Phoenix Coyotes defeat Pittsburgh Penguins, extend wild card lead

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

The Phoenix Coyotes defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 on Tuesday night.

The Phoenix Coyotes needed this game.

One night after blowing two leads and falling in overtime to the New York
Rangers, the Coyotes held on to their late lead and defeated the Pittsburgh
Penguins 3-2.

Not only did the Coyotes need this game, they needed to win it the way they
did.

Phoenix's problem with closing out games is well documented, so its ability
to maintain a one-goal lead and escape with victory, especially playing the
second game of a back-to-back, is very encouraging for a team fighting for a
playoff spot.

In fact, the Coyotes were able to hold on to that one-goal lead for the
final 26:42 of the game in large part due to their back-up goaltender. 

With starting goaltender Mike Smith injured, Thomas Greiss was handed the
reins to the team with the simple task of defeating the second best team in
the Eastern Conference and the best player in the world. 

Greiss was up to the challenge, stopping 23-of-25 shots for his eighth win
of the season. 

Many did not think this game would ultimately turn into a goaltenders duel,
especially early on.

The opening period was a high-scoring offensive affair that saw each team
pot a pair of goals. 

David Moss opened the scoring with his seventh goal of the season,
one-timing the puck past Marc-Andre Fleury off of Martin Hanzal's backhand
feed. The goal was a relief for Moss, who had been held without one in his
previous 18 games.

Pittsburgh answered back with their league's best power play minutes later. 

Blown coverage by Brandon Gormley left Jussi Jokinen alone to Greiss' left,
allowing the Penguins to tie the score on Jokinen's 18th goal of the season.
Officials did not originally see the puck go in, but video review a few
minutes later showed Jokinen's shot hitting the camera in the back of the
net.

The Coyotes scored a power play goal of their own after Fleury failed to
cover a loose puck in front of him and Antoine Vermette poked in his
team-leading 24th goal of the season.

Back-and-forth hockey continued as former Coyote Taylor Pyatt tied the game
in the waning seconds of the first period.

The offensive fireworks gave way to a more defensive second period.

Mikkel Boedker scored the lone goal of the second period after picking up a
loose puck and roofing it into the Penguins' net.

Phoenix maintained and preserved the lead in the third period by limiting
its mistakes and getting the puck in deep. Pittsburgh made a late push with
its goalie pulled but the Coyotes drew a penalty and shut them down.

The Coyotes have a three point lead on the Dallas Stars for the final wild
card spot in the Western Conference. They are also three points behind the
Minnesota Wild in the: who gets to avoid St. Louis bowl. 

A trip to New Jersey on Thursday is on the horizon for the Coyotes before
returning home to play the Wild in a game that could be for the No. 1 wild
card spot.

Our Three Stars of the Game

3rd Star - Thomas Greiss - 23 saves, including a monster save with the Pittsburgh net empty to preserve the regulation win.

2nd Star - David Moss - Moss opened the scoring in this game, a fitting reward for some excellent scoring chances over the past few games.

1st Star - Mikkel Boedker - A two-point night for Boeds included the game winner. He continues to lead the team in road scoring.

Paw Prints

  • For Pittsburgh's reaction, check out PensBurgh.
  • Mike Ribeiro and Derek Morris were healthy scratches for tonight's game.
  • Though the final margin was 29-25, Phoenix outshot the Penguins in every period.
  • The Coyotes allowed a goal on their first penalty of the night and then shut the Penguins' power play down by not taking any more penalties. Pittsburgh took five minors, with Phoenix capitalizing on one.
  • Leading the way in Corsi relative percentage (shot attempts with that player on the ice versus not on the ice) was Jeff Halpern at +22.6%. Michael Stone and David Moss were second and third respectively.
  • Evgeni Malkin did not play in this game due to injury.
  • Shane Doan led all Coyotes' forwards in ice time with 22:34. He played just 50 seconds less than Sidney Crosby.

Looking Ahead

The Coyotes will have a chance to finish their East Coast road trip with five out of a possible six points when they play the struggling New Jersey Devils Thursday night. Puck drops at 4 PM Arizona time.

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