Wild drought ends in the desert as Dany Heatley scores in shootout
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In the waning days of a harsh Minnesota winter - or even a laugher like this winter has been - getting away to the sunshine of the desert for even a day or two can provide a much-needed pick-me-up. Perhaps that was the case for the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, after they built a lead, lost it, then survived in a shootout for a 3-2 win over the Phoenix Coyotes.
It was an unlikely source of offense - newly acquired defenseman Steven Kampfer - getting the Wild a goal in regulation and another unlikely source of shootout scoring that clinched the win. In the fifth round of the shootout, Wild coach Mike Yeo called on Dany Heatley, who was just 1-for-6 in shootouts this season. Heatley took a measured approach to the net, then snapped a low backhand shot between the knees of Coyotes goalie Jason LaBarbera for the Wild's first win of March.
The bad news is the looming prospect of another key player being out of the lineup. With regular goalie Niklas Backstrom already on the shelf, Josh Harding got the start and held the Coyotes scoreless for the first 32 minutes before he left the game during a second period stop in play.
"Tweaked something lower body," Yeo told reporters after the game. "I don't know the severity of it. We'll get him checked out (Friday). Hopefully it's only that, just a tweak and he's not gone for a long time here."
Matt Hackett was Yeo's goalie with the AHL's Houston Aeros for much of last season, so they know each other well. That may be a good thing, as Yeo spoke in the postgame like Hackett may be the go-to guy in goal for a time. And as of right now, there's no backup, although the coach expects the general manager to enact some emergency measures in time for the next game.
"We've already been discussing our options and I know Chuck (Fletcher) is on this," Yeo said.
The Wild were on, defensively at least, for much of the game, forcing the Coyotes to rally with Hackett in goal just to get to overtime. The Coyotes were a NHL-best 11-0-1 in February and had risen to the top of the Pacific Division, but have slipped in March and are now 0-3-1 in the month, falling back to seventh place in the Western Conference.
While that's a position that the Wild would love to occupy, for now it was time to take the rare two points on the road and head home, trying to keep their very slim postseason hopes alive.
"Unbelievable character win," Yeo said. "I'm real proud of the effort the guys put in today...There were a lot of little things. It's hard to point to one or two, but all of those little things add up."
After watching the other team score first, early, in their last six consecutive games, the Wild laid the initial groundwork for a road win early, when they got the first two goals of the game just 62 seconds apart, and for once forced someone else to come from behind.
• 30: Blocked shots by the Wild, which is believed to be a season-high.
• 17: Goals by Kyle Brodziak this season, a career-best.
• 27:53: Ice time for defenseman Marco Sandella, who logged the most minutes of any skater with the Wild shorthanded on the blue line.
• 11,716: Announced attendance at Jobing.com Arena, where the league-owned Coyotes continue to struggle at the gate despite having the NHL's best record in February.
Cal Clutterbuck was scratched again, as fears increase that his lingering illness may be concussion related. Defensemen Justin Falk and Jared Spurgeon were also scratched, Spurgeon. When call-up Tyler Cuma could not get a flight to Phoenix to make his NHL debut, that left Yeo with just five defensemen, and a sore back limited Kurtis Foster's play, meaning lots and lots of ice time for the remaining blueliners.
"There were a couple times we got into trouble with long shifts, but that's understandable," Yeo said.
Wild - Kyle Brodziak 17 (Powe), 4:06
Wild - Steven Kampfer 1 (Cullen, Setoguchi), 5:04
Coyotes - Raffi Torres 11 (Stone), 1:40
Coyotes - Lauri Korpikoski 15 (Vermette, Aucoin), 2:45
Shots: Wild 9-6-7-2-24; Coyotes 16-16-8-1-41. Saves: Wild, Josh Harding (24-24), Matt Hackett (15-17); Coyotes, Jason LaBarbera (22-24). Power plays: Wild 0-for-1, Coyotes 0-4.
1. Raffi Torres
2. Lauri Korpikoski
3. Jason LaBarbera
The Wild return home to start a five-game on Sunday afternoon, facing the Calgary Flames in a 5 p.m. start. They will play 10 of their final 14 games at home.