Fight night in Phoenix.
Mayhem broke loose in the first period of Sunday's preseason game against the Los Angeles Kings after Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Rostislav Klesla was carted off on a stretcher courtesy of what appeared to be an open-ice check to the head by Jordan Nolan.
After a several minute stoppage with Klesla remaining motionless on the ice, play resumed and a scrum ensued. As the defenseman was wheeled off the ice, he raised his arm and gave a thumbs-up to the crowd.
That was just the tip of the iceberg. In the second period, defenseman Zbynek Michalek left the game briefly after a puck split his lip open, requiring stitches and leaving a bloodstain on the ice. A noticeable vomit stain coated the ice in front of the Coyotes bench during the period as well. Blood and guts. Literally.
A friendly preseason game was friendly no more.
Nolan was not penalized for the hit but was given a minor for roughing, along with Martin Hanzal, for the post-whistle get-together. The crowd vehemently booed Nolan every time he touched the puck as images of Dustin Brown's hit on Michal Rozsival in Game 5 of the 2012 Western Conference Final danced in their minds.
Klesla was evaluated in the stadium before he was eventually transported to the hospital. "He got his bell rung pretty good," Coach Dave Tippett said. From his vantage point he said he saw Klesla get hit in the head and Nolan leave his feet.
The shift after Nolan served his penalty saw yet another scrum in the corner, which could impact the Coyotes in the regular season. Paul Bissonnette was slapped with a game misconduct for leaving the bench during an altercation attempting to get to Nolan. He could be suspended for 10 regular season games. Derek Morris, Daniel Carcillo and Nolan were sent to the locker room with 10-minute misconducts as well.
Tippett liked the physicality his team showed. "That's how you take the summer hockey out of players."
Midway through the first period, the Coyotes found themselves not only without Klesla, but also down 2-0. As the dust and animosity settled, Phoenix embarked on a special teams run that ultimately won them the game.
A pair of power play and short-handed goals, coupled with solid goaltending and defense, allowed the Yotes to escape with a 4-2 victory that seemed impossible in the first five minutes of the game.
It didn't take long for the Kings to get on the board as Tanner Pearson wristed the puck past Smith just 51 seconds into the game. LA struck again less than two minutes later after Derek Morris and Keith Yandle collided at the opposing blue line. Brandon Kozun picked up the loose puck and skated into the Coyotes' zone on a break-away. He placed the puck in the same spot Pearson did to beat Smith for the 2-0 Kings advantage.
Phoenix cut LA's lead in half with a short-handed goal by Jordan Szwarz. It was the start of a strong special teams night by the Desert Dogs.
A pair of minor penalties by the Kings at end the first period allowed the Yotes to open the middle period on a power play. Mikkel Boedker made them pay as his goal tied the game at two just over a minute into the second period. The Coyotes continued their power play dominance as Shane Doan gave the Yotes their first lead.
To the surprise of no one, another scrum ensued in the second period. Kozun's boarding penalty ignited the altercation that preceded Doan's power play goal.
With the Coyotes short-handed, an excellent display of puck movement by the trio of Keith Yandle, Max Domi and Hanzal resulted in a Yandle short-handed goal, the team's second shortie of the evening.
"We're a short-handed juggernaut," Doan joked.
Half of the team played simultaneously in Los Angeles as this preseason game was of the split squad variety. The Coyotes earned the victory there as well after goals from Brandon Yip (2), Guillaume Latendresse, Rob Klinkhammer and Gilbert Brule led the team to a 5-1 win.
Solid play from their bottom-six forwards is an encouraging sign for a team who relies on its depth to succeed. Opening up the preseason with simultaneous wins over the division rival doesn't hurt either.
- The NHL is testing out hybrid icing in the preseason, this new rule appeared twice in the home game.
- Mike Lee took over for Mike Smith in the third period of the Home game.
- Michalek returned to the ice wearing a full cage after taking a puck to the face.
- Lucas Lessio played through a foot injury and looked solid on the ice.
- An update on Klesla should be available in the morning.
Our Three Stars of the Game(s)
1. Brandon Yip: A pair of goals and an assist to lead both Coyotes teams in scoring.
2. Shane Doan: A goal and assist for the captain.
3. David Rundblad: Three assists, two on the power play.
The road Coyotes will play in Anaheim tomorrow night. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m.