The Minnesota Wild extended their winning streak to four games with a 4-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night, as they took a closely-contested game and broke it open with three unanswered goals in the third period. Goaltender Niklas Backstrom had 39 saves to lead the charge, but with Zach Parise (foot) and Mikko Koivu (ankle) out Minnesota has had to find offense from other players over the last few games.
Justin Fontaine secured the first hat trick of his career with an empty-net goal late in the third period, which was his second goal of the decisive final period. Matt Cooke (two assists), Kyle Brodziak (one goal and one assist) and Nino Niederreiter (two assists) also chipped in offensively for the Wild, which helped them make the most of their chances and withstand the fact they were out-shot by the Coyotes 40-29 (15-7 in the first period, 28-15 after two periods). Mikkel Boedker scored Phoenix’s only goal on a power-play in the second period.
Minnesota beat the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night in the first game of a brief West Coast road trip, led by backup goalie Darcy Kuemper’s 39 saves with Josh Harding now sidelined, and they’ll now head home to Xcel Energy Center for four of the next five games as they attempt to keep their current hold on the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. There is still no definite timetable for Parise’s return to action, and Koivu is expected to miss a month after undergoing ankle surgery on Monday. So the Wild will need more games like Thursday night, with multiple unsung players making valuable contributions, in order to keep themselves in playoff contention as the Olympic break approaches in mid-February.
Brad Berreman is a Senior Writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.