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Wild win coach’s challenge, earn payback in victory over Coyotes

TEMPE, Ariz. – Marc-Andre Fleury didn't have to make a scene to protest the goal.

The nearest official was within earshot of the Wild goaltender.

"He was right there, so he was easy to talk to," Fleury said. "Didn't have to yell too much."

Fleury's argument was that the Arizona Coyotes' Barrett Hayton was in the crease impeding Fleury's ability to stop a shot from Nick Schmaltz on Wednesday night that erased the Wild's one-goal lead late in the second period.

"I couldn't go down," Fleury said. "He was so close to me. My foot got stuck, I think, on his foot."

But Fleury didn't really need to plead his case: The evidence was on video.

"It was pretty clear," Wild coach John Hynes said.

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That overturned goal, initiated by a coach's challenge, reinstated the Wild's advantage, which they then padded only minutes later to set up a 3-1 victory over Arizona at Mullett Arena that had plenty of positive ramifications for the Wild:

— They swept their two-game road trip and have won four in a row, their longest winning streak since their last four-game run Dec. 19-27. The Wild are 7-2 in their last nine games.

— Not only did they dent the Coyotes' playoff hopes, with Arizona now five points back of the Wild in the Western Conference and eight behind a playoff spot, but the Wild climbed three points shy of St. Louis for the last wild-card berth.

— This also atoned for the debacle Jan. 13 against the Coyotes, who walloped the Wild 6-0 at Xcel Energy Center.

"Definitely nice to get a few points lately and beat Arizona, who we're fighting with," Fleury said. "I think we owe them from the last game at home. It was good to win."

In his first start since he was celebrated for becoming the second-winningest goaltender of all time in the NHL and playing 1,000 games, Fleury stopped 25 shots and improved to 3-0 with a .954 save percentage and 1.24 goals-against average over his last five appearances, which included exiting one game early because of injury. Fleury has just one regulation loss in his past seven starts.

"He makes a lot of key saves at key times," Hynes said.

Joel Eriksson Ek (power play), Jonas Brodin (second goal in his last three games) and Matt Boldy (three-game streak) scored for the Wild, who improved their performance after that goaltender interference ruling.

BOXSCORE: Wild 3, Arizona 1

With the Wild ahead only 1-0 and nearing the end of a second period in which Arizona upped the pressure, Schmaltz slung a shot through traffic and behind Fleury.

But video review determined that Hayton bumped Fleury, disallowing the goal. The Wild are 4-for-4 in coach's challenges this season.

"It was a key point in the game because they did have some momentum," Hynes said. "They had some good O-zone shifts, and they had us under duress a bit."

Only 3 minutes, 17 seconds later, the Wild doubled their lead when Brodin wired the puck by Coyotes goalie Connor Ingram's blocker.

That insurance goal was eventually upgraded to the game-winner because former Gopher Logan Cooley spoiled Fleury's shutout bid 5:21 into the third period with a shot that slipped through the goalie.

"Every goal is big now these days," Brodin said. "Every game is a playoff game, so I'll take it. Doesn't matter who scores."

Boldy doused Arizona's comeback with 8:56 to go when he hauled in an Eriksson Ek pass to the middle and threw the puck at goalie Karel Vejmelka, who replaced Ingram for the third period and kicked in Boldy's rebound. Boldy is a goal shy of a second 20-goal season.

Ingram finished with 28 saves after he was in net for that rout against the Wild a month ago. Vejmelka had 12 stops in relief.

NHL season standings

Like in their 5-3 victory at Vegas on Monday night, special teams were key for the Wild.

After denying a pair of power plays for the Coyotes early in the first period, the Wild capitalized on their first chance when Eriksson Ek buried a feed from Boldy at 14:01.

The goal was Eriksson Ek's team-leading 24th, which is one more than he had after 78 games last season, and the sequence was another example of Eriksson Ek's budding chemistry with Boldy and Kirill Kaprizov, who also factored in the goal.

Through their past three games, the trio has combined for seven goals and 10 assists.

Kaprizov's assist was his 50th point, which made him the first player in Wild history to record four consecutive 50-point seasons.

"It gets frustrating when stuff doesn't go in and the team's losing, and you feel like you can do more,'" Boldy said. "That's the biggest thing. We got 20 guys playing together. Goalies are playing great. 'D' are awesome, and we're scoring goals. So, we just got to keep it going."

Overall, the Wild's power play went 1-for-5 and the penalty kill 3-for-3. The team hasn't surrendered a goal in its last seven shorthanded situations.

Next up for the Wild is a return to St. Paul for two matinee puck drops, beginning Saturday against Buffalo, but they will get back on the road after that and that's good news for them.

The Wild have won five in a row as visitors.

"We're not the team always pulling the goalie to catch up," Fleury said. "We're ahead in games, and we've been defending well also. Obviously, we've been scoring, but the defense as a team — guys blocking shots, forwards coming back and helping out.

"Everybody's been doing a great job keeping the puck out of the net."