman.
“Other than for the goalies, it was a fun game,” Parise said. “It was great. It was the way the game’s meant to be played. There’s chances. There were odd-man rushes. It was fun. Those are fun games to play.”