USA TODAY Sports
The Phoenix Coyotes have at times struggled to close out games (and periods), but there was none of that tonight in Glendale as the Desert Dogs dispatched the Dallas Stars with a resounding 2-0 victory in the second half of a home-and-home set.
As with last night in Dallas, the Coyotes would receive another boost to the roster as forward Raffi Torres returned to the lineup having served his full suspension for the hit on Marian Hossa in last year's playoffs. Torres brought a clear spark of energy to the lineup, delivering several hits and recording a few quality scoring chances while splitting ice time between lines with Antoine Vermette and Shane Doan, and Andy Miele and Nick Johnson.
Miele, just recently called up from Portland, also provided a bit of energy (and almost recorded his first NHL point) which seemed to make the Coyotes look like a well-rested squad while the Stars looked like they were playing the second game of a back-to-back set. Nowhere was this more evident than the stretch of the second period lasting over 17 minutes where Dallas failed to record a single shot on net.
The teams played a scoreless first period, although the Coyotes had the best of the chances aided by drawing a few Dallas penalties. Nick Johnson would finally break the 0-0 tie midway through the second when he took a pass from Lauri Korpikoski off the rush and slapped a shot past Dallas goaltender Richard Bachman, off the post and in. It was Johnson's third goal of the season in just his fifth game as he is making a case for increased ice time with each effort.
Mikkel Boedker would give the Coyotes some insurance in the third period putting a rebound opportunity into a wide open net on the power play after Bachman could not handle the point shot from Derek Morris.
There was some general chippy-ness that generally marks games between division rivals that have played 3 times in their first 9 games and Mike Smith took exception on a few occasions to having Stars players in his crease. It is good to see that fire from Smitty, who easily had his best game of the season. My one beef with his play tonight was his unwillingness to allow a single puck to come behind his net without attempting to play it himself. Teams are going to continue to put soft rollers into the corners that trap Smith on the edge of the trapezoid while the forecheck bears down. He survived a few scares tonight, but he needs to be smarter about letting his defenders deal with some of those dump-ins.
Rather than rehash the Five for Winning from the other night, I'll just say that the Coyotes simply looked like a much better team on the ice throughout the game, outshooting Dallas 34-17 on the evening and controlling the game. Coach Tippett has the team clicking along again as the calendar moves into February and the Coyotes need to keep extending this solid play through a few weeks of games.
Our Three Stars
1. Mike Smith - 17 saves en route to his 20th career shutout, 1st of the season.
2. Nick Johnson - scored the game winning goal
3. Raffi Torres - played a strong, physical game without crossing the line and created several good scoring opportunities.
Official Game Highlights
Comment of the Night
Always good to have a big Johnson on the team.
Coyotes have an off day and then it's the new-look Minnesota Wild at Jobing.com Arena on Monday night. Several of the Wild coaches were on hand to scout the 'Yotes tonight as the team has a few off days leading up to Monday's game. The Wild are coming off of a loss to Anaheim Friday night, and are 4-3-1 on the season.