This is real Coyotes hockey.
This was a game that the Coyotes had no business being in, let alone winning. Yet somehow they managed to do just that. The Phoenix Coyotes managed to pull off the 3-2 victory in a contest whose heated play has surprisingly been a mainstay between these two teams in recent years.
One of head coach Dave Tippett's favorite hockey sayings is "You make your own luck." The Coyotes benefited and suffered from these sage words in this game. Shane Doan opened up the scoring at 9:10 of the first on a weak wrap-around attempt that somehow managed to slip behind Semyon Varlamov and into the back of the net. There would be no further scoring until the 2nd period, when a couple of bad plays turned into two Avalanche goals. On the first, a Mark Olver shot that might have gone over the top of the net was misplayed by Mike Smith under the crossbar to tie the game at 1-1. Three minutes later, Matt Duchene capitalized on a horrible neutral zone turnover by Shane Doan and scored on a breakaway to put the Avs up 2-1.
It was in the 3rd period that the Coyotes luck began to turn around. After an Avs breakaway was broken up by Michael Stone, who may have been the beneficiary of a missed slashing call, Oliver Ekman-Larsson threw the puck on net from a sharp angle. Varlamov misplayed it, and the Coyotes tied the game at 2-2. That score would hold into the extra period, when an extremely fortuitous bounce off of the skate of referee Eric Furlatt landed on the stick of Kyle Chipchura, who found a wide-open Shane Doan in the slot to beat Varlamov and the Avs 3-2.
Although Phoenix pulled out the win, much of this game was Coyote ugly. Turnovers in bad places continue to be a problem, and once again a veteran player, this time Steve Sullivan, picked a bad time to mouth off to the officials, receiving a 10 minute misconduct. There were two fights in this one: Kyle Chipchura squared off with Cody McLeod, and Paul Bissonnette got his own bout with Patrick Bordeleau. Overall this will not be a game that makes many highlight reels, but a win is a win.
Five For Winning
1. Score First: The Coyotes' play with the lead compared to chasing the game is night and day. Add that with the Avalanche's suffering offense and an early lead could end the night prematurely for the Mile High team. Shane Doan bookended this game, scoring both the first goal and the last one.
2. Bring the Heat: The Coyotes are close to the top of the league with 27.2 hits per game. Continuing the physicality with a good forecheck and back check can earn the Coyotes a few good cough ups as the Avs are struggling in both areas of the ice. The Coyotes didn't even muster half of their average tonight. It's hard to say why given they didn't have the puck for long stretches of the game which is exactly when the hits tend to pile up.
3. Shut the Door: The Avs' offense is one of the worst in the league, they rank 25th currently scoring only 2.1 goals per game. While they might not bring the firing squad out in tonight's game, the Coyotes have kept their games close, mix that in with the occasional soft goals finding their way to the back of the net and you easily let this game slip away. The Coyotes managed to hold the Avs to two goals in this one, thanks in large part to the continually stellar play of Mike Smith, who had 41 saves.
4. Stay Disciplined: The Coyotes did a better job of staying out of the sin bin Saturday, but never the less took four penalties. The Avs may have the worst Power Play in the league (9.1%), but there should be no reason to give them the chance to get better at it. Neither team scored on the power play, but Steve Sullivan took yet another 10 minute misconduct midway through the 2nd period for mouthing off to the officials. Dave Tippett was undoubtedly furious, as Sullivan didn't see any ice time for the rest of the game.
5. Finish in Regulation: The shorten season isn't the season to let games drag on past regulation. Despite their record, the Avs only sit three spots behind the Coyotes. Leaving them with one point may not be a big deal now, but later down the stretch it could come back and bite the Phoenix team. That didn't happen, but as long as the Coyotes continue to be the ones to grab the extra point, they've done their job.
Our Three Stars of the Game
3rd Star: Kyle Chipchura. Chipchura was a goal away from a Gordie Howe hat trick, assisting on both of Shane Doan's goals and providing a big physical spark that really helped the Coyotes pull this one out.
2nd Star: Mike Smith. The Smitty we all know and love continued to show up. After stopping 41 of 43 shots, Smith looks back on track to be one of the NHL's elite goaltenders this year.
1st Star: Shane Doan. Though some poor play by Doan directly led to the 2nd Avs goal, the captain led by example and made up for his mistake by putting home a gift of a chance in OT.
The Coyotes will finish off their road trip Thursday night in Nashville, when they take on the Predators (5-3-4) for the second time this season. Phoenix rode the superb play of Chad Johnson in their first meeting to a 3-0 shutout victory at Jobing.com Arena. This will be the Coyotes' first visit to Bridgestone since eliminating the Predators in the playoffs last year. The puck will drop at 6 PM Arizona time and can be seen on Fox Sports Arizona.