Warming up: Wild gets a rare road win, 3-2 at Phoenix
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When it's been a frigid December in Minnesota, lots of folks from the State of Hockey head to Arizona to warm up.
The Minnesota Wild worked that plan to perfection on Thursday, beating the Phoenix Coyotes 3-2 to record a rare, and much-needed, road win.
After losing seven of its previous eight games, the Wild took and early lead and survived a late rally by the Coyotes, snap a five-game losing streak versus Phoenix. Andrew Brunette scored the Wild's first and last goals, building a 3-1 lead. The Coyotes got a power play goal with under a minute to play, delighting the sparse crowd of fewer than 8,000, but the Wild held on.
The Wild entered the game with the worst road record in the Western Conference, having won just four games outside of St. Paul. Win number five wearing the road whites could hardly have come at a more opportune time, with the Wild in the midst of a four-game western road trip, and with back-to-back games at Los Angeles and Anaheim looming this weekend.
Since a win over Nashville on the day after Thanksgiving, the Wild had lost five in a row, and had spent the previous four days stewing about an overtime loss in Dallas on Saturday, in the most recent of many "good but not good enough" efforts.
Thursday night was different right from the start, with Brunette scoring on a backhander, Brent Burns giving the Wild a 2-1 lead late in the first period, and Brunette tipping in a Marek Zidlicky power play shot in the third period, recording just the second power play goal for the Wild in the last 32 man-advantage situations. Brunette hadn't scored since Nov. 2. Mikko Koivu had a pair of assists, and Niklas Backstrom had 33 saves.
"This was a big game for us, and you have to look to your big dogs," Richards said afterward. "Mikko and (Brunette) and Antti (Miettinen) on the line are our big dogs. Marty's been going really good, but he's kind of been going solo."
The Wild visits the Kings on Saturday evening at Staples Center in Los Angeles.