Kyle Brodziak scores a pair as Wild winning streak hits seven
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Glendale, Ariz. - The southwestern desert was the place that the Magnificent Seven rode off into the sunset a long time ago. On this night, shortly after a stunning Arizona sunset, the Minnesota Wild made a magnificent seven of their own, beating the Phoenix Coyotes 4-1 for Minnesota's seventh win in a row.
The Wild scored a trio of power play goals - two of them by Kyle Brodziak - as they improved to 4-0-0 on their western road trip and upped their lead atop the Western Conference standings to four points.
Nicklas Backstrom, back in the net after missing the last three games, had 35 saves as the Wild never gave the sparse crowd in suburban Phoenix much to cheer about, scoring early in both the first and second periods.
"It was fun to go out there and play, and the guys in front, they help a lot," said Backstrom. "It's fun to play behind a team like this."
In what many were billing as a potential Western Conference playoff preview, the Wild took the Pacific Division-leading Coyotes out of their game early, scoring a quick power play goal, and playing an opponent-frustrating defensive game in the second period, when the Coyotes held an 11-3 advantage in shots, but emerged from the period down 2-0 in goals.
"This was one of our worst games in the offensive zone tonight," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "But the things that we did well, we did very well. Goaltending was great, special teams were great tonight and we had some real strong performances from some guys."
This was almost an old-school Wild game, where you grab an early lead and hold on, although Minnesota's special teams were so solid and opportunistic that the Coyotes found themselves in a kind of hockey quicksand - the harder they worked the lower they sunk.
"We need some breaks and some pucks to go in, and (Minnesota) got some breaks and some pucks went in," said Coyotes coach Dave Tippett. "They got a lead, they played a solid road game and their goaltender was very good."
The crowd inside Jobing.com Arena wasn't huge or very vocal to start with, but the Wild needed just a little over two minutes to ensure they wouldn't be a huge distraction. On an early power play, Brodziak won the faceoff back to the point, where Pierre-Marc Bouchard blasted a slap shot at the Coyotes net. The pocket rocketed right to the glove hand of Phoenix goalie Mike Smith, but the puck rebounded hard, sailing 10 feet out in front of the goal. That's where Brodziak got a hold of the puck and tucked it between Smith's skates for a 1-0 lead just 2:08 into the game.
"Anytime you can do that on the road, that's what you're trying to do is put the crowd to sleep and not give the other team any energy," Brodziak said. "I think we came out and did that."
• 3/25/09: The last time the Wild scored three power play goals on the road, while visiting the New York Islanders.
• 1: Saves by Smith in the second period, when the Wild scored on two of their three shots on goal, taking a 3-0 lead.
• 10,976: Announced attendance on Saturday, as the NHL-owned Coyotes continue to struggle at the gate in their 15th season in Arizona.
• 10-3-2: The Wild's record on the road, making them the first Western Conference team to hit double-digits in road wins.
Cal Clutterbuck, battling the latest leg ailment suffered in the Wild's win at San Jose on Tuesday, skated in practice on Saturday morning, but was scratched from the game. Devin Setoguchi is still out with a lower body injury, the severity of which is not known. The team returns to Minnesota on Sunday, where he will be re-evaluated.
Wild - Kyle Brodziak 9 (Bouchard), 2:08, PPG
Wild - Mikko Koivu 7 (Taffe, Lundin), 3:07
Wild - Brodziak 10 (Koivu, Spurgeon), 11:43, PPG
Wild - Dany Heatley 9 (Spurgeon, Bouchard), 11:23, PPG
Coyotes - Lauri Korpikoski 6 (Pyatt, Langkow), 16:03
Shots: Wild 10-3-7-20; Coyotes 8-11-17-36. Saves: Wild, Niklas Backstrom (35-36); Coyotes, Mike Smith (16-20). Power plays: Wild 3-for-4, Coyotes 0-4.
From Manitoba's past to Manitoba's future -- after battling the Coyotes (once known as the Winnipeg Jets) the Wild make their first-ever trip to the MTS Centre for a date with the new Winnipeg Jets (formerly known as the Atlanta Thrashers) on Tuesday, putting the final punctuation mark on a five-game road trip.