GLENDALE, Ariz – After several weeks of being unable to score a goal on the road (or at home) and finding themselves slipping away from the lead pack in the division and conference, the Minnesota Wild have regained their touch and put a string of wins together.
That string included a 4-1 win over the equally struggling Phoenix Coyotes.
Injuries have played a huge role for each club but the Wild are seemingly come out on the other side of the darkness.
On Thursday night, the Wild got a hat trick from Justin Fontaine who was named the first star of the game.
“(Hat tricks) aren’t the easiest thing to come by. I got a couple of nice bounces and that helps,” said Fontaine, who last had a hat trick during his junior year in college at Minnesota-Duluth. “Being a healthy scratch isn’t fun. But you pay your dues and you learn every day and you grow and with the guys we have out you want to make a contribution.
“We have a lot of young guys out there right now following some great veteran leadership and we’re playing the game that we need to play,” he said. “We’ve come through a tough stretch. Everyone stayed tight in the room and we got back to the way we need to be playing.”
The Coyotes struggles continued in this conte3st as they had the shots but the quality of chances was missing.
“We had our opportunities to score and we didn’t. We gave them an opportunity to hang around and they did and they found a way to win,” Phoenix captain Shane Doan said. “If we want to find a way to take it to the next level, take that next step as a group, when we get guys who get those opportunities we’ve got to score them.
“C’mon. We’ve got to get more than one.”
Mike Smith took the loss making 24 saves. Smith, named to the Canadian Olympic team has struggled along with his teammates; he has won only three of his last 1`7 starts.
Fontaine completed his first NHL hat trick with an empty net goal with just over a minute to play in regulation.
For Minnesota, Niklas Backstrom made 39 saves for the win. He’s had his own injury issues and did not play in Los Angeles earlier the week.
“You could tell he wanted the net and wanted this opportunity,” Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said.
Mikkel Boedker had the lone Coyotes goal, on the power play, coming in the second period.