USA TODAY Sports
The Phoenix Coyotes got back to hockey the hard way with a 2-1 victory over the Dallas Stars on Saturday night.
Phoenix blocked more shots (30) than they allowed (21). Solid games from Mike Smith, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and newcomer Rob Klinkhammer combined with Zbynek Michalek's eight blocks, allowed the Coyotes to get back on track with a victory.
"When you block 29 (officially 30) shots, that to me is a sign your team comes to compete," Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said.
The Coyotes opened the scoring 16:59 into the first period. Shane Doan tipped an Antoine Vermette pass into the back of the Dallas net. The play was set up by an Ekman-Larsson spin-o-rama at the offensive blue line. The Desert Dogs played much tighter defense in the opening period, allowing no goals and only six shots on net.
Stop. Klinkhammer time. Klinkhammer scored his first career goal in the second period, giving the Coyotes a 2-0 lead. Klinkhammer took his time and made sure he did not miss the wide open net. The 6' 3" forward did not arrive in Phoenix until 3 a.m. the morning of the game. "I've got to come in here and try to earn a spot. Just play hard. I thought I did that tonight," Klinkhammer said. Tippett said that he wanted to find a way to get Klinkhammer into the line-up at some point because of how well he has played in Portland, the Coyotes' AHL affiliate.
The Coyotes allowed Dallas back into the game by taking two penalties 24 seconds apart. On the five-on-three, Jaromir Jagr scored his 10th goal of the season to cut Phoenix's lead in half. Smith appeared to tweak something as he began to fall over on the ice just before the puck reached the net. He was down for about 30 seconds but did not leave the game.
Another delay of game penalty on the penalty kill, this time by Vermette, gave the Stars another five-on-three power play. But this time the Yotes were able to kill off the 1:29 of five-on-three power play and escaped from both penalties unharmed. Zbynek Michalek and the rest of the PK unit stole the show on that kill. "I don't think I had to make a save," Smith said, "Z made four or five."
The Coyotes did not allow another goal the rest of the game to earn the 2-1 victory.
- Rob Klinkhammer made his Coyotes debut and played 13:15. It was his 17th career NHL game and he scored his first career goal.
- Phoenix is now 7-1-1 when they score first this season.
- Phoenix improved to 7-0-1 this season (105-4-5 since 09-10) when leading after two periods.
- Jagr's goal was the 675th of his career.
- Attendance: 15,892
Five For Winning:
1. Score First: This shouldn't need explanation, the Coyotes have been letting the other team score first and they have been chasing the game because of it. It's time to break that trend and notch the first goal. The Coyotes were finally able to score the first goal of the game with three minutes remaining in the first period. Doan scored his eighth of the season with help from Vermette and Ekman-Larsson.
2. Don't Give Up the Lead: While scoring first is important, maintain the lead is much more important. Granted the Coyotes have shown their ability to come back from a deficit in games they have not been able to keep the lead, and it has cost them. The Coyotes never trailed in the game as they got the first period lead, added to it and eventually shut the door on any Dallas comeback attempt.
3. Tighten Up the Defense: The Yotes were successful last season because they played smart, good defensive hockey, but for whatever reason they seem to have had difficulty getting into that rhythm this season. Hopefully the losses to the Ducks and Blues have finally woken this team up and showed that them that they need to do what they do best. Hockey the hard way reappeared on Saturday night and was the sole reason the Yotes came out with two points.
4. Control the Rebounds: Mike Smith needs to be better and swallowing up the puck and not giving up the juicy rebounds and the team needs to get better and clearing the rebounds and getting the pucks out of the slot, preferably out of the zone. Smith looked like the Smith of last season as he controlled his rebounds and played the puck exquisitely.
5. Win: This requires no further explanation. The Desert Dogs need to come out of this with 2 points and stop the bleeding. Two points? Check!
Our Three Stars Of The Game
1. Zbynek Michalek: Eight blocks, EIGHT BLOCKS! Played over 23 minutes and was a +1. He was the biggest reason the Yotes killed off the second five-on-three. Did I mention he had eight blocks?
2. Mike Smith: 20 saves on 21 shots with the only goal coming on Dallas' two-man advantage. Solid night all around for Smitty.
3. Rob Klinkhammer: First game as a Coyote; why not add your first career goal to boot. He was also tied for the team lead in hits with four.
The Coyotes will play another Pacific Division rival on Tuesday when they host the Los Angeles Kings. I think you can figure out the storylines for this game. The Yotes lost 4-2 to them in January and obviously lost to them in the Western Conference Finals last season. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m.