Playoffs may be out of reach for the Phoenix Coyotes, but a victory was not as they beat Pacific Division rival San Jose 2-1 on Wednesday night.
"There's a ton of pride in this team," Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith said, "There are 13 or 14 guys that don't have contracts for next season, so you've got to play right to the end (of the season)."
Smith was solid in net earning himself the game's third star after stopping 33 of 34 shots including a last minute flurry of shots by the Sharks with under a minute to play.
It is said in many locker rooms that "your best players have to be your best players," and tonight, Phoenix's top players lived up to that phrase. Shane Doan led all players with two points (a pair of assists) and both Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson contributed a point, a goal and an assist respectively.
The Coyotes opened the scoring mid-way through the first period when a powerful slap shot by Michael Stone found its way into the back of the net. A cross-ice pass by Radim Vrbata put the puck right on Stone's stick with the entire right side of the ice at his disposal.
"Vrby made a really good play to get me the puck. I had so much time I could have a cup of coffee before I shot it," Stone said.
The lead was extended with a Coyotes rarity: a power play goal. A Yandle point shot found its way behind a screened Thomas Greiss. The 2-0 start to the game was a welcome sight even though the team's playoff hopes were crushed in Detroit a couple nights prior.
Phoenix's lead was cut in half after a turnover by Ekman-Larsson resulted in an unassisted Brent Burns goal. Ekman-Larsson attempted to elevate the puck out of the zone, but partially fanned on the attempt causing the puck to go directly to Burns.
Finishing has been a major issue for the Coyotes throughout the season and is a bug reason why they will not be playoff bound for the first time since the 08-09 season. However, the Yotes were able to finish this game as they held the one-goal lead throughout the entire third period to walk away with a 2-1 victory.
· The Coyotes had a whopping seven scoring chances in the first period
· Phoenix improved their record when leading after two periods to 14-0-1 this season
· Yandle leads all Coyotes with five power play goals.
· Yandle now has 10 goals overall, good for second in the NHL among defensemen.
· Three of the Coyotes four centermen had a face-off win percentage of 55% or higher.
Five For Winning
1. Stay Out of the Box. The Coyotes were a dismal 1-4 on the penalty kill. With their struggles on offense, every power play goal conceded is magnified. The easiest way to not give up goals shorthanded is to not be shorthanded. The Coyotes took only two penalties in the game and killed them both off.
2. Who Wants It? There have been quite a few Coyotes under-performing this season, for various reasons. Hopefully someone decides to step up and demonstrate they still want to play hockey the right way. Five different Yotes contributed on the offensive side, led by the captain's two points.
3. Mike Smith, be Mike Smith. Smitty shutout the San Jose Sharks three times last season and once this year. If he wants to earn the big bucks with the Coyotes or another club next season, he will need to turn in a vintage performance. Another game against the Sharks, another victory for Smith, as he stopped 33 of 34 shots to earn the victory.
4. Forecheck. Despite the lopsided score Monday night, there were stretches of that game where the Coyotes had Detroit hemmed in their own zone and on their heels. More often than not, cycling the puck in the offensive zone and keeping the puck away from the other team will get you a win. Phoenix was aggressive on the forecheck early in the game leading to the early two-goal lead they established.
5. Put On a Show. There are only two home games left in the season, and three overall. Coyotes' fans have responded to this team's recent success by showing up in greater numbers than in years past. Even if there isn't playoff hockey, give them something to cheer about tonight. Jobing.com Arena was quite loud as the final second ticked off the clock. It was not a crowd that acted like the game did not matter in the standings.
Our Three Stars Of The Game
1. Mike Smith: One goal allowed, kept the team in the game time and time again in the final two periods.
2. Michael Stone: Scored the opening goal, blocked three shots and led the team in minutes played on Wednesday.
3. Shane Doan: Captain Coyote contributed a pair of assists including one on the power play.
Friday night will mark the final home game of the 2013 season as the Coyotes will face off against the Colorado Avalanche. It is fan appreciation night at the Job and there will also be the annual pre-game team awards ceremony to boot.