The Phoenix Coyotes were not necessarily dominant on the ice tonight against the Colorado Avalanche, but they did have the most dominant player on the ice, Mike Smith. The Avalanche fired 40 shots on net tonight and Smith stopped 39 of them; not too shabby for a guy that couldn't hold down a starting job last year.
With all the speed of the Avs attacking the Coyotes D all night, it was hold on for dear life at times and the story of the game was the stellar play from the slot and in by Smith. That's not to say that the Coyotes just hung Smith out to dry because I actually thought the D was ok. But the Avs, as they've done all year to this point, were playing downhill hockey and letting their young skilled players take the action to the net, led by the gritty line with Ryan O'Reilly and former Coyote Daniel Winnik. O'Reilly would score the only goal for Colorado on a rush at the net late in the second period that just eluded Smith.
For the Coyotes, Radim Vrbata recorded his second straight two-goal game with the game winner and the empty netter to ice the game. Lauri Korpikoski eased some of the pressure and turned the momentum that Colorado was generating late in the second period by scoring a highlight reel goal in the first minute of the third period. Taylor Pyatt opened the scoring in the first witha Pyatt-esque goal--go to the net, find a rebound, bang it past the goalie...rinse and repeat.
Ray Whitney added two assists and Martin Hanzal extended his point streak to three games. Coyotes play a great road game although there's plenty to still work on in not giving up as many shots. The penalty kill also continues to excel after the opening game of the season, killing all four Coyotes penalties tonight. Since the first game of the season, the Coyotes have killed 33 of 36 penalties, for a 91.6% kill percentage which would be good for 3rd in the league overall. Phoenix has lost every game this year when they have given up a power play goal.
Bullet Point Notes from the Game:
- Mike Smith and Semyon Varlamov are your starters in net.
- Good energy early and a few solid scoring opportunities for Radim Vrbata and Shane Doan, but Varlamov is making good saves to keep the game scoreless.
- On a bit of a broken play, Taylor Pyatt finds the puck in front of the net, makes a few pushes at it and gets it into the goal. 1-0 Coyotes!
- Boyd Gordon gets a slightly unfortunate delay of game penalty putting the Coyotes down a man against the best power play unit in the league right now. Coyotes respond to the challenge with a good kill.
- Raffi Torres, Patrick O'Sullivan and Andy Miele have quite the shift ending with a few point blank shots for Torres, but Varlamov is able to make a few HUGE saves from in tight.
- Colorado leads in shots after one 11-9, but Coyotes have the lead where it counts.
- Smith makes an unbelievable save about 5 minutes into the second period on a great feed across the goal mouth. Smith has looked very sharp thus far.
- Vrbata follows up his own shot and gets a rebound past Varlamov to make it 2-0 Coyotes!
- Less than a minute later the Avs answer with a goal from Ryan O'Reilly after Daniel Winnik works hard to get the puck in front and the Coyotes defense looks a bit scattered. 2-1 Coyotes.
- O'Reilly is looking for more as he heads right to the net and finds a bouncing puck, but he can't beat Smith and the Coyotes are just praying for the horn at this point.
- After two, Colorado is taking the play to the Coyotes, but Smith is playing out of his mind a bit. Avs lead in shots 28-19.
- Varlamov shows a bit of a crack early in the third allowing a bit of a rebound on a long shot and Lauri Korpikoski makes him pay, beating Kyle Quincey to the puck and firing a shot over Varlamov while getting taken down. 3-1 Coyotes!
- Colorado rings one off the post, but they can't seem to sustain the pressure the way they were throughout the second period thus far.
- We're only half way through the third and Colorado has already added 10 more shots...this is just amazing goaltending by Smith.
- Vrbata takes a tripping penalty after O'Reilly steps on his stick - it's going to get called every time, but it's still a tough call to take.
- Another good PK by the Coyotes who have been just sensational with a man down since the first game of the season really.
- And Vrbata will ice it with an empty netter after Ray Whitney makes a really unselfish play to move the puck to him on the rush...great play all around.
Our Three Stars
1. Mike Smith - 39 saves, some of the unbelievable variety.
2. Radim Vrbata - 2 goals including the game winner and just a solid game all around.
3. Lauri Korpikoski - what a goal and he played what might have been the best game I've seen from him this year.
Comment of the Night
The Coyotes return to Jobing.com Arena for a game tomorrow night against the Predators. Nashville has had a bit of an up and down season and will come to Glendale with a 5-4-2 record having lost their most recent game to Chicago in overtime 5-4. Two of the best defensive systems in the league, games between Nashville and Phoenix are usually very close and hard fought. The Coyotes will look to repeat their performance from Nashville when they jumped all over the Predators early and held on for a 5-2 victory. Hope to see you at the Job!