The Minnesota Wild managed to go .500 on their just-completed four-game road trip despite their offensive struggles away from home this season. They’ll try for their third straight win when they return to the Xcel Energy Center to face the Phoenix Coyotes.
The Wild have never been a high-scoring club, and they have been particularly bad on the road this season. Minnesota is averaging 1.7 goals in road games, compared to 4.1 in front of its home crowd.
The Wild, though, produced enough offense to win the last two games of their trip, defeating San Jose 3-1 on Saturday and Anaheim 4-3 in a shootout Sunday.
The key to the two victories was Minnesota’s penalty-killing unit, which ranks first in the NHL and has allowed just eight power-play goals this season. Against San Jose and Anaheim, the Wild faced 17 short-handed situations but gave up only one goal, to the Mighty Ducks on Sunday.
The Wild earned their first-ever shootout win despite being outshot 45-24. Minnesota’s Manny Fernandez faced 28 shots and eight power plays during the first two periods.
“When you kill that many penalties two periods in a row, the second period felt like eight,” said Minnesota’s Wes Walz, who logged more than six minutes killing penalties against Anaheim. “That’s why they had so many shots. It mentally wears you out and drains you.”
The Wild now face a Phoenix club that scored all of its goals on the power play in Saturday’s 4-1 victory over Detroit. The Coyotes’ power play has struggled recently, though, and reverted to form with an 0-for-6 effort in a 2-1 overtime loss to Chicago on Sunday.
The Coyotes failed to generate quality shots during a power play 1:40 into the extra period, and rookie Brent Seabrook gave the Blackhawks the win at 4:21 of the overtime.
“We knew coming in here, we were coming into a tough situation,” Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky said. “They had a tough night the other night. They have a lot of pride as an organization. Their coach is a good young coach. We knew they were going to be ready to go. We had opportunities tonight, and again cost ourselves. We gave ourselves a chance and then they beared down.”
Phoenix’s goaltending has been outstanding of late, allowing three goals in the last three games. Curtis Joseph stopped 21 shots in a 4-0 win over Los Angeles on Thursday for his 45th career shutout. He made 36 saves against the Red Wings on Saturday to beat his former team, and rookie David LeNeveu turned away 34 shots in the loss to the Blackhawks.
Joseph and LeNeveu have combined for a .968 save percentage over those three games, stopping 91 of 94 shots.
STANDINGS (through Nov. 7): Coyotes - 16 points, 5th place, 4 PB, Pacific Division. Wild - 18 points, 2nd place (tied), 4 PB, Northwest Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Coyotes - Mike Leclerc, 7 goals; Paul Mara, 11 assists and 14 points; Tyson Nash, 40 PIM. Wild - Brian Rolston, 8 goals and 14 points; Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Alexandre Daigle, 9 assists; Derek Boogaard, 37 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Nov. 7): Coyotes - Power play: 19.6 percent (23 for 117), tied for 11th in NHL. Penalty killing: 80.4 percent (74 for 92), 20th. Wild - Power play: 19.7 percent (16 for 81), 10th. Penalty killing: 91.9 percent (91 for 99), 1st.
GOALTENDERS: Coyotes - Joseph (6-4-0, 2 SO, 2.14 GAA); LeNeveu (1-4-2, 3.10). Wild - Fernandez (5-2-1, 1.85); Dwayne Roloson (3-4-1, 1, 2.12).
SEASON SERIES: Coyotes, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Oct. 8; Coyotes, 2-1. At Phoenix, the Coyotes managed just 17 shots, but Shane Doan’s goal with 4:42 remaining in the third period gave Gretzky his first NHL coaching win.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Coyotes - 3-6-1 on the road; Wild - 5-2-0 at home.