$5.5 million is a lot of money for the Phoenix Coyotes to spend on a single player. The four-year $22 million contract handed out this offseason by Don Maloney was an uncharacteristic splurge during Free Agent Frenzy. However, that splurge is paying dividends.
Ten games into the 2013-14 season, Mike Ribeiro is on a seven-game point streak including back-to-back multi-goal games. The Coyotes sit at 6-2-2 with a seven-game point streak themselves, the largest such streak since going 11-0-1 in February 2012.
Tuesday's 4-2 victory over the Calgary Flames extended the streaks of the player and the team.
Ribeiro's second goal of the night was the eventual game-winner. It marked his fifth goal and ninth point in the last seven games, after being held scoreless through his first three games in Sedona red.
The 33-year-old forward attributes his success to feeling more comfortable with the team and his linemates. Coach Dave Tippett adds that not having to be "the guy" has taken a lot of the pressure off of Ribeiro and allowed him to just be part of the team.
Phoenix finds itself in third place in the Pacific Division and fifth place in the Western Conference after going 5-0-2 in the last seven games. The two games in the overtime loss column were products of the same issue that plagued the Coyotes on Tuesday, blown third period leads.
After jumping out to a quick 2-0 lead, the Yotes found their lead halved going into the final period. An early third period goal by Calgary had the fans and players feeling a bit of deja vu after blowing similar leads to Ottawa and Anaheim last week. Unlike those games, Phoenix found its way back into the game and scored the final two goals to earn both points.
Tippett sees the value, in this and past games, of his players understanding how hard it is to win games even with the signing of Riberio and the insertion of new owners.
"New ownership is all great. Now it's all euphoria. Everybody is going to have fun now and we're going to have this super high-skill team and it's going all going to be easy now. That's not the way you win. It's hard to win."
Call it hockey the hard way, call it Coyotes hockey but most nights Coyotes fans are reminded how hard it is to win.
The Coyotes struck first with a power play goal by Radim Vrbata. It was his 200th career goal and fifth of the season. A fake slap shot by Keith Yandle drew the attention of all the Flames on the ice. Yandle passed the puck to Vrbata instead and the forward had all the time and the net he wanted.
Ribeiro scored his first goal of the night in the second period giving Phoenix a 2-0 lead. Attempting to get a three-goal lead, the Coyotes over-passed a 3-on-2 break and passed up a shot in the slot. Instead, a racing Yandle received a pass before attempting to send it back to the middle of the ice. The pass was blocked and resulted in an odd-man rush for the Flames. Smith made the initial save on Kris Russell but was unable to corral the rebound as former Coyote Lee Stempniak swatted the loose puck into the net.
The Coyotes were unable to hold a third period lead as Calgary tied the game three minutes into the period. Joe Colborne was sprung on a breakaway from a Jiri Hudler pass. Colborne kept the puck on his backhand for almost the entire breakaway until switching to the forehand and scoring the tying goal.
Phoenix answered right back with Ribeiro's second goal of the night. In the same way Yandle fed Vrbata in the first period, Yandle found Ribeiro in the same spot for the go-ahead goal. Rob Klinkhammer sealed the win with an unassisted empty-net goal, his fourth of the season.
The Coyotes played this game without their captain Shane Doan, who is listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury. Doan misses very few games, so it was an odd feeling for his teammates.
"It was a little strange not having him talking my ear off before the game," Yandle joked.
Tippett does not believe the captain's injury is long-term. Doan practiced with the team before Tuesday's game.
- All five of Vrbata's goals were scored at home.
- All five of Ribeiro's goals were scored at home.
- Dave Moss is now 1-2-3 in four games against his former team
- Phoenix is 4-0-1 when scoring first this season.
- Both team's captains were scratched for the game.
- Attendance: 10,141
Our Three Stars of the Game
- Mike Ribeiro: A pair of goals including the game-winner.
- Keith Yandle: Two primary assists, one on the first goal, the other on the game-winner.
- Radim Vrbata: Scored the opening goal on the power play.
The Coyotes will travel to Los Angeles to take on the rival Kings in their first meeting of the season on Thursday. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.