The Minnesota Wild looked to finish 2011 on a winning streak, but instead will try to not lose back-to-back games after falling to the Phoenix Coyotes 4-2 Saturday at Xcel Energy Center.

Coyotes leading goal scorer Radim Vrbata scored his first of two goals at the 4:15 mark of the third period. He got the puck at a sharp angle on his off-wing (right-handed shooter at the left of the goal) and beat Niklas Backstrom on the short side.

Backstrom made the first move and was screened by Marek Zidlicky as Vrbata wristed a shot over his right shoulder.

“I thought he was going to shoot it,” Backstrom said. “I lost the puck after that.”

It took Vrbata just two minutes to give the Coyotes a two-goal with a shot from nearly the same spot as his first.

The Wild (21-13-6) did not quit and got back in the game, thanks to a penalty shot by Matt Cullen.

Cullen drew the penalty shot by driving wide on his backhand side trying to get to his forehand.

He was nearly denied the goal by the cross bar, but it trickled over the goal line after bouncing off the back of Coyote goaltender Curtis McElhinney.

The Wild scored first at the 6:19 mark of the second period when Pierre-Marc Bouchard banged a loose puck into an open net behind McElhinney.

The Coyotes (19-16-4) answered on a controversial goal at the 15:02 mark on the power play.

Daymond Langkow drove the net from the corner and had the puck bounce off his shoulder then his stick. The Wild players on the ice immediately started waving like the stick was above the cross bar. The goal went to replay, but was upheld.

The puck clearly went off Langkow’s stick above the cross bar, but it is unclear whether or not it hit Jared Spurgeon’s stick before crossing the goal line.

For Langkow it is his 19th career goal against the Wild tying for third all-time.

The Wild plays just three home games in January, including two before the All-Star break on Jan. 29.

Three Stars

No. 3 – Matt Cullen. The Wild forward scored a goal.

No. 2 – Curtis McElhinney. The Coyotes goaltender held off a late Wild charge to get the win.

No. 1 – Radim Vrbata. The Coyotes forward scored two goals, including the game-winner.


Phoenix          0 1 3 – 4

Minnesota      0 1 1 – 2

       First Period – None. Penalties – Prosser, Min (slashing), 13:59.

       Second Period – 1, Minnesota, Bouchard 9 (Johnson, Cullen), 6:19. 2, Phoenix, Langkow 6 (unassisted), 15:02 (pp). Penalties – Zanon, Min (holding), 13:59; Brodziak, Min (goaltender interference), 19:11.

       Third Period – 3, Phoenix, Vrbata 17 (Whitney), 4:15. 4, Phoenix, Vrbata 18 (Chipchura, Yandle), 6:16. 5, Minnesota, Cullen 10 (penalty shot), 8:12. 6, Phoenix, Whitney 14 (Klesla), 19:41 (en). Penalties – Roszival, Phx (delay of game-puck over glass), 9:27.

       Shots on goal – Phoenix 10-13-7 30. Minnesota 8-8-14 30.

       Penalty Shot – Minnesota, Cullen (goal).

       Goalies – Phoenix, McElhinney (28-30). Minnesota, Backstrom (26-29). A – 19,297. Referees – Brad Watson, Don VanMassenhoven. Linesmen – Thor Nelson, Michel Cormier.