It's not every night Phoenix Coyotes fans can walk into Jobing.com Arena and witness history, but tonight was such a night.
On a night that began with the first ever team-encouraged tailgate party, the party never stopped as the Coyotes came out of Saturday with a victory and a story to tell.
As the game clock ticked away, a lone puck traveled through the air off the stick of Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith. The Coyotes faithful held their collective breath as the puck flew up the center of the ice toward the vacated Detroit net. The clock ticked, the puck soared; the only thing between the puck and Smith's first career NHL goal was that clock.
Only fractions of a second remained as the puck came ever closer to Detroit's net. The puck rolled in with only .1 second to spare.
Smith's goal capped off a 5-2 Coyotes victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night by becoming only the 11th goaltender in NHL history to score a goal. A win that seemed hopeless after 20 minutes of play.
"I'm thrilled with the way we played," Smith said, "it's just a bonus to be able to score a goal."
After finding themselves down a pair of goals in the first period, Phoenix needed to rally late in the game rather than preserve a lead.
The Coyotes have made a habit out of blowing third period leads as of late. Back in Arizona after a one-game road trip to Southern California, the Coyotes reversed that trend.
Not in a position to lose a lead, the Coyotes kept the pressure on the Red Wings and scored five consecutive goals to end the game. Smith, Antoine Vermette, Martin Hanzal and Mike Ribeiro (twice) scored goals for the Coyotes, all in the final 21 minutes of play.
"It's hard to be impressed sometimes, but I was very impressed with the play of our players tonight," Coach Dave Tippett said.
Phoenix gave up the early lead after a cross-ice pass from Henrik Zetterberg found the tape of Pavel Datsyuk's stick for an easy wrister past Smith. The Coyotes could not stop the bleeding as a blocked Zbynek Michalek horizontal pass at the Phoenix blueline ended up on the stick of Todd Bertuzzi for a break-away. Bertuzzi ripped the puck past a befuddled Smith to give Detroit a 2-0 lead.
Late-life toward the end of the opening gave the Yotes a 16-10 shots lead and a glimmer of hope.
The Coyotes started the second period strong, culminating in a penalty shot attempt for Shane Doan 3:46 in. After swinging wide-right, Doan's shot was stopped by the left pad of Jimmy Howard as the goaltender sprawled to cover the entire lower portion of the net.
A potential third goal for Detroit was negated after Smith was injured during the play. Smith fell to the ice after stopping a shot with his blocker. He was not contacted by an opposing player. The Red Wings shot the puck into the now empty net. Referees determined that Smith was injured before the shot was attempted and disallowed the goal. Smith remained in the game. Smith said he had a stinger and could not move. He doesn't believe there will be any long-term concerns stemming from it.
Just as the PA announcer made his customary "last minute remaining in the period" announcement, Vermette put the Coyotes on the board when he elected to shoot on a 2-on-1 breakaway. Vermette's third goal of the season cut Detroit's lead in half heading into the final period.
Phoenix tied the game early in the third period after Ribeiro smacked a rebound past Howard. Hanzal put the Coyotes in front a couple minutes later after scoring on a breakaway created by a cross-ice neutral zone pass by Lauri Korpikoski. Ribeiro scored his second goal in the same way he scored his first, cleaning up a rebound in front of Howard.
Smith's goal sealed the deal as his teammates mobbed the netminder in his crease, then again at center ice after the goal was reviewed.
The team appeared highly energized, especially for a team that played the night before and didn't land in Phoenix until 2 a.m. "I guess we are in good shape," Ribeiro joked.
"That was one of those games when I'm waiting for us to be short on energy, and we didn't look like we were short on energy at all," Tippett added.
- Phoenix's 16 first period shots were the most shot in an opening period for the Yotes this season
- Eleven of Hanzal's 67 career goals have come against the Red Wings
- The last goalie to score a goal was Martin Brodeur last March
- Smith's goal was the first goalie goal in franchise history
- Attendance: 14,624
Our Three Stars of the Game
- Mike Smith: Scored a goal while saving 31 of 33 shots.
- Mike Ribeiro: His first multi-point game as a Coyote with two goals.
- Mikkel Boedker: A pair of assists, both on Ribeiro's goals