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Updated: February 4th, 2013 10:44pm
Wild's offense falls flat again: 'Bottom line is, we aren't winning'

Wild's offense falls flat again: 'Bottom line is, we aren't winning'

by The Associated Press
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith has a phrase for the way his team plays: Coyote-ugly. It looked beautiful to them Monday.

"Like we said last year in the playoffs, it's the way we want to play," said Smith, who stopped 21 shots in defending Pacific Division champion Phoenix's 2-1 victory over Minnesota on Monday night at Jobing.com Arena.

"It's the way we have to play to win hockey games. It's not the prettiest, but we give ourselves chances to win a lot of hockey games, and that's all you can ask for. We find ways to hunker down and get the job done. That's the difference between getting to the playoffs and not, finding a way to win these close games."

Center Martin Hanzal got his fourth goal of the season, and his third in as many games, to put Phoenix ahead 2-0 at 7:48 of the second period. Smith held off the Wild the rest of the way, giving up only a goal to Zach Parise after a defensive giveaway midway through the second period.

The Coyotes (4-4-2) have eight points in their past five games during a stretch in which they have played seven of their first 10 games at home.

"The last five games, we're back to the way we need to play to win. Our work ethic is very strong," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said of his checking, defense-first style.

Minnesota (4-4-1) has not won in four road games this season, and the Wild went 15:34 without getting a shot before putting one on Smith with eight minutes left in the third period. In Smith's 2-0 victory over Dallas on Saturday, the Stars went 17 minutes without a shot on goal.

"That's their game. You have to make sure you are finding ways to get pucks through to the net," Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said. "They are going to do a pretty good job of keeping it (puck) to the outside, but you can't be content to stay to the outside. You have to find a way to get to the middle of the ice."

Minnesota, which opened the season with two victories, had a 20-minute team meeting afterward.

"I think there's been too many games this year where we have come back saying we did things OK. Bottom line is, we aren't winning," said Parise, who signed a 13-year, $90 million free-agent contract in the offseason.

The Coyotes have given up only five goals in their past four home games behind Smith and Chad Johnson, who has since been returned to the minors after filling in while Smith missed three games with a groin injury.

Smith stopped 21 shots and Minnesota's Niklas Backstrom saved 32.

"This is pretty much Coyotes hockey. It's the reason we had success last year, and we want to do it again and play good 'D,'" Hanzal said.

The Coyotes are 65-5-7 when leading after one period under Tippett and 103-13-15 when they score first.

"We'll try to continue to dig ourselves out of the hole we were in earlier in the year," Tippett said.

Hanzal picked up a rebound of a Radim Vrbata slap shot from the left point and backhanded a shot past Backstrom into an open net. Hanzal has four points in the past three games since missing two with an injury. Vrbata has an assist in six of the past seven games.

Parise picked up an errant pass near the left circle and beat Smith to the glove side with 10:20 remaining in the second period.

Coyotes winger Lauri Korpikoski scored his fourth goal of the season with five minutes left in the first period for the game's first goal, redirecting a shot from the point after Keith Yandle batted down a high pass to keep the puck in the zone.

The Coyotes played the final 2 1/2 periods with only five defensemen after David Schlemko skated off the ice with an apparent shoulder injury midway through the first period that is likely a week-to-week injury, Tippett said.

Defenseman Zbynek Michalek, who assisted on Hanzal's goal, took a shot in the face with 16 seconds remaining while guarding the net after Minnesota pulled Backstrom to get a man-advantage in the final minute.

"You see guys diving in front of the pucks and getting hit in the face with pucks. That's what it's going to take to win hockey games," Smith said. "That trickles down through the whole lineup. It says a lot about the group in here. It says we want to win."

Notes

Veteran forward Mike Rupp, acquired by the Wild from the New York Rangers on Monday for forwards Darroll Powe and Nick Palmieri, was a healthy scratch. ... Wild center Charlie Coyle made his NHL debut after being recalled from Houston of the American Hockey League on Sunday. Coyle, a first-round pick by San Jose out of Boston University in 2010, had 14 goals and 10 assists in 44 games with Houston. Coyle is a cousin of Tony Amonte. ... The Coyotes recalled defenseman David Rundblad from AHL Portland and returned center Andy Miele to Portland. Miele joined the team when third goaltender Johnson was returned to Portland after going 1-0-1 with an 0.98 goals-against average while filling in for Smith last week. Rundblad was a healthy scratch Monday. ... The teams split four games last season, each winning twice on the other team's home ice.

© The Associated Press
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