ST. PAUL, Minn. - Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire made it clear this week that his skill players need to perform if the Wild are to win consistently. At least one of them got the message.
Marian Gaborik scored his fourth goal in four games on a breakaway and Wild beat Phoenix 3-1 on Wednesday night, handing goalie Ilya Bryzgalov his first loss in five games with the Coyotes.
"Our centremen, it's our best game since (Pavol) Demitra got injured," Lemaire said. "From all the centremen. Very, very satisfied. Long time since I've said that."
Gaborik, who leads the Wild with nine goals, took advantage of Steven Reinprecht's turnover at the blue line to beat Bryzgalov on a breakaway in the second period. After some fancy stickwork, Gaborik tucked a low shot past Bryzgalov.
Bryzgalov, claimed off waivers from Anaheim on Nov. 17, finished with 25 saves.
James Sheppard and Stephane Veilleux also scored for the Wild, who won their second straight game after following a franchise-record 7-0-1 start with a 4-9-1 stretch. The slump coincided with groin injuries to Gaborik and Demitra.
"Demitra and Gaborik are pretty good hockey players," Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said. "They are very creative. That line outplayed our big line."
Phoenix scored on the opening shift of the third period, when Radim Vrbata tipped a shot by Derek Morris that bounced low past Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom. After a lengthy video review to determine whether Vrbata played the puck with a high stick, the play was allowed to stand for Vrbata's team-leading ninth goal of the season.
Backstrom made 21 saves.
"I didn't think they were very good either," Coyotes defenceman Nick Boynton said. "It was two bad teams out there and it's unfortunate that we didn't come out on top. They were ready to be had and we didn't play well enough."
Demitra returned to the Wild lineup after missing the previous nine games with a strained groin. He played out of position at centre on a line with Mark Parrish and Gaborik on the wings.
A rash of injuries has left the Wild thin at centre, with Wes Walz out indefinitely due to a personal leave of absence, and Mikko Koivu out with a broken leg. Their absences, and the resulting juggling of lines, has left Lemaire outwardly frustrated with his skill players' inconsistency and recent lack of production.
"We needed to come out here and kind of assert ourselves and keep a tight game, but send pucks to the net," said Wild wing Aaron Voros, who finished with two assists. "That's what we were concentrating on this week in practice. Just get pucks to the net, no matter where from."
Rookie James Sheppard scored in the third period and assisted on the Wild's first goal, when Stephane Veilleux poked his own rebound past Bryzgalov early in the second.
Bryzgalov, then with the Ducks, beat the Wild three times in the opening round of last season's playoffs.
"It's the same coach and pretty much the same players, and I think they play the same system," Bryzgalov said. "Sometimes we can lose, too. We lost tonight because of too many mistakes at the offensive blue line and the neutral zone."
Notes: Coyotes rookie Peter Mueller played an NHL game in his home state for the first time on Wednesday. Mueller, originally from Bloomington, committed to play hockey for the University of Minnesota before changing course and signing a pro contract. ... The Wild placed goalie Josh Harding on injured reserve on Wednesday because of a head injury. Harding was knocked into the goalpost and to the ice in the Wild's loss to Vancouver on Nov. 21 and hasn't played since. ... The game was the Coyotes' first in a stretch of 10 road games in 12 games.