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Wild inch even closer to final playoff spot with win over Coyotes

TEMPE, Ariz. — In the past few days the Wild have received a ton of help in the standings as many of the teams they’re chasing for the final playoff spot have lost games. That said, to take full advantage, the Wild have to continue to win games themselves.

That’s exactly what the Wild did with a 3-1 victory over the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday night at Mullett Arena.

It was a rather dominant effort by the Wild as they finished with a 43-26 advantage in shots on goal. Joel Eriksson Ek, Jonas Brodin, and Matt Boldy scored the goals, while Marc-Andre Fleury finished with 25 saves between the pipes. That helped the Wild exact some revenge after suffering a 6-0 loss to the Coyotes on home ice last month.

“It was a big game for us,” head coach John Hynes said. “These games are really four-point games against teams we’re contending with to climb up in the standings.”

Not only have the Wild (25-23-5, 55 points) now won four games in a row, they are inching closer and closer to the St. Louis Blues (28-22-2, 58 points) for the final playoff spot.

After stepping up twice on the penalty kill in the first period, the Wild garnered a power play of their own and made it 1-0 with a pretty play near the crease. Though the goal went to Eriksson Ek in the box score, it wouldn’t have been possible without brilliant setup by Boldy, as well as a smart play by Kirill Kaprizov in close quarters.

“I got a pass and figured I’d bring it to the net and I was lucky enough to find Ekky there,” Boldy said. He’s playing great. He’s a guy that we have to have going. He does it all for us.”

It looked like the Coyotes had tied the game late in the second period when a point shot from winger Nick Schmaltz found the back of the net. As soon as the puck whizzed past Marc-Andrew Fleury, however, he turned to the official to voice his displeasure about an opposing player being in his blue paint.

“I couldn’t go down,” Fleury said. “He was so close to me that my foot got stuck.”

That reaction was enough for Hynes to challenge for goaltender interference, and upon further review, the officials disallowed the goal, ruling that center Barrett Hayton made contact with Fleury in a way that impaired his ability to play his position.

“You always get the call down from the video room and those guys were on top of it,” Hynes. “Then watching it back it was pretty clear so it was a good call by those guys.”

That proved to be a big swing because the Wild stretched their lead to 2-0 a few minutes later when Jonas Brodin raced up the ice and whistled a wrist shot into the back of the net.

“It was a big overturned goal there,” Brodin said. “I think they were feeling it and we were a little bit on our heels.”

With the Wild trying to put the game away in the third period, winger Logan Cooley got the Coyotes back into it with a goal cut the deficit to 2-1. It was fortunate bounce for the former Gophers star as Cooley’s shot appeared to deflect in off the stick of college teammate Brock Faber.

Not long after that, Boldy accepted a pass Eriksson Ek, made a decisive move off the rush, and managed to trickle a puck past goaltender Karel Vejmelka to make it 3-1. That helped the Wild slam the door shut.

“It was a lucky bounce more than anything,” Boldy said. “It kind of rolled through him. Not totally sure how it went in. There’s no pictures on the scoresheets.”

It was the latest highlight for the new top line as the trio of Eriksson Ek centering Kaprizov and Boldy has combined for 19 points since Hynes put them together last week.

“They’re playing with hard skill,” Hynes said. “There’s no passenger on the line. They’re all playing the same style of game. When we have three talented players on the same line and they play with hard skill they’re going to be a tough group to play against.”

Now the Wild will look to keep things rolling against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night at the Xcel Energy Center.

“This was a big game for us,” Brodin said. “We knew coming in it was going to be a four-point game and I think the boys battled hard.”

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