In what may have been the most exciting game of the season the Phoenix Coyotes take the New York Rangers to a shoot out, which lasted 6 rounds. In what is becoming a trend it was a battle of goalies with Mike Smith performing exceptionally against Henrik Lundqvist. It was scoreless for the first 2 periods of play with Ruslan Fedotenko getting the first goal for the Rangers 2:27 into the third with Radim Vrbata scoring first for the Yotes 11:37 in. The running theme of the second half of the season is that the Coyotes need to get points, and they partially accomplished this taking the Rangers to the shootout. The final score was 2-1 Rangers.
Again Smith was in top form in this game, as he has been since coming back from his groin injury. He survived all of the Ranger flurries making some unbelievable saves, and somehow managed, incredibly, to block a penalty shot during overtime after Adrian Aucoin was called for slashing. Smith blocked 31 of the 32 shots on goal with a .969 save percentage, and 4 of 6 shots during the shootout.
This game featured the return of Aucoin and Boyd Gordon. Gordon played incredibly well during the penalty kill during the second period and its great to have him back on the lineup. Aucoin was looking good too, he was the fourth Coyote to take a shot during the shootout, but it hit post. Aucoin was hit in the face with a puck during the Los Angeles game, and though his eye is better it was still incredibly bruised. Gordon had been out since December 23rd with a lower body injury.
Radim Vrbata was in top for during this game with the tying goal in the third, assisted by Marc-Antoine Pouliot and Michal Rozsival, and the lone Coyotes goal during the shootout. Vrbata's goal in the third was his 20th of the season, and put him ahead of his goal total for last season. Watching Vrbata you can tell why he is the goal leader, he finds a way to make the need shots. Pouliot's assist was his second assist in four games, his play continues to be solid and if he keeps this up he will be getting his first goal with the Coyotes soon.
In this game Paul Bissonnette and Mike Rupp were called for fighting less than two minutes into the first right off a face-off and Shane Doan and Ryan Callahan were involved in some physical play late in the third. Doan and Callahan's problems appeared to start after Doan had some words with Callahan after a save by Smith and culminated soon after with Doan checked Callahan hard which lead to the Rangers piling up on the two of them. This lead to Daymond Langkow and Brandon Dubinsky getting roughing calls, leading to four on four hockey pretty much the final two minutes in the third.
Bullet Point Notes From the Game:
- Icing call against the Coyotes 10 seconds in, not a good start.
- Bissonnette and Rupp drop the gloves right off the face-off early in the first. BizNasty got some good punches in but Rupp got the take down.
- Smith makes some great saves and really limits the rebounds. One great save came when Brandon Prust knocked the puck off Keith Yandle's stick right in front of the net. One of the many great saves to come.
- In the first Ray Whitney and Radim Vrbata and Shane Doan and Mikkel Boedker have some good scoring chance but both pairs are stopped by Lundqvist.
- When the Rangers have the puck in the Yote's zone it seems like everyone is in front of the net looking for rebounds. This started early in the game and continues throughout.
- Smith gets caught outside the net, Rostislav Klesla makes a great save keeping the score tied 0-0 in the first.
- In the start of the of the second Rangers have some strong flurries in the Coyotes zone, Smith is making the great saves. Coyotes don't have many of these during the game.
- Morris breaks up a two-on-one in the second by keeping his stick in the passing lane. This is the first of Morris' great saves.
- Vrbata was called for hooking, this is Gordon's first penalty kill since coming back, overall the PK was great and they kept the Rangers out of the Coyotes zone through most of it.
- Through the second neither team really has full control of the game. Rangers definitely are spending more time in the Coyote's zone and have more shots on goal, but Coyotes defense is strong enough to compensate.
- In the beginning of the third the Coyotes are definitely shooting more, but Ruslan Fedotenko scores first for the Rangers making it 1-0 after 2:27 in the third.
- After a takeaway Raffi Torres has a great shot, but unfortunately it hits the post. Paul Bissonnette tweeted after the game that after the shot he pointed at the post and told Lundqvist to thank his buddy jokingly.
- Vrbata gets first and only Coyotes goal, tying it at one after a great pass from Pouliot.
- Late in the third Doan and Callahan are involved in a little pushing after the a save by Smith. Tensions are definitely high during this game. A little later after a massive check on Callahan by Doan the Rangers piled up on the both of them. This leads to Langkow and Dubinsky getting put in the box for roughing.
- During the first part of overtime the Rangers spent a lot of time in Coyotes zone. At one point Morris brakes his stick, but luckily the puck is cleared before the Rangers can score.
- Aucoin gets a slashing call leading to a Rangers penalty shot. Smith makes an amazing save (video below)
- Overtime ends with neither team scoring, shootout time.
- Vrbata has the only Coyote point in the shootout after a great backhand. Unfortunately Rangers Marian Gaborik gets a goal in the five hole under Smith and Derek Stepan gets it in above Smith's glove on the 6th round of the shootout.
Our Three Stars
1) Mike Smith. I brought it up earlier, .969 save percentage, stopping a penalty shot in overtime (which is embedded below), performing great in the shootout.
2) Radim Vrbata. Getting the tying goal and the shootout goal, meant that Vrbata was the lone goal scorer in this game. He also lead the team in shots with 4, twice as many as any other player during this game.
3) Derek Morris. Morris was very impressive in breaking up Rangers' scoring chances once with an impressive stick in a lane during a two-on-one and once with a well time check which prevented a two-on-one.
Five For Winning
1. Score first. Good things happen when the Coyotes score early, ask Shane Doan who scored 1:41 into the first period in the game against the Islanders. Again the Coyotes were unable to score first, but they prevented the Rangers from scoring early. The Coyotes have such a good record when they score first and they need to start doing that again every game.
2. Penalty kill. The first goal of the last game was on a Rangers power play, and the Coyotes have had at least one penalty in the last five games. The PK has been good though allowing only one power play goal in the last five games. The penalty kill looked great, its good to have Gordon back on the PK.
3. Win face-offs. Against the Islanders the Yotes won almost 60% of the face-offs and they controlled most of the game. In the game against the Kings they won over 60% of the face-offs and helped them control the game. If they want to control the game it is important that they win the face-offs and keep possession of the puck from then on. The Coyotes only won 30% of the face-offs during this game, which is not good.
4. Play until the end. The Coyotes have been good as of late in not allowing goals in the last minute of play, and this needs to continue, especially against this team after their last meeting. Fresh off the last game this team needed to play for a strong 60 minutes. They did that, plus the 5 minutes of overtime and during the overtime.
5. Goaltending. I'm not sure yet if Mike Smith or Jason LaBarbera will be between the pipes but whoever is in goal needs to be on top of their game. The Rangers have scored more than 34 goals than they have let in this season and they have Marian Gaborik who is third in the league for goals. Against this team the goalie is going to need to be a wall. Smith was great during this game, (see the game summary up top and the first star).
Comment of the Night