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Kaprizov scores twice as Wild skate past Coyotes 4-1

Over the last month, the Wild have played the Coyotes three times and won each game.

None of those victories, including the 4-1 finish on Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center that was inflated by a pair of empty-netters, has been as impressive as the 10-goal comeback against Vancouver after the All-Star break or the overtime thriller at Boston in December, but they counted just the same in the standings.

Actually, at this segment of the season, they matter even more because without those six points the Wild banked against Arizona, they wouldn't be as close to a playoff spot are they are now.

"There's not gonna be any easy nights," goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said. "It doesn't matter who you play. With these guys, I think we always have close games until the end.

"Feels good to get it done, get two points."

NHL standings

Ryan Hartman buried a Kirill Kaprizov pass with 1 minute, 44 seconds left in the second period to break a 1-1 tie and give the Wild a lead that was never in jeopardy with Fleury (21 saves) airtight the rest of the way.

Kaprizov added an empty-netter with 2:32 to go for his second goal of the game before Marcus Foligno did the same 27 seconds later.

Not only are Kaprizov's 33 goals tops on the Wild, but he has seven during a five-game point streak.

The winger capitalized first for the Wild, 6:29 into the first period, on a seeing-eye shot through traffic.

"He's a game-changer," coach John Hynes said. "The consistency in his game has been pretty impressive."

That was one of only six shots to reach the Coyotes net in the period even though Wild players wound up on many more pucks; they had a whopping 12 shots miss the net in the first and another eight attempts blocked by Arizona.

"I missed a lot of open nets in the first and hit the crossbar in the first," Hartman said. "So, it would have been easy to get down after that."

But the Wild didn't.

In the second, they had more shots test goalie Karel Vejmelka, who totaled 27 saves.

Still, they were even with the Coyotes by 8:08 after Nick Bjugstad walked into a sizzling top-shelf shot. That was the Blaine native and one-time Gopher's fourth goal against his former team this season; Bjugstad had a hat trick in a 6-0 blowout for Arizona at Xcel Energy Center on Jan. 13. Since then, the Wild outlasted the Coyotes 3-1 on Feb. 14 and then 5-2 last Thursday despite falling behind in the third period.

The Wild finally answered back on the power play (1-for-4) when Hartman delivered his second goal in as many games after snapping a 19-game drought. Their penalty kill went 2-for-2.

"I just see Hartman right now playing a totally different style of game than he was earlier," Hynes said. "I'm really seeing why he's a valuable player. He's moving his feet. He's making good plays with the puck, and his shot is a threat."

BOXSCORE: Wild 4, Arizona 1

The Wild had Marcus Johansson back in action after he missed four games because of a lower-body injury; Marat Khusnutdinov did not make his NHL debut.

But Joel Eriksson Ek left after a collision with Bjugstad early in the third period and didn't return. Hynes didn't have a postgame update.

Despite Eriksson Ek's exit, the Wild improved to 4-0-1 over their past five games.

"We gotta keep building," defenseman Brock Faber said. "This isn't enough, and there's been stretches where we've won three, four games in a row, had a good 10 games in a row and then fell back.

"Obviously, we can't afford to fall back at this time of year. Trying to stay as consistent as we can."