The NHL starts the Olympic break tomorrow. The Phoenix Coyotes started it tonight.
Phoenix would put itself behind the eight ball very early in this game. Rob Klinkhammer took a dumb offensive zone penalty, and on the ensuring delayed call former Coyote and rumored trade target Ray Whitney found himself wide open in the slot to roof a shot over Mike Smith's glove to make it 1-0 Dallas. The early tally seemed to invigorate Dallas, as they dominated possession play and kept the Coyotes hemmed in for much of the 1st.
The Coyotes would open the second period on the penalty kill, as Martin Hanzal (who was playing sick and looked really sluggish on the ice) took a really ill-advised cross-checking penalty in the last minute and a half of the 1st period. Thankfully, Phoenix killed off the minor and got a chance to take it to Dallas thanks to a tripping penalty called against Vernon Fiddler. Phoenix could not convert and despite some better series, Dallas continued to control possession.
Dallas would add another goal to their lead thanks to a deflected shot by Valeri Nichushkin. Although it would be reviewed to ensure it was deflected under the crossbar, the call on the ice was confirmed and Dallas took a 2-0 lead with 33 seconds remaining in the 2nd period. Phoenix looked incredibly listless down the stretch in the 2nd and could not generate much in the way of pushback until the last seven to ten seconds of the frame.
The third period was much more of the same. Dallas continued to apply pressure and Phoenix continued to struggle to mount any kind of effective response. Only the solid play of Mike Smith kept the Coyotes in the game. Radim Vrbata would ultimately foil Lehtonen's shutout bid at 19:44 of the 3rd period, but at that point there simply was not enough time for the Coyotes to get an equalizer.
Defending Big D has the Dallas' perspective on tonight's game.
Our Three Stars of the Game
- 3rd Star - Ray Whitney. Three shots on goal for the Wizard, including one that went in. Whitney made the most of his 12:13 of ice time.
- 2nd Star - Mike Smith. Smitty made 31 saves in this game to finish with a very impressive .939 save percentage. He's earned the right to compete for playing time in Sochi during the Olympics.
- 1st Star - Kari Lehtonen. The Stars' goaltender is arguably the third best goaltender for Team Finland, after Antti Niemi and Tuukka Rask. But tonight he put in a Vezina worthy performance.
- Derek Morris did not make the trip out to Dallas because of an upper body injury sustained in the Chicago Blackhawks game.
- Dallas won a staggering 75% of the faceoffs in the 1st period, by a margin of 12-4. They won more draws overall in the game 33-26.
- The Stars also thoroughly dominated the Coyotes as far as shot attempts go; Phoenix had 43 shot attempts to Dallas' 56.
- Shane Doan took two penalties in the third. Though the Stars would not convert on either both came at very inopportune times for an offense that looked very lackadaisical for most of the game.
- Oliver Ekman-Larsson took an offensive zone faceoff while playing a 5 on 3 in the 3rd period. He lost.
- Mike Ribeiro took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty at 9:21 in the third period. He would take only one shift afterwards, and none in the final eight minutes of the game.
Don't hurt your neck trying to look ahead; Phoenix will not be back in action until February 27th, when they return to the land that heat forgot in Winnipeg versus the Jets.