ST. PAUL, Minn. — Facing a 2-0 deficit against the Colorado Avalanche and without two of its top three forwards in Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu, the Minnesota Wild were looking for someone to step forward in the scoring department.
Minnesota had built a four-game winning streak without many top players — goaltender Josh Harding and defensemen Jared Spurgeon are on injured reserve with Parise and Koivu. Each time, someone different has come to the Wild’s rescue. There were two hat tricks, one each by Ryan Suter and Justin Fontaine. After going 30 games without a goal, Kyle Brodziak had two over a three-game stretch.
Charlie Coyle answered the call on Saturday night.
Coyle scored a minute after Colorado made it a 2-0 game, and added a second goal 40 seconds later in Minnesota’s 4-2 loss to the Avalanche. Coyle established a record for fastest two goals by a Wild player at the Xcel Energy Center and had the first two-goal game of his career, snapping a 10-game goalless stretch.
"Obviously the momentum kind of went (Colorado’s) way," Coyle said. "That was a good shift by the guys before us and we carried it up; some big goals, some good plays by my linemates, but nice to kind of switch momentum at that point."
Short-handed Minnesota has needed anyone to step forward. Coyle and Dany Heatley have taken on larger responsibilities along with linemate Jason Zucker as the Wild try to find some offensive consistency.
"That was a big one for them," coach Mike Yeo said of the Coyle, Heatley and Zucker line. "We needed them to get on the board. We need everybody to have their helmet and be ready to produce. Certainly, that was a great shift. That’s what we talked about, we need guys to step up. It’s got to be different guys every night. Despite that we have guys out, we have guys that are capable."
Heatley had been shifted to lower lines at times earlier this season, but his offensive game is needed with Parise and Koivu out. He had skated at least 17 minutes, 53 seconds in five straight games before playing 15:53 on Saturday. He had three shots on goal and tallied the first assist on both of Coyle’s goals.
Coyle, back at center for the third time this season, hadn’t scored since Dec. 17 against Vancouver. He has six goals on the year.
"That line’s put together with the intention of scoring goals," Yeo said. "We need them to be solid defensively. We need them to play responsible because that helps them get to their game, but at the same time, it’s three guys that we believe are capable of creating offense and we need them to bring momentum with the way that they play. The bottom line, that’s a line we’re going to count on for them to create some offense."
Minnesota lost when Avalanche forward Ryan O’Reilly scored with 7:16 left in the third and Colorado added an empty-net goal. But Coyle and Heatley got the Wild back into the game in the second.
Coyle scored his first, working a perfect give-and-go with Heatley and sliding the puck underneath Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov.
"Obviously (Heatley) has pretty good vision with the puck," Coyle said. "I just tried to get open, find some room and obviously he puts it right on my stick every time. He’s a good player to play with. Him and Zuck were good tonight . . . when you give (Heatley) the puck, you keep your stick on the ice. You know you’re going to get it back probably. It was a great play by him."
Coyle’s second goal came on a one-timer from the slot, with Heatley controlling the puck behind the net and finding Coyle out front.
"It’s been better," Heatley said of his offensive game. "It’s fun playing with those two young guys. When you get a chance for a few games together and string a few games together, you get some chemistry, understand what they want to do and what you want to do with it. Tonight, I thought we generated a lot."
With so many key players out, Minnesota has had players step forward when it needed.
"It’s funny how that sometimes works," Heatley said. "I thought on that road trip our goalies were really good for us. Coming back home I thought we put ourselves in good position to win the game and obviously didn’t get it done. Points are huge this time of year. We got to be in the hunt, we got to be real close, if not in the playoffs by the break, so these are huge games coming up."